Follow This One Rule To Perfectly Mix Patterns

Pick a palette, any palette.

Dana Gibson Colorful Richmond Home Living Room
Photo: 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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