Pick a palette, any palette. 

Nothing is more boring to this artist’s eye than a plain expanse of wall. “I’m not a fan of drywall and will do anything to make it more interesting,” she says. The wainscot pulls a one-two punch in the living room, enclosing the space with panels that evoke the European manors that Gibson remembers visiting in her childhood and giving the low ceiling the designer’s sought-after visual uplift. Limited wallspace above the wainscot gave Gibson the leeway to paint it a zippy yellow (Bridget Beari Colors’ Bing Bong).

The secret to avoiding a shouting match between patterns is mixing in a tiny print. “You need to have a ditsy pattern,” Gibson says, using the trade term she learned while designing collections of fabric and wallpaper for Stroheim. “It’s a really powerful element to have in a room to contrast with statements like large florals or graphic stripes.” In her living room, a cadre of blue throw pillows in Guppy acts as a foil for the oversize Suki design on the curtain panels (both are Gibson’s studio collection fabrics).

Photo: Helen Norman; Styling: Lizzie Cox

Mixing patterns is downright intimidating. And to be fair, it’s easy to miss the mark and end up with a dizzying living room. So most of us pass the task of picking printed fabrics off the task to experienced design pros. Combining patterns is really something anyone can do, and it’s a great way to add personality to your spaces. Mastering the art of mixing patterns is all about knowing where to start. Follow this important rule: Stick with one color palette.

Pick a classic combo like blue and white, or pair together pink and green. Whatever combination you choose, stick with it throughout the room. Start with a large-scale pattern, and use it in a big way, like wallpaper or floor-to-ceiling curtains. (This print will be the statement-maker that sets the tone for the rest of the room.) Then pick a coordinating solid from the pattern’s color palette, and use it on a large upholstered piece like a sofa. Choosing a solid fabric with texture, like a linen or velvet, saves the neutral from feeling boring.

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Sticking with the established palette, throw in another small-scale pattern (like a geometric or floral) and a stripe. Layering patterns is all about scale; the additional patterns incorporated into the space shouldn’t compete with the original large-scale pattern. These secondary motifs should complement the larger print, while adding more visual interest to the room.

When it comes to mixing patterns, go with what looks right to you. The best part about combining prints is that it’s a perfectly imperfect look. Before decorating your space, lay out your fabric swatches to visualize how the different patterns will look together. If the pairings feel too off and overwhelming, reevaluate the combinations. If you still love the mix of patterns after a few days, go for it.

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