Mixing and matching is a great way to add punch to your space

Story by Meredith Coopman
Be creative. Be daring. Mix and match patterns, colors, sizes — whatever it takes to get a custom, true-to-you, ensemble. Use layers to create depth and interest. The potential combinations are endless. Obviously, you don’t want your space to feel uncomfortable, so don’t overdo it. Be cautious about what you’re creating; you have to live there. Most importantly, have fun!

Mixing and matching several patterns is a growing trend in interiors and in fashion. It’s a surefire way to add punch to your space. Implementing layers of pattern to your décor adds character and intrigue. However, pattern mixing is an art form, and perfecting a harmonious balance can be challenging. Too many patterns make your room cluttered and chaotic. Create attractive combinations that mesh rather than clash.

Keep in mind that patterns don’t have to match. Like with many elements of design, they simply need to live together — to coordinate with and complement each other. It’s easy to incorporate patterns into your home through materials and fabrics on elements such as pillows, rugs, furniture, lampshades, drapery, wallpaper, you get the idea. Just be sure to spread the patterns throughout the space for balance.

A Common Thread
Any pattern can serve as the basis for a safe decorating scheme or serve as inspiration. However, the easiest way to mix patterns is with color. That doesn’t mean they all have to be made up of the same colors; they just have to share a common color palette with similar colors and tones. As with your colors, your patterns should complement and balance each other.

Choose a color or color combination to build your space around. This color will unify the room and pull even the most contrasting patterns together. Try to work with the same color intensity. Don’t mix pastels with primary colors, or muted jewel tones with vibrant ones. For the best schemes, match your colors. Pick a couple of colors in your biggest, boldest pattern, add a second pattern that shares one or both of them, and then a third that introduces a new hue. Use the color wheel as a resource.

Soften With Solids
Patterns don’t have to be full of different colors. Tone-on-tone patterns can still give a room depth and character while remaining elegant. Patterns made up of neutral colors and shades are great for making dull spaces interesting. The effect is very subtle yet adds visual sophistication. You can also use various shades of the same color if you want to play it safe.

Offset your patterns with a few solids. Combining patterns with neutrals and solids will make your space more cohesive and more aesthetically appealing overall. White is always, always, always a safe bet. Mixing patterns in one color plus white will help create a natural balance. It’s really important to make sure your whites match, though, which can be tricky. There are so many whites to choose from — be certain to use all the same white (bright white, cream, off-white, and so on).

Size, Scale And Balance
Patterns can greatly impact the overall feel and energy level of a room. Use larger patterns throughout to create a harmonious space. Resort to smaller patterns if you would prefer to draw attention to a particular area of the room. Bold and busy patterns create a vibrant and exciting space, whereas subtle, pale patterns foster a calm environment. Contrasting your pattern styles, such as loose, organic shapes paired with tight, geometric ones, produces a surprisingly pleasing balance in the space.

The Rule Of Three
Designers love the ‘Rule of Three’ when it comes to design. Odd numbers seem to make things come together, and the rule applies when mixing patterns. Three is the minimum number of patterns you should use to make your space really work. Decorating with three patterns creates visual interest without feeling excessive. In order to achieve successful pattern mixing in groups of threes, you need to vary the scale. Choose a large print, a medium print and a small print for balance. For example, if your first print is a large floral, choose a second medium print in a geometric shape or a plaid in the same or similar color. The third print can be similar to either of the other two patterns and should use two or three of the colors in the other patterns. Use this print as an accent.

Go-To Pattern Combinations
Some easy, well-loved combinations that have proven to be true and timeless include familiar and recognizable patterns.

Stripes You can never go wrong with stripes. They are a classic pattern that goes well with most patterns. Think florals, ikats, paisleys and toiles.
Florals Flowers and stripes are a foolproof pair. They also look good with other geometric patterns like checks and polka dots.
Chevron / Herringbone Pairs well with pretty much anything as long as the colors work together.
Paisley Couples well with herringbone and stripes.
Toile Works well with stripes and plaids.
Ikat Ikats and stripes go hand in hand.
Animal Prints Other graphic prints go well with the typical zebra and leopard prints.
Plaid Plaids and florals: need I say more?

To start with, try mixing and matching a wilder print with a smaller, neater one — maybe a paisley with stripes, or an animal motif with a geometric print. For a softer, understated style, use two styles of the same pattern. Think big and little floral patterns with a medium-scale plaid.

When it comes to mixing patterns, the most important thing to remember is to have fun and stay true to the looks that you like best. When you do this, chances are, it will all come together without too much difficulty. Trust yourself and your own sense of style. After all, it’s your house, so it has to look and feel good to you.

Meredith Coopman has over 20 years of experience in architecture and interior design. She is currently the Design Director at InnSpace in Kalispell. You can reach her at meredith@meredithcoopman.com.