Decorating UNschool: Pattern Mixing

We’ve talked about lighting and we’ve talked about rugs.  Today its all about pattern mixing, which for me in my own home, and very often for my clients, means pillows, curtains, or bedding.  Since I tend to campout in neutral land and I like for my large expensive purchases to be able to stand the test of time (and my ever changing taste) I generally go for solid pieces of furniture and curtains (we’ll get to those in another post). But when it comes to mixing and matching patterns, pillows are where its at for me.

Pattern Mixing Pillows

I used to feel so daunted by pattern mixing.  I loved examining the work of designers and seeing a room that felt so put together, yet in an effortless way that wasn’t overly “designed” or matching.  I just couldn’t quite grasp how they did it.

Pattern mixing House Beautiful

source– House Beautiful

Pattern Mixing Holly Mathis

source- Holly Mathis

At some point in my “research” and blog hunting, I took a brief online course all about creating a color scheme and pattern mixing.  It was like it finally all made sense.  I’m still no expert and definitely have a lot to learn of course (that’s why this is UNschool), but it was really very simple once someone explained it to me and I started playing around with patterns in my own home.  And by the way, I still love to examine the work of my favorite designers, looking at each element and determining what is it that makes the room so great.  That’s my design school.

Pattern Mixing House of Jade

source – House of Jade

Pattern Mixing - Milk and Honey Home

source – Milk and Honey Home

So, here is my version of basic pattern mixing:

Its best to start with your busiest pattern, your pattern with the most color.  Find something you love that contains all the colors you want in the room, and maybe even a few extra.  If you are color-phobic like me, I have found that a good rule of thumb is for at least one pattern to have 4-5 colors and no less.  This is so you don’t end up matchy-matchy.  Remember the goal here is to not have everything match.  We’re not necessarily picking out colors that you must adhere to.  Just finding your inspiration.

Pattern Mixing- Spring Fabric

Because I’m longing for spring and Valentine’s day is around the corner, we’ll start with this beautiful floral that has some pink and purple in it.

Next, add in a more simple or subtle pattern to contrast.  In order to do this, you must consider the scale of each pattern.  If you have a very large scale pattern, add in medium and small scale patterns.

Similarly, consider the type of pattern.  All geometric patterns is overkill.  Try a floral mixed in.  Or a stripe mixed with an ikat. Too many patterns of the same scale and/or type will look busy.

Something else to consider is the background color of the patterns.  I love a nice crisp white, but if every pattern is on white, they will start to blend together.  Its good to have some creamier colors in the backgrounds for contrast and yes, you can definitely mix white with ivory.

Pattern Mixing - large and small scales

I’ve added in two more patterns with my floral. I’ve pulled the tones from the original pattern but the scales and types are much different. The gray buffalo check, while it is still a large scale pattern, has very subtle colors. The polka dot is a small scale pattern and its dark background gives a nice contrast with the other two.

Its always nice to have a solid with some texture to balance it all out.  I like to do this with a velvet or linen pillow to contrast with the sofa fabric.  Do you feel like your sofa is too dark?  I always encourage my clients to add in some oversized white or ivory solid pillows.  This helps to lighten everything up.

Pattern Mixing adding in solids

So let’s pretend like these are pillows on a dark gray couch. I’ve now added in some washed white linen pillows. They add in some lightness and texture to the mix.

Now, we could definitely leave it as is, but for a little more dimension and color, I’ve added in one more pillow- the wild card.  Its just for some extra texture or contrast.  For this example,  I pulled from the pinks in our original pattern, but the scale and background of the florals are different.

Pattern Mixing with The House of Figs

These concepts don’t just apply to pillows.  Its the same when considering patterns on rugs, curtains, bedding, even furniture pieces for the brave among you.   Remember to consider scale, type of pattern, the background color of the pattern, and always add in solid colors and textures when its feeling busy.  Don’t go for matchy-matchy, go for compliment and contrast.

So that’s it for today- class is dismissed!



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12 Responses to Decorating UNschool: Pattern Mixing

  1. Alexis Reddy February 5, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    This is great Beth!
    I also struggle with a fear of pattern! Now it doesn’t seem so intimidating!??

    • Bethany February 6, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

      So glad it was helpful!! Same applies for clothing, but you’re so good at that!!!

  2. Annet M February 5, 2016 at 11:55 am #

    I’m really enjoying these lessons! I love watching any of Sarah Richardson’s shows and this is exactly what i learned from her – starting with the “jumping off point” bolder fabric and then building the room from there. Haven’t actually used it yet, but I saw where you were going, so I must have learned something! 🙂

    • Bethany February 6, 2016 at 7:02 pm #

      I love Sarah Richardson! Glad to hear her advice was similar. 🙂

  3. Christine February 5, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    Love it! I’m playing around with making some new pillows and this is perfect! Thanks again. 🙂

    • Bethany February 6, 2016 at 7:02 pm #

      Ooh, good timing! So glad it was helpful for you.

  4. Vianey February 5, 2016 at 10:59 pm #

    I love this. This is one area that I struggle with! I have a tendency to want to match everything. I’m going to have to try using your technique.

  5. Susan February 6, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

    “These concepts don’t just apply to pillows. Its the same when considering patterns on rugs, curtains, bedding, even furniture pieces for the brave among you. ”
    I usually hyper-focus on details and then struggle with the big picture. Thinking about the total room in the same way as choosing throw pillows–This is really helpful! Also helpful, “Don’t go for matchy-matchy, go for compliment and contrast.” Thanks!

    • Bethany February 10, 2016 at 8:48 am #

      Thank you so much, Susan! Yes, focusing on the big picture is key!!


  1. A Few More Words on Pattern Mixing & Pillows - The House of Figs - February 10, 2016

    […] to consider the background, scale, and type of patterns like I mentioned in my last post.  Go for […]

  2. Decorating UNschool: Furniture Arrangement - The House of Figs - February 26, 2016

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