Pattern Mixing In Interiors

Have you ever fallen in love with two patterns, but thought, well, they don’t really go together or do they?    Pleasing pattern mixing is an art.   My obsession with this Anna Sui dress I saw Kate Middleton wear on a trip to India inspired this post.  The dress is pattern mixing at its finest and I wanted to address that in the interior environment.  Pattern mixing in interiors isn’t as tricky as fashion can be since interiors have the benefit of space.

Anna Sui Fall 2015

Let’s say we are designing a living room and will need fabric for the window treatments, a sofa, two lounge chairs, and two small armchairs.  We will also need to consider an area rug to tie the space together.   Now, I know some designers like to use the rug as the starting point when designing a room, but I’ve found this limiting.  The rug first rule depends more on the size of the room (very large) and the rug needed to accommodate it and the furniture layout planned.   In that case, you’re probably dealing with an antique rug or a custom design you can wait four months or longer for.  Ok, back to our room.   For purposes of this post we will use a natural sisal rug and focus on patterned fabrics.

First the windows.  Custom window treatments can be a big investment, so choosing the right fabric is key.  Let’s use a large scale, floral pattern for the draperies.  You can’t just like the pattern, you’ve got to love it, chances are you’ll be looking at it for a long time.  The pattern you choose should speak to you, as it makes a statement about you.  Oftentimes you’re limited as to where you can use large patterns.   Draperies and skirted tables show off large scale patterns to great effect as do headboards and bedding.  It’s a tricky business using large patterns on furniture and getting the pattern pieced to best effect.

For the sofa we will select a solid with some texture in a neutral color, the lounge chairs will receive a medium scale pattern, and a small pattern for the armchairs.

GB&J Baker fabrics

To break up the solid on the sofa and tie the patterns together, pillows using the medium and small scale fabrics with contrast welting or decorative trim  can be added to great effect.  For a pop of excitement and warmth you can add a couple crimson pillows and a throw choosing to bring out a color from the drapery fabric.

Another mix of patterns with a floral drapery, solid sofa, medium animal or chevron pattern, and a small geometric.  Now we’ve mixed patterns, but they’re not going to be on top of each other, there is space for the pattern to shine on its own and at the same time be cohesive with the other elements in the room.  So if you wanted to use the chevron and the animal print together, give them some space.

Waverly fabrics
An interesting pattern mix in a tea towel from Le Jacquard Francais

Below are photographs of interiors employing pattern mixing to great effect, as well as a couple famous Henri Matisse’s paintings of interiors.

A bold mix of geometry in a Robert Couturier interior.  Black and white is timeless.
The painting acts as the large pattern in this living room.  Celerie Kemble design, House Beautiful
Henri Matisse “Pianist and Checker Players” 1924.
A classic Manuel Canovas interior employing pastels, plaids, geometrics, stripes, and floral on the wallpaper.
Henri Matisse “The Moorish Screen” 1921
Charlotte Moss mixes toile, plaid, stripes, and a geometric quilt masterfully.  Even the bed linens have a tiny pattern.  Love the attention to every detail.
Plaids, stripes, polka dots, and petite flowers.  Add in a colorful rag rug that contains all the colors in the room.  So cute and cozy.  Ruby Beets
A successful, tonal palette mix of stripes by interior designer and antiques dealer Richard Shapiro.

Compare different scale patterns to understand why scale is so important.   Using different size motifs creates interest and makes the patterns come alive.  A bunch of equally sized patterns together looks busy and is challenging to the eye.  Small patterns mixed with large graphic patterns mixed with stripes can be fantastic when put together.

Besides scale, other important points when pattern mixing are knowing how to combine interesting color combinations and when to bring in texture to create visually exciting spaces.  Will tackle that in another post.

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