Ask Amy - Mixing Patterns


Q:  What's the best way to mix patterns?  

Achieving a finished look to any space is all about layering patterns and textures. You start with the large elements of the room. Let's use the living room as an example. The large elements are flooring, seating, surfaces, lighting, and the television. These are the elements that will define your space then you will focus on refining your space, id est, mixing patterns through accessories such as throw pillows. 

Recently, my husband and I jetted off to Palm Springs for a Babymoon weekend (it was fabulous, thanks for asking). I was thrilled to explore the Design District our first day. Here's a tip:  Always ask if purchased items can be shipped. More often than not, the answer is, "Absolutely!" We found items for the nursery, living room, and some gifts. I was excited to find new pillows for the couch as it was one of those back-of-the-mind items I've had since the couch was placed in our living room 2+ years ago with its two standard matching pillows - same fabric as the couch. Several months ago, I found dark indigo dyed accent pillows from ED by Ellen that did a lot to elevate the look of the couch and room. However, I knew I struck gold when I found pillows at Grace Home Furnishings Palm Springs to replace the the standard issue ones. Or so I thought. 

When the Palm Springs pillows arrived, I threw off the matchy-matchies placing my new finds in their place, and my heart sunk. The neutral color was good, but the pattern...Did it conflict too much with the accent pillows? Does it relate naturally to the lines of the couch? I love these pillows, but do I love them in this space? Thus began the throwing of the throw pillows on and off the couch in different arrangements. After 24 hours of letting them live in my living room, the verdict is: They're keepers!

Guidelines for Mixing Patterns:

Note: I used floral patterns as examples because they can be the trickiest. Also, it is the opposite of what I used in my living room example.

Solid & Prints This is mixing patterns 101 and a good place to start. Your biggest concern with this option is coordinating colors. 

 Large & Small Prints Mixing large scale prints with small prints works most of the time. Again,  your focus is on color coordination.

Small & Small Prints Now, you're in the big leagues of mixing patterns. You, like me, may feel buyer's remorse creeping in, but take a deep breath. It can be a successful and pleasing look. The should be enough variance of white space, aka solid space, between the patterns. In other words, one pattern should be more crowded and the other more spread out. In my living room example, I also mixed the type of print. The Palm Springs pillow features soft spread out curves while the ED indigo pillow has a tight geometric patten. You will also notice that I held on to the couch-matching pillows. I'll admit this was somewhat of a crutch. Including them helped me find cohesiveness with the couch.

Final Thoughts When adding new patterns to the mix, look at it from all angles and in different arrangements. Zoom in, zoom out. How do the patterns look the room...from the front...back...sides? Live with it for a couple of days. Give your eye time to adjust. If I had known, I'd be keeping the couch-matching pillows, I would have experimented more with shapes, sizes, and quantity like in the picture above. All in all, I'm very pleased with my new pillows. I definitely think the couch and room as a whole look more refined and less standard issue.