Mix Patterns Like a Pro

September 26, 2013

Mix Patterns Like a Pro

Patterns are having a moment, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The beauty of ikat, florals, and all their patterned brethren is that they can add some serious sizzle to a room, especially when a few different ones are mixed together. But figuring out which patterns actually look good together isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

So I turned to Bay Area-designer and pattern mixing guru Sarah Coombs (http://sarahcoombs.com) for her tried-and-true tricks for finding a winning combo.

Limit your palette. It’s easy to go overboard with colorful patterns, especially if you’re trying to spice up your space. But a full-on rainbow isn’t visually exciting—in fact, it can look downright messy. Coombs’ advice? Use the color wheel: Choose two major colors and one accent shade for the room, and stick to patterns in those hues.

Consider scale. In every group, there’s a dominant and a recessive. The same thing goes for combining patterns and prints. Rather than pairing two same-sized patterns, which can fight with each other for visual attention, aim for one large-scale pattern (like bold chevrons) and one small- or medium-scale pattern (like smaller dots).

Play with opposites. As long as the scale differs, virtually any patterns can play well together, Coombs says. For maximum oomph, though, think opposites. That can mean anything from pairing complementary colors — yellow against purple, orange against blue — or hard-edged patterns like ikat and stripes against softer ones like florals and watercolor abstractions.

Spread the love. Lumping all your patterned pieces in one area can take up too much visual weight. Instead, sprinkle prints and patterns around the room equally, making sure to incorporate some solids into the mix, too. They give the eye a natural place to rest.

Start small. Still not sure about placing a suzani pillow next to a striped throw? Don’t sweat it—there are plenty of small ways to experiment with pattern mixing without going full bore. Try adding just one or two patterned pieces to a room, like a throw, lampshade, or rug. Or check out tone-on-tone patterns, like this KAS Cortico Hand Woven Rug


They’re understated, chic, and—best part—next to impossible to mess up.

Shop smart. True, mixing patterns and prints isn’t an exact science, but it’s still important to get the correct color and scale. So when you’re shopping for pieces, carry a sample of the pattern you to want to work off of, Coombs says. If that’s a throw pillow, just toss the cover in your bag before you hit the store. For larger pieces, order a sample from the manufacturer. It may take a few days to arrive, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than ordering a full-sized rug, finding out it’s the wrong shade, and having to send it back.

Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow

Products in photo:

Suzanni Blue and Green 20-Inch Square Toss Pillow

Harbor House™ Lincoln Embroidered 18-Inch Square Toss Pillow

Circus Act 20-Inch Toss Pillow

Diamond Aztec Toss Pillow

Barbara Barry® Pave Alabaster 16-Inch Square Toss Pillow

Ball Game 16-Inch Square Toss Pillow



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