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Learn How to Mix Patterns

Mixing patterns is easy, but making the end product look good can be a challenge. Follow these easy tips to give your home an effortlessly stylish look.


    Everything in this slideshow

    • Start Basic

      Consider the 60/30/10 approach. Stick to 60 percent of a favorite pattern, 30 percent of a second pattern, and 10 percent of a third as an accent. Try three patterns in a range of scales, such as a narrow stripe, a midsize geometric, and a bold floral. Include solids in supporting roles on a sofa or the floor.

    • Repeat Colors in Patterns

      Repeating colors from pattern to pattern can help even disparate patterns seem like first cousins. Accentuate underplayed shared colors in the patterns. If you use one pattern, such as a stripe, repeat it somewhere else in the room, even if the color and scale change.

    • Play Pattern Matcher

      A large-scale print can be too big for a pillow or small room, and a complicated pattern might disappear in the folds of drapery. Not sure what to choose? Bring home fabric, wallpaper, rug, and curtain samples to test the look. A neutral ground, like the solid background color on which a pattern is printed, pulls colorful patterns together to create visual interest without taxing a space with too much of a good thing.

    • Go Beyond Fabrics

      Repeat motifs beyond fabrics and soft goods. An X-pattern in a rug can be reinterpreted in an X-base table, or the stripe of wainscoting can make its presence known on a striped pillow.

    • Play with Pattern Size

      Select the largest pattern first to serve as a jumping-off point for other patterns, colors, and accessories. Here, a coral duvet and shams in a floral medallion pattern, informed the patterns selected for the window treatments and bed skirt.

    • Low-Cost Pattern Update

      Add pillows as a low-cost way to explore your pattern personality. Copy colors from the most colorful pillow.

    • Clever Coordination

      Coordinate patterns by matching less prominent colors, such as the blue-gray in the floral pillow here that's repeated as a blue-gray print on the seat cushion.

    • Work with Wallpaper

      When mixing patterns in a wallpapered room, using all the mixing rules is very important. Start with scale. The wallpaper pattern should have a scale all its own. Whether large, medium, or small, other patterns in the room should not match its scale. Here, the medium-scale pattern is on the wallpaper and the large-scale pattern is on the duvet. The narrow stripe on the drapes steps in as the smallest scale pattern.

    • Subtle Pattern

      Pattern doesn't have to mean a cacophony of color, but it is still vital, even if you are going for a subtle look. Use tone-on-tone patterns and low-contrast patterns so a subdued palette doesn't fall flat.

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      Take a Pattern Break

      Don't forget the solids, especially in a room with a bold color palette or strong features. Fabulous patterns shine brighter in a room where the eye has a place to rest, such as on a neutral wall or a solid sofa.

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      How To Use Patterns

      Follow these pattern primers for tips on how to use specific patterns in your decor:

    • 12 of 12
      Next Slideshow How to Arrange Furniture: No-Fail Tricks

      How to Arrange Furniture: No-Fail Tricks

      Arranging furniture is one of the most daunting -- yet most important -- design decisions. These common scenarios will teach you the basics.
      Begin Slideshow »



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