Create interesting rooms by mixing patterns confidently
Novice home decorators tend to shy away from mixing patterns. Worried about how much is too much, they tend toward solid textures in their purchases or perhaps just a single print — and then end up with plain vanilla interiors.
"Marrying patterns is the hallmark of a confident designer," says Jan Jessup, director of communications for Calico Corners and Calico Home stores. "But even amateur home decorators can learn to combine prints and textures like a pro, with just a little knowledge, practice and trial."
What pattern adds to a space
While patterns in home furnishings certainly add visual interest, they also give the eye a place to focus. Pattern also hides a multitude of sins. A boxy chair that's seen better days can be softened with a great paisley print. A not-so-great view can be minimized by a pretty print on custom draperies. Pattern also adds personality to a room. "It can tell stories about your interests — from flower gardening to modern art, to literature, travel or sports," says Jessup.
Patterns that play well together
There are certain combinations that work beautifully together: a graphic print and a bold geometric jacquard; a paisley and a tartan plaid; a great floral print and a wide stripe; a toile and a check; a jacquard tapestry and velvet. Here are a few unifying principles to keep in mind:
- Use a multi-color pattern and then pull out colors from that for the rest of the room. If prints are not your style, go for multi-color stripes instead.
- Vary the scale — allow one pattern to be the hero and then let everything else play second fiddle. If decorating with a floral pattern, complement it with both plaids and checks — as long as one of them is small in scale. Pinstripes and small checks will be perceived as a solid color from a distance.
- Mix up the textures — a room of all informal, casual fabrics is too one-note — as is a room filled only with formal, lustrous textures and silks. Try silk with linen, cotton prints with velvet.
- Repeat patterns for harmony — if using a bold design on an ottoman, repeat it on a sofa pillow. A print drapery can be repeated on a bed coverlet or in shams.
- Make it contemporary — try adding a graphic pattern, geometrics or bold stripes to the room. Use them on upholstered chairs for greatest impact, or on pillows for colorful accents.
Location, location, location
If choosing a pattern for a sofa or chair, that design will make a clear statement in the room. And the larger the piece, the bigger the statement. "Perhaps you won't want to see 22 yards of a bold floral on a sofa," Jessup says, "but it would look fabulous on a big chair and really showcase the design."
On the other hand, pattern used on window treatments tends to soften among the folds and pleats of curtains and shades — and becomes much less prominent. A great pattern that is showcased on top of a bed can also be used at the window where it will recede in the fullness of a drapery.
Sometimes customers come in, Jessup says, with a swatch of fabric or carpet or wallpaper — and they want that very exact color, no substitutes. She says a "matchy-matchy" approach can result in a formulaic design. Step back from your swatches and paint colors, she adds — and focus on whether they appear harmonious together.