One of the aspects of design that seems to befuddle my clients the most is knowing how to (and how not to) mix prints and patterns in their decor.

So I'm going to try to demystify the process a bit here and give you 3 rules to follow that should help you dare to mix, but also keep you in line!

Here are the basic rules, with a ton of examples and further explanation down below.

Scale is one of the most important things to consider when mixing prints.  Make sure that the various prints you are mixing are of noticeably different scale.

It turns out that more linear prints with a lot of structured repetition like stripes, dots, geometrics, checks, and plaids can actually be used as a grounding, neutral element when combined with looser, showier prints like florals, paisleys, or ikats.

When mixing prints and patterns you should stay within a fairly defined color palette to keep it from going all the way to crazy town.

Here's an example of scale.  The combo below works because the big, loose, floral pattern on the drapes is a much larger scale than the stylized geometric print on the chair. You'll even notice how the tiny crosshatch pattern on the lamp suits the vignette.

This pillow combo mixes scale and pattern.  The large scale floral pillow below is set off nicely by the large scale geometric behind it.  The reason we can get away with 4 entirely different prints here is that the small scale prints complement rather than compete with the large scale prints.

See how the striped pillow here provides a needed visual break (i.e. acts as a neutral) between the two botanical prints?

design by Lauren Liess
In this pulled-out shot you see that she actually throws in even more patterns because she can (she does it so well, that Lauren Liess.)  Suddenly a stripe, some geometrics, and a couple of paisleys join the party.

design by Lauren Liess
In this bedroom a floral and stripe combo look great ...

Here we have a tight paisley print,  a big, loose fig leaf print, a large-scale geometric rug, and polka dots, all working seamlessly together because if you check, it follows all 3 rules.

More floral prints combined with various geometrics ....

See how the linear quality of the chevron stripe here contrasts perfectly rather than competes with the big, loopy, stylized floral print on the settee?

Here a floral, a leopard spot, and a stripe all work harmoniously together because of the restrained blue and white color palette ...

 Same principle in effect here ...

This living room does everything right.  It varies the scale,  contrasts the types of patterns, and keeps it all within a defined color scheme ...

Same here ...

Geometric, floral, large buffalo check, and a tribal textile.  It all works!  Are you getting the picture?

A ton of pattern, but it's working!

The tight, small-scale floral wallpaper here doesn't compete with the much larger scale floral, and the stripe ties in just fine ...

So!  Did this give you a little shot of courage?  I think once you take a second to deconstruct why each of these spaces work, and realize that they're all following my 3 simple rules for mixing, you start to notice the pattern (pun intended!)

Happy Monday and Martin Luther King day to you.  May you mark it in some way by the remembrance of his life.  In fact here's a little clip of my absolute favorite Nina Simone song titled "The King of Love is Dead."  She sang it live to her audience 3 days after his assassination, and it never fails to give me chills and move me to tears.  So beautiful.

click on image to watch clip


Hiluhilu said...

What a great post! The examples perfectly illustrate how to mix patterns successfully. Very helpful; thanks!

Emily Lundie said...

It makes sense in theory, but I can never seem to execute it. I recently splurged on this Jonathan Adler pillow and I have no idea what to pair it with. I'd love to mix another pattern in, but I'll probably end up with a boring old solid color. Nice post!!


Rosa said...

Hi Emily,

Mixing patterns is a really tricky feat, I agree! And yes the safest thing would probably be to pair your very colorful flame stitch Jonathan Adler pillow with a solid. But if you're longing for a print, make sure it has a lot of white negative space with a loose, open pattern and a design that incorporates the colors from your Adler pillow.

Have fun!

Rosa said...

Thank you and I'm so glad you found it helpful!

Emily Lundie said...

Thanks for the advice. I'll let you know if I find something.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love the fabric on the curtains! Any ideas on where to find it?


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