Mixed Patterns: The Do’s and Don’ts

mixed-patterns-charcoalsFashion designers and interior decorators love the look of mixed patterns. They blend sophisticated plaids, cheerful florals and crisp stripes with professional flair, but mixing and matching patterns isn’t as easy as the magazines make it look. One misstep can take a room or an outfit from daring to disastrous. The same principles apply to your wardrobe and your home decor, so you and your home can both get a flawlessly finished look when you use these basics to put the art and science of pattern mixing to work for you!

1. Do Choose a Motif

Having a theme in mind instantly unifies different patterns. When you bring together elements that occur in the same environment, such as a seashell print and beach-ready cabana stripes, you create harmony. To bring the beauty of a cabin in the woods to your home, you might pick bedding sets in earth tones and combine them with restful leaf motifs on pillows and window treatments. Add leaf-shaped or antler finials on curtain rods for a decorator touch. Country gingham checks with a strawberry print could give your kitchen a fresh new look.

2. Don’t Make It a Stage

Themes work well when mixing patterns, but avoid turning a theme into set decoration or costume by incorporating a few solids to break up the prints. Sandwiching a layer of solid color between two prints keeps them from overwhelming an outfit or a room while adding impact to the patterns. Window curtains can bridge the gap between plaid and floral print without competing for attention. Your theme might evoke a castle or a forest, but it shouldn’t look like a movie set.

3. Do Consider Proportion

Scale matters when mixing patterns. As a rule, choose smaller prints to coordinate with larger patterns to keep a room or outfit in proper proportion. A wide stripe looks striking with a scaled-down floral or tiny plaid, but it competes with fabrics that match its scale and impact. Big, bold geometrics need delicate prints to offset them. When dressing in mixed patterns, take the size and silhouette of the garment into consideration too. A full skirt makes a bold style statement even in a demure calico floral and needs broad stripes on a slim jacket to provide visual balance.

4. Don’t Combine Too Many Prints

Even in a large room, more than three prints can become overwhelming. While it’s tempting to show off your skill at mixing patterns with daring combinations, the overall impression may create visual noise. Sticking to a pair of coordinating prints is a good place to start. If the room still needs a little pizzazz, bring in a few bright solid colors as punctuation to your style statement.

5. Do Pick Harmonious Colors

The best way to keep mixed patterns from clashing is to unify them in some other way. Creating a color story brings disparate elements of an outfit or room together effortlessly. A big rose print in shades of Schiaparelli pink, cream and green is a beautiful foil for a narrow plaid in harmonious tones. Look for lighter and darker hues within the same color family for a more sophisticated play of color and pattern. In the kitchen, for example, you might choose kitchen accessories in crisp black and white accented with cantaloupe to go with a color scheme in grays and light peach.Once you have the knack of mixing patterns, every room in your home can have a decorator look.


Image Credit: KCH&G

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