The Art of Pattern Mixing

April 14, 2014 by  

MoreSpicedTones600Growing up, you probably learned that pattern mixing was a fashion faux pas. Whether you were pulling together an outfit or making over a room, the old rules dictated that you should only use one pattern and stick to solids for everything else. Anything else was considered tacky. Happily, that rulebook has been thrown out the window! Pattern mixing is no longer a no-no. Interior design has embraced the art of the mix, and beautiful room decor often incorporates multiple prints into a single space.

Pattern mixing, when done correctly, works much in the same way that using different fabrics and textures in a room, adding a sense of depth through layering. Using multiple prints adds visual interest to a room, which in turn makes it feel more inviting. In the end, it’s all about balance. In a room that is too stark, our brains get bored quickly, prompting us to move on to something more interesting. In a room that is too cluttered, our brains get overwhelmed quickly, prompting us to seek out a more tranquil spot. In the middle is the sweet spot; just enough variety to keep our interest without being overwhelming.

If you love the look of mixed patterns in interior design, but you’re feeling a little bit nervous about trying to pull it off yourself, you’re not alone! Since most of us were trained not to do it, it’s no wonder that so few people know how to mix and match prints without creating a visual mess. No one wants their home to look like it was decorated by a toddler! Here are half a dozen quick and easy tips that will have you combining prints like a pro in no time.

1. Odd is better than even – It seems counter intuitive to many people, especially those who thrive on symmetry, but when you’re picking out the patterns you want to incorporate into your room, remember that an odd number is more pleasing to the eye than an even number. Three or five prints per room works nicely. If you use more than five prints in a single space, you run the risk of creating visual chaos. Your mind interprets this in the same way that it experiences clutter.

2. Lots of colors, but only one type – Using multiple colors in one room can look fantastic, but it’s critical to stick with the same type of colors. What this means is that primary colors won’t look right with pastels.

FeatheredPalette_23. Placement is everything – Make sure to disperse your patterns throughout the room. Plopping all of the patterns at one end or the other will throw it off balance, giving a “tipped scale” illusion. When you scatter them across the room and anchor the space with solid colors, it creates a sense of balance and visually opens the space.

4. Different print sizes for different purposes – Large patterns cause your view to expand, taking in the big picture and creating a sense of cohesiveness. This is why large prints work exceptionally well for things bedspreads and large area rugs. Small patterns draw your gaze towards a focal point, so use them strategically, placing them wherever you’d like people direct their attention.

5. Only one white – Using several patterns that have white in the print creates a great look, but only if you stick to one type of white. That means that you shouldn’t mix true whites, creams, and ivories. It muddies an otherwise clean and crisp look. When your whites don’t match, it makes the room look fragmented and chunky, rather than cohesive and streamlined.

6. One color, many prints – This is the most important secret of successful pattern mixing. If you’re using three different prints, like stripes, polka dots, and a floral, and they all have navy blue, they’ll look like they belong together. Without that linking color, though, your room won’t look like you’ve used an intentional mix of prints. It will look like you just haphazardly threw them all together. If you only remember one rule, this is the one you should commit to memory.

If this is your first time pulling together an interior design look with multiple patterns, remember to relax and have fun with it. The rules are fairly simple, and once you get used to them, you’ll know at a glance whether or not the patterns you’ve chosen work together. You’re going to love your room’s new look!


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