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Mixing Patterns in Your Home: A How-to Guide

I love working with soft, neutral patterns, delicious textures, and natural colors when furnishing a space. Often layering tones help balance a room, keeping it light, airy, and inviting. But occasionally, a gorgeous, colorful pattern combination can be stunning.

As beautiful as neutrals and solid pieces can be, patterns and prints add personality. They create movement in a space—they add life! Whether it's a floral print mixed with geometric stripes or a block-printed textile layered over an antique rug—patterns catch the eye, draw you in, and make a room feel interesting.

Photography: Caroline Sharpnack

I've found that many of us are hesitant to work with patterns and prints, especially mixing them in home décor. A busy room can make a space feel overwhelming, small, and stressful. So how do you mix patterns in your home while making it feel easy and cohesive? Here are 7 tips to help you combine patterns and prints like a pro.

1. Work with Similar Colors

There are no rules for mixing patterns in home design, but there are some guidelines. When mixing patterns, one that I like to follow is to always work within a set color palette. Choose one or two main colors as your primary and then add a few accent colors. You can play with the shades and tones within your palette, but generally speaking, it’s best not to go with too many competing bold colors (especially if you’re going to mix patterns too).

If your room is relatively neutral—shades of white and cream, for example—then you could vary the additional colors in your palette. A pattern may play nicely on a few pieces featuring an accent color or two. Find textiles with a softer hue to use as throw pillows or wallpaper. A bold piece of pottery or an interesting graphic print could also be the color pop to tie your room together.

2. Mix Simple and Complex Pattern Types

If you have a bold or busy floral print wallpaper on the wall, go for a simple pattern like a stripe, herringbone, or geometric shape to complement the wall. For example, mix simple designs like stripes or geometric shapes with a single complex patterned piece like a floral. Or find small pieces to add a small dose of a complementary pattern. What’s old is new again these days and patterned lampshades are very of the moment—they’re a great way to introduce pattern to a room and an easy way to have fun with it.

When you combine several competing bold florals or multiple bright Middle Eastern patterns, the room can start to feel busy and confusing, especially if the space is small. I often like to view homes, and especially bedrooms and other living spaces, as places of sanctuary and rest. Mixing complex, bright, bold patterns can start to detract from that feeling. Stick to the idea of mixing an organic or natural pattern (like a floral or leaf) with repetitive geometric patterns.

Design + Photo: Chris Loves Julia

3. Keep it to Three or Four

Keep the patterned pieces limited to three or four per room. If you want to mix prints on the couch, the curtains, a rug, and throw pillows, keep them fairly simple and be sure they play well together. When you get more than four patterns in a room, it gets chaotic or disjointed, especially if the pattern is featured on a large piece of furniture like a couch.

If there's a patterned piece you love—like a gorgeous sofa covered in Schumacher fabric—then make it the focus of the room. Build your color palette and complementing patterns around that piece, adding in a few softer, simpler patterned items, textured elements, and solid décor components like vases, lamps, or textiles. Animal prints can be an excellent choice in the right setting, but again, keep them to one or two prints, rather than a whole zoo in a single room.

Design: Kate Marker Interiors | Photography: Margaret Rajic

4. Play with Scale and Size

When mixing patterns, play with scale. Generally, very large and bold patterns may look best with a geometric pattern of the same "weight." Several small, soft floral patterns can be really lovely when layered together too with other organic shapes. Or you may have one piece with a large print and then build several complementing pieces featuring smaller, simpler designs.

Often vintage fabrics—especially those sourced globally—will feature small, delicate patterns that are easy to mix and combine. The more patterns you incorporate, the more you'll want to vary their scale and size—remembering to keep a few similar to each other. If you’re unsure, it can really help to create a sample board, where you can play around with the various patterns and see what looks best before you translate it into real life. No samples of that vintage fabric? Consider screenshotting it and working with a digital copy.

5. Go Bold

Lately, I've been loving the use of bold bathroom wallpapers, especially in the powder room. Floral prints with brass fixtures and dark accents? Just amazing! I’m also loving the use of wall murals lately and even have one planned in my own personal build. While their color palette may be slightly muted, murals are statement-making all the same. I've seen them used beautifully on a single bedroom wall, a kids' room or play space, or a dining area. Bold prints aren't for the faint of heart, but they can truly be breathtaking when done right.

If you go for a bold print, embrace it! Prints in deep jewel tones, pastels, or black and white can feel very timeless and yet fresh. Accent them with solids and really delicious textured pieces that have weight. For complementary patterns, look for geometrics and simple designs that pick up some of the colors and tones in the bold print.

6. Balance Prints and Patterns

In a room, it’s generally best to balance your mix of prints and patterns. As a guideline, 40-60% of a room should include patterns. Keep the rest of the décor neutral with solids in interesting textures and tones. If you do too many patterns in a room, it will quickly become overwhelming and even dated (think back to the 1980s when everyone had multiple floral wallpapers—sometimes on the same wall).

A beautiful solid velvet chair looks great against a patterned duvet, vintage rug, and complementing printed throw pillows. A wallpaper with a Scandinavian or even Toile-type print can add tons of personality to a room when paired with softer complimenting patterns and shapes. It's all about finding the right balance to keep the room light, bright, and welcoming.

Photography: Jennifer Lavelle

7. Know Your Space & Your Taste

The best tip for mixing patterns in your home décor is knowing your space and following your own personal taste. I'll often pour through the pages of design magazines and drool over some of the stunning pattern combinations, but the truth is, I prefer mixing patterns with a touch of reserve in my own home with clean lines and lots of neutrals. Of course this could change as our styles all tend to evolve over time.

Still, there's certainly a time and place for mixing and combining prints and patterns. When working with vintage fabrics, I'm often amazed at the beauty and artistry that went into some of those textiles. Highlighting them in your home can make your space feel authentic, interesting, and alive.

If you're ready to branch out into mixing patterns in your home, start with something simple and see what feels comfortable to you. Try choosing a few block-printed throw pillows against a vintage rug, finding Turkish towels with interesting geometric patterns, or adding a folded blanket on a chair.

See what works for your space and go from there. I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

X Lauren

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