From the Pros: 10 tips for Mixing Patterns in Your Home


A great way to add visual interest to any room is by bringing in pattern. Pattern can be added to a space through soft goods such as pillows, rugs, window treatments, but can also be seen in larger design elements such as flooring, backsplash and mouldings. One of the most common problems we hear about is mixing patterns in a room, more specifically how to mix and play with pattern correctly. You might have a rug you love, but aren’t sure what pattern to pair with it. This is where mistakes can be made. Don’t worry, though, we are sharing our favorite 10 tips to keep in mind when you are playing with pattern in your space. It’s up to you whether you want to make a bold splash or stay classically clean and subtle.

Blue Living Room with Pattern | Lindsay Coral Harper

1. Rule of 3. This is an important golden rule in the design world. Odd numbers tend to be more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. This can be true for patterns, too. This is about as basic as you can get. Use the rule of 3 and combine it with 60-30-10 rule, meaning 1 pattern will become your dominant pattern and you will use it within 60% of the space. Your second pattern will be used in 30% of the space, and your third pattern will be used in 10% of the space. This does not mean that every inch of your space should be covered in pattern. See below for more information about white space.

mixing patterns-thom-filicia

Get the look:

Kadie Pillow | Scout & Nimble

Kadie Pillow

Sofie Pillow | Scout & Nimble

Sofie Pillow

2. Varying Scale. This is probably hands down the most common mistake we see. You might like three separate patterns, but if they are all the same scale, chances are high they will compete with each other and you will not love the overall look. Varying the scale of patterns is actually a simple thing that once you learn will help you tremendously in your decorating efforts. The patterns you want in one space are large scale, geometric, small scale. Some find it beneficial to have their larger scale pattern be their dominant pattern that contains the most colors and anchors their space. Then the geometric pattern can become the secondary pattern. It should contain 2-3 of the colors from the first pattern. This leaves the small scale, using 1-2 colors from dominant pattern, to being used in the smallest amount of space (about 10%).

Window Seat & Nook + Play on Pattern | Lauren Liess

Get the look:

Trinity Narcissus/Frozen Dew Throw | Scout & Nimble

Trinity Narcissus/Frozen Dew Throw

Provincial Blue Floral Pillow | Scout & Nimble

Provincial Blue Floral Pillow

3. Patterns translate to style. Different patterns often translate to how a room feels. Traditionally, a damask or toile pattern is a bit more formal while stripes tend to give off a more relaxed vibe. This is not detour you from using say your favorite damask pattern in a relaxed space, but it can be a guide to help bring a certain feeling to a room. This can also be applied to the energy within the room. Busy colorful patterns might energize a room while soft subtle patterns create a more peaceful retreat. Figure out how you want your room to function to narrow down patterns that will help you meet your goal.

Mixing Patterns | Henry & Co

Get the look here:

Paradise Garden | Scout & Nimble

Medium Libra Vase | Scout & Nimble

Medium Libra Vase

4. Solids are welcome. You cannot go wrong by adding a solid color from your dominant pattern into the space. Just think in terms of that 60-30-10 rule and make sure your solid fits into your scheme. This can be paint, window treatments, pillows, a rug, or a piece of furniture. When in doubt, go solid as they can break up and soften patterns. Solids can add texture; some even have a very small pattern, such as grasscloth wallpaper or a faded over-dyed solid rug which will look nice in the space no matter the pattern used.

Mixing Patterns | Floral Pillows | Studio McGee

5. White Space is needed.  You will want to make sure you have areas of negative space or white space where there is not pattern to allow the eye to rest. Even in a high patterned room, you can see where the designer was intentional about white space. Take a picture of your room. Sometimes looking at the space in a picture is easier to assess what needs to be changed. If you cannot see negative space, go back and edit accordingly.

Bedroom full of Pattern | Michael S Smith

6. Keep Intensity Throughout. The pros can break this rule easier than most, so this might be a rule that you see being broken in shelter magazines. But for most, keeping the color intensity consistent throughout your patterns is going to be your best bet to a gorgeous room. For example, going with all pastels or vibrant colors within your patterns will lend itself to a cohesive look.

Soft Patterns on Pillows | Sita Montgomery Interiors

7. Spread it out. Much like white space, you want to make sure your pattern is evenly distributed in a room. Having it all on one side can make the room feel off balance. There are many design elements within a room that can add pattern that will help to be aware of such as stone or brick fireplaces, flooring or backsplash that is shaped or laid in a pattern such as herringbone, mouldings or millwork on walls, doors or even the ceiling. Evenly distributing the patterns throughout the room will create the best look for your space.

Gray & Blue Bedroom | Sarah Richardson

8. Certain patterns can be neutral. There are a few patterns out there that many designers consider a neutral such as leopard and polka dots. These can be treated as a neutral and mixed with just about anything. Adding them will most certainly add a pop to your space.

Leopard Sofa

9. The monochromatic look. If it isn’t so much as the pattern that is throwing you off as it is the color, you might thing about opting for the monochromatic look. Choose your favorite color and find the patterns you love in varying shades. This classic look is timeless and fairly simple to execute. Just apply the 60-30-10 rule to the different hues and you will be solid.

Living room with Pattern | Burnham Design

10. One more thing about scale. This last one is definitely not always true, but is a good guideline to keep in mind. Large scale patterns tend to look better on larger items while smaller scale patterns work well on smaller items. For example, a large scale pattern on a small lumbar pillow not look as good or show off the pattern as well as if you had used it on window treatments. This doesn’t mean you cannot use a small scale pattern on a large item such as wallpaper or a large scale pattern in a small bath. We recommend doing both of those things. Make sure the pattern you are wanting to add will be shown as you want it seen.

Play on Pattern with Graphic Lines | Lucy & Company

11. One to grow on.  Ok, we lied. There are 11 tips. But this is one of the most important things that you can know. Some say rules are meant to be broken and we can happily say that we have seen these rules be broken with amazing results…most commonly done by the pros with years of practice. Mixing patterns takes a bit of knowledge and a bit of risk. Be willing to step outside the box! Find what inspires you and study it to bring the look into your own home. Fashion can be a great source when it comes to pattern mixing. If you are still feeling stuck, know that many fabric companies release collections that are meant to be paired together for a cohesive look. Most of the time, we strive to avoid the matchy matchy look, but it can look stunning when executed the right way. Bottom line, have fun with it!

Blue Bedroom with Pattern | Ashley Whittaker Design

Featured Image: Amber Interiors

Image Credits: Lindsey Coral Harper via House Beautiful, Thom Filicia, Lauren Liess, Henry & Co. Design, Studio McGee, Michael S. Smith, Sita Montgomery Interiors, Sarah Richardson Design, Domino Burnham Design, Lucy & Company, Ashley Whittaker Design