One of an interior designer’s ultimate weapons to create the perfect room for a client is the ability to mix and match patterns. By filling a room with a ‘busy’ scheme you can freshen up the look, or just give a different look to an old space. It takes skill to successfully create a room with a plethora of colour and designs. It is all too easy to do it terribly wrong, but it is a skill that can be learned and replicated.
Like most schemes an interior designer creates, there are rules to be followed. By understanding and applying these rules to your decorating, you will give a professional finish to one of the hardest looks to create. It won’t be too hard to master, but will give your space that ‘to die for’ feel.
The 60/30/10 rule
This is a hard and fast rule for success. Choose one fabric and use it 60% of the time, a second fabric 30% of the time and a third fabric for the remaining 10%. The key thing is to make sure that all the material you choose is coordinating. This is becoming and easier effect to achieve as many upholstery and drapery fabric comes in a pre-matched range, so you can browse the range and know that they are designed to automatically coordinate.
Use this rule for any solid fabrics you plan to use, choosing solids that complement the colours in your main fabrics.
If you have one fabric you love and want to match it to other patterns, choose a colour then repeat it in the other designs you choose. Look for colours that are downplayed in the original piece and bring them to life in the other material you choose. Don’t be afraid of repeating the same pattern around the room, like a plaid or stripe, even if the colour or scale is different.
Many designers use ‘inspiration boards’ to test the ideas they have for a design, which can be complicated or simple, but you can create the same ideas by taking home samples and seeing how they ‘fit’ your room. For instance, a large pattern may be too big for a pillow, or a complicated pattern get lost in the folds of drapery, which all change the way patterns work together.
If you are unsure whether a scheme will work, get as many samples as you can (consider buying a small piece of fabric instead of making a costly mistake) and move them around at home to decide if it will work for you.
Think outside the box – literally!
Mixing and matching patterns is a great way to express your individuality in interior design, but why stick to just mixing and matching curtains and drapery? By picking up the pattern in a design you can repeat this round a room. If one of the patterns in your custom drapes is a criss-cross orientation, why not choose an end table or chair with a criss-crossed base? Or bookcases based on the same design?
It is this level of detail that will transform and ordinary room into an interior designed room.
You may not decide to go for coordinating fabrics, instead opting to match patterns instead. A bedspread with a large, floral medallion design can be echoed in blinds with a spiral pattern of a similar colour, coupled with drapes of a small dot. The fact that all the patterns are the same, or similar colours and shapes, will draw the design together, giving it an artistic cohesion.
Walls that talk
One aspect of mixing patterns that may be overlooked is the walls. Wallpaper is a fantastic way of introducing patterns, colour and setting a baseline for scale. It’s often easier to pick the wallpaper first, then match everything to that, then try and find one the fits your upholstery fabric choice after it has been made.
The reason for this is that the wallpaper needs a scale all of its own. It doesn’t matter if the pattern on the walls is the largest, smallest or medium sized scale of your design, but it does matter that none of your fabrics match it. If you have the same scale on the walls and couch for instance, it will make the room feel like it is closing in and may overwhelm the whole design.
When you think about mixing patterns in a room, it usually conjures up a very busy palette, with an eclectic atmosphere, but it doesn’t have to. If you’re not sure you want to dive into full colour or distinct designs, try mixing tone-on-tone for a subtle look. By choosing the same colour design on a drapery fabric, sometimes called a self-colour, you can use texture as a way to create the same look.
Try a couch with textured cushions or pillows that are all the same colour, or very slight tonal variation, to see how it works for you. You can always branch out from there.
Make a rest!
If you have a room that is a carefully orchestrated, cacophony of colour, make sure you integrate areas of solids. In a ‘busy’ room, the eyes need a place to rest to be able to process the finesse and cohesion of the design, so provide one!
Think about neutral walls or solid coloured custom bedding as somewhere the eyes can pause, before moving on, otherwise you run the risk of making the room very ‘loud’.
The one aspect of mixing patterns that attracts most designers to use them is that it can be tremendous fun. Taking a new look at patterns and taking away the usual restrictions can give an artistic freedom not allowed by anything else.
Now you know all the tips – it’s your turn to try it!