Mixing patterns – it can be done

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

At Home - By Lori Byrne

I am amazed by how many times I overhear people say that you can't combine patterns within a room. But you can – if you do it correctly.

A room would look flat and dull without some pattern in it to add some visual interest. We'll look at the steps to take to mix and match our patterns and create some excitement in our rooms.

But first off, let's look at all the places in our homes we can put some pattern. We can put pattern in our rugs or flooring. We can put pattern on our walls with wallpaper, our drapery fabrics and our artwork. We can put pattern on our furniture in the upholstery fabric or our selection of toss cushions and throws. We can even introduce pattern in the dishes we use and serve our meals on. Can you imagine how boring our homes would be if all of these were plain?

When combining patterns, there are four guidelines to take into consideration and they are:

Placement of emphasis – This is exactly as it sounds, placing the emphasis on one pattern by using more of that pattern throughout the room, by repeating it on several surfaces or by using a larger scale pattern as your main pattern.

Character of the pattern – The style of your combined patterns should be compatible or have a related theme. You can do this by having common lines, textures, shapes or objects. An example of this would be doing a little girl's room in a butterfly theme and her curtains, bedding and pillows all follow that theme. We don't have to use the exact same fabric on each item but perhaps each item would have some type of butterfly on it.

Colour scheme – Your patterns and prints need to have a related colour scheme. By this I mean that the colours should have similar intensities and values to them. Or, you can flip them and do the reverse. Confused? Let me explain. Say for example your main fabric is mainly white with some navy and a little red, you could use an accent fabric that was mainly red with a little white and navy in it. Same colours, just the reversed colour scheme.

Scale of the pattern – When combining patterns, it is the most pleasing to the eye when you use a variety of different-sized patterns. Your wallpaper on the accent wall could be a large scale floral, the duvet cover in a tiny stripe and the pillows in a medium-scale plaid.

When mixing your patterns, the key thing you want to remember is that you don't want them fighting with each other for attention. There should be one clearly dominant pattern and the rest should help showcase it. Otherwise, you'll find that the look can be unsettling and confusing.

A room with lots of pattern and colour can be loads of fun. So, next time a floral stops you in your tracks, think about what other patterns are already in your space and either grab it with confidence or step away, knowing that you are making the right call for your room.


Lori Byrne is a local interior decorator who enjoys helping people see the potential in their spaces.  She invites you along on a journey to discover the home inside your house.  She can be reached at loribyrne@jamiesoninteriors.ca

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page