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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Add pillows as a low-cost way to explore your pattern personality. Copy colors from the most colorful pillow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Follow these pattern primers for tips on how to use specific patterns in your decor: