Learn How to Mix Patterns

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

By Veronica Toney

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Blue room
Color Plus White

    The easiest way to mix patterns is to stick to one color plus white. The striped panels, floral chair fabric, and geometric floor pillow all stick to the blue-and-white color scheme.

Vary the Scale

    Mix and match small and large patterns. Here, the bold flowers on the window shade are a playful contrast to the small stripes of the table runner. These patterns also work well together because both fabrics have the same color palette.

Use Shades and Tints

    There's no need to worry about matching when using various shades of a single color. In this living room, the color palette goes from black to white, and uses colors in between. The black portiere, antique statues, gray area rug, and white table lamps round out the color range.

Use Coordinating Colors

    An easy way to ensure your patterns will mix is to choose coordinating colors. Red and green are complementary colors because they are directly across from each other on the color wheel, but moving down one tint to pink adds a fun twist to this color palette. Yellow and green mix nicely because they share a common hue. Mixing solids and patterns in pink, green, and yellow creates a pleasing color scheme.

Play with Pattern Size

    A good mix should include small-, medium-, and large-scale patterns. In this master bedroom, the largest pattern is on the window panels. Smaller-scale patterns cover the accent pillows. To help the pillows and window treatments coordinate, each fabric has white or black in the pattern.

Mix Types of Patterns

    Cottage style has quintessential patterns that help define it. Choose three to mix within a room to create a look you'll love. Plaid seat cushions, a toile Roman shade, and a country French floral on the lampshades create a playful cottage look in this dining room.

Give Eyes a Break

    Add white to a room with multiple patterns. White gives eyes a place to rest and highlights the patterns by separating one from another. The white sofa and accents help the cushion, throw pillows, wall, and floor patterns pop.

Anchor the Color Scheme

    Start with one pattern and pull all the room's accent colors from it. In this room, the master pattern is on the area rug and its stripes provide the palette: orange for the chairs and banquette pillows, green for the walls and window treatments, and blue for the dishware.

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 small-scale pattern is on the wallpaper and the large-scale pattern is on the area rug.

Repeating Element

    A living room with three sofas in three different patterns may sound like a mismatch, but this furniture arrangement owes its success to a pattern mix with one common hue: red. The cozy color appears as the background color in the floral and striped upholstery and in the accent pillows on the white slipcovered sofa.

Pattern Play

    Stripes and florals are the easiest place to start when mixing patterns, especially when you test the mix on a room's accessories. Layered on top of solid blue walls and an all-white coverlet, the patterned accents in this room are versatile and can be swapped out as the owner's tastes change.

Three Patterns, Three Sizes

    Pattern scale brings the elements in this room together. Although the window treatment pattern is large, the floral also has large open areas of white space and a trellised vine that adds a sense of motion. The pattern is an airy contrast to the midsize linear stripes on the walls and the narrow stripes of the vanity chair.

Start with Plaid

    Plaid is a smart place to start, and can help make pattern mixing easy. It comes in a variety of colors, often contains multiple colors to pull out in coordinating fabrics, and mixes well with most patterns. In this Swedish-inspired bedroom, the faint stripes in the wallpaper and neutral hues of the floral fabric on the chair give a little pizzazz to the neutral bedroom while allowing the plaid bedding and window treatments to stand out.

Highlight Accents

    Not everything has to match from pattern to pattern. Instead, take advantage of colors that complement each other well. In this living room, the blue background of the area rug and the greens of the artwork coordinate beautifully but aren't matchy-matchy. Neutral walls and upholstery help the accent pillows pop. Their golden hues are drawn from colors found all around the room.

Go Bold

    The key to mixing bold patterns is to make sure they share a common color. In this room, red brings each of these patterns together. The green hue of upholstered chairs connects to the green stems in the painting. A neutral wall color keeps these eye-popping colors from becoming overpowering.

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