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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Designing With Pattern: Follow the Rules for the Perfect Mix and Match

Written by Jaymi Naciri Posted On Sunday, 13 July 2014 05:58

No matter how design savvy any of us think we are, there is one thing that continues to give us fits. It's the great conundrum of design and décor. The big hairy monster of creating unity and contrast. The one thing that can send even the most fervent of design-obsessed folks running for a tutorial.

It's designing with pattern. And it's a pain. But through the pain comes deep satisfaction once you've figured out how to layer like a pro and taken your space from just OK to simply extraordinary.

"If you've ever encountered a shallow, one-dimensional person - maybe a famous-for-being-famous reality TV star or perhaps an arch nemesis - it's likely you found him or her both cold and uninteresting," said Houzz. "The same goes for interiors: A lack of layers can lead to an impersonal, unwelcoming space. While mixing colors and textures is often second nature for design enthusiasts, adding layers of patterns can be a bit more complex."

Here are a few tips to give you a properly layered and beautifully textured space while sparing your sanity.

Baby Steps

Worried about taking the pattern plunge? Go slowly.

"While layering patterns works with walls, floors, upholstery, ceilings, window coverings and accessories, it's best to take baby steps when first trying it out," said Houzz. They recommend starting with pillows to "get comfortable with layering before we spend the big bucks."

Neutral foundation

A room can quickly become overwhelming with multiple patterns when the base color is bold. For a more soothing space, think neutral.

"Start off with a neutral color on the walls and flooring and use a few layers of bold prints in either your area rug, or in a few key pieces of furniture," said Freshome. "Then fill in your space with neutral colored sofas, chairs and ottomans to neutralize the room. The bold patterns will work magically with the subdued neutral tones."

Color Theory

Whether you go neutral or bold, some design experts recommend sticking to one main color if you are mixing patterns. For visual interest, vary the intensity. Decordemon notes that different shades of a common color like blue "can lead to an evolved, effortless look." But you can create even more pop by layering in additional complementary or contrasting colors.

Scale variation

"While color and shape are easier to get a grasp of, scale is a bit more complicated," said Houzz. "There are three different sizes of scale: small, medium and large. When mixing prints, try not to choose more than one of the same scale size; multiple patterns of the same scale often result in a one-way-ticket to Cluttersville."

By concentrating on proportion, you can create sense out of the seemingly nonsensical and style instead of chaos. "Typically, the larger a space is, the larger a pattern it can handle," said Budget Decorating. "A bold pattern can easily overwhelm a petite sofa and look out of place, so scale is important in any decorating scheme."

In addition, Houzz adds that it's important to stick to one large pattern, "unless you want each large print to look like it is eating the other...like a Tyrannosaurus Rex snacking on a Triceratops."

Throw out the rules

But, as the saying goes, rules are meant to be broken. If you have an eye for color and a propensity for drama, you can create a space that stands alone.

Here are a few additional tips to create the perfect balance with patterns.

  • Avoid pattern in your large furnishings if you're trying to stay budget friendly, even if you've mastered the art of mixing. "Pattern becomes dated much more quickly than solid colors, so it is best to use it on items like pillows, throws and area rugs that tend to wear out more quickly," said Budget Decorating.
  • Think of animal prints, stripes, and polka dots as neutrals.
  • Choose patterns with "contrasting densities," said Houzz. "For example, if you choose a tight plaid fabric to cover your chair, consider adding a throw pillow in a loose floral design to balance the look."
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