Secrets to Mixing Patterns When Decorating

A living room with mixed blue and yellow floral patterns.

Pattern mixing is one way to bring instant life and style to a room.  The most important elements of a visually pleasing pattern mix are scale and color.  Varying scale and choosing similar or complimentary colors in fabrics is key to getting the right mix.

A living room with yellow and gray accents, mixing patterns.          A living room with colorful furniture mixing patterns.

Photos courtesy of

Select a large print first, such as a floral or geometric.  Select smaller scale prints using the colors in the large print as a guide.  A stripe, plaid or mid-size geometric are great choices to play against a large floral or overall print.  A mid-size floral, an overall pattern or stripe would mix well with a bold geometric print.

A living room with blue walls and a colorful rug showcasing patterns.

A living room with orange and pink striped furniture showcasing mixing patterns.

Photo courtesy of Kravet, Diane von Furstenberg fabrics

It is important to include solids to give the eye a rest and to pull all the patterns together.  Solid fabrics can be used on the central piece of furniture such as the sofa.  Walls painted in a neutral color make the patterns in the room stand out and create a relief so the room does not appear too chaotic.

A red and white bedroom with a chandelier featuring mixing patterns.          An image of a color wheel for mixing patterns on a white background.

Photo of bedroom courtesy of

Use the less prominent colors in a pattern elsewhere in the room.  This brings out those colors in the central print and further unifies the room.  Complementary colors can be incorporated for visual interest.  Complementary colors are those that are direct opposite on the color wheel, such as green and red.

A window seat in a living room with mixing patterns.   A living room with mixing patterns on a blue couch and blue curtains.  A girl's room with a canopy bed and zebra rug, mixing patterns to create a unique style.

Photo, left,  Photo, right, Michael J. Lee Photography.  Photo, right, designer Kriste Michelini

Mixing patterns may seem overwhelming at first but by following a few simple guidelines, you can create a room that is vibrant and chic.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with colors and patterns, even throwing in a few animal prints for interest.  Most fabric stores will allow you to bring home fabric samples so that you can get a better idea of how they will work in your home.  Many fabric designers create collections that work together, making your job very easy.  So, go ahead…mix it up!

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