TIPS & IDEAS: Mixing & matching patterns
Pattern mixing is a great way to add personality and visual interest to any room. However, it can be downright impossible if you don’t know the basic rules and guidelines. Does this stripe go with that floral? Does this ikat work with that jacquard? What the heck IS an ikat anyway?
This is why I’m sharing a few trade secrets to help you mix patterns til’ the cows come home! But before we go deep, let’s have a little chat…
1. CONSIDER QUALITY
Don’t mix junk with quality. It’s like having a $100 bottle of wine with a McDonald’s two cheeseburger meal – it just won’t feel good in the end. If it looks like a quality fabric then you’re good to go. On the other hand, if it looks poorly done and you partner it with a quality cushion, your less expensive one will look even more tragic.
Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray
2. CONSIDER TEXTURE
The more neutral your palette is, the more texture you need to add. Texture adds interest. Texture adds substance. Texture makes my world go round!
On the other hand, if you don’t have a neutral palette, you don’t necessarily need texture to add interest.
3. CONSIDER STYLE
If you don’t like florals, don’t pick a floral just because it has your colours. Make sure the patterns you pick suit the feel and the theme of your room and suit each other.
Sherwin Williams Egret White
4. FILL IT WITH FEATHERS
I personally detest cotton fibre fill cushions.
It’s like stuffing my bra with toilet paper – it looks good from far, but it sure doesn’t feel good to grab!
If you’re a fuss-budget like me, make sure your cushions have a cover that can be removed and replace the innards with a lovely feather insert! Yes, they’re pokey, but you can also buy a liner to help with that.
5. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT TOSS CUSHIONS!
While the FOCUS of this blog post is on toss cushions, there are several others items that NEED to be included in your pattern palette…
- AREA RUG
- THROW BLANKETS
- FABRIC FURNITURE PIECES
A WELL-planned fabric palette from the sofas and rug, right down to the cushions, ottomans and throw blankets! Sherwin Williams Alabaster
And now, let’s dig into the guts and the glory of matching patterns!
STEP 1 FIGURE OUT YOUR COLOUR FAMILY
If you live in the land of neutrals, then you’ll find it easy to incorporate almost any colour scheme into your room. Chances are you already have a few things in your room that will give you clues as to what family you belong to. Here’s a list of a few colour families to consider…
When it comes to the wild world of colour, neutrals are by far the easiest and can be incorporated INTO other colour families.
- neutrals can range from white and brown to gray and black and everything in between
- you’ll find that neutrals look best when there are a variety of depths and textures (if they aren’t mixed into other palettes)
- don’t be afraid to throw in one or two colours from another family to add some life to a neutral-on-neutral palette
See this WHOLE HOME makeover HERE
If you’re creating a palette using ALL neutrals, you’ll find it much easier to mix n’ match, without having to repeat colours from your MAIN pattern (which you’ll learn about below).
Pastels are the softies of the bunch.
- these gentle hues tend to be soft, Easter-inspired colours!
- pastels best suit white, fresh cream and gray, although, you can pull off the odd beige as long as it’s MAJORLY muted
PRIMARY COLOURS & BRIGHTS
These colours are jacked right up, so a little goes a LONG way with these bad boys.
- bright colours partner best with each other OR black, white, clean charcoal and dark brown
- a little can say a LOT when it comes to bright colours so don’t go OVERBOARD
Earth tones are colours that have some gray or brown in them, meaning they are toned down.
- these can be light and soft or dark and deep, as long as they have that neutral base (beige/brown or gray to calm them down)
- earth tones love being partnered with other earth tones and neutrals
You might have your OWN colour family or trend that you love, ie. beach, vintage, traditional, romantic, etc…but these basic families should at least get you on the right track!
STEP 2 CHOOSE YOUR MAIN PATTERN
From your chosen colour family (based on the above or your OWN colour choices), decide on TWO or more fave colours. These will be for your MAIN pattern – the pattern that holds the colours you want to use.
Consider the following in your main pattern…
- aim to have at least ONE NEUTRAL in it (if you’re working with ONLY neutrals, fill yer boots!
- don’t be afraid to vary the depths of a particular colour, you don’t have to stick with one particular depth
- this pattern doesn’t need to be the LARGEST surface area (ie. rug or drape) it can be a simple bolster cushion, just as long as it contains your colours and is an obvious player in the room!
- you can have two MAIN patterns in a space, as long as the patterns play off each other (ie. one if floral and one is stripes, rather than two florals or two stripes)
Here are some examples of MAIN patterns that have a variety of colours to choose from for our secondary patterns/fabrics…
If you choose a pattern palette using all neutrals, your main pattern isn’t AS important. What this means is that you’ll have a lot more room to mix and match within your chosen neutral range. HOWEVER, when you add COLOUR that you need to pay more attention to COLOUR REPETITION from one fabric to the next.
Remember, your main pattern doesn’t NEED to be on a fabric!
Again, while the focus of this blog post is on toss cushions (just to cover the basics), your DOMINANT MAIN pattern or COLOUR PALETTE doesn’t need to be on a toss cushion and often ISN’T. Consider these other items for inspiration…
- a reasonably dominant piece of ARTWORK
- an AREA RUG
- fabric covered FURNITURE PIECES
Kylie M Interiors with V1 Real Estate Photography
In the above living room, notice how the area rug and artwork set the stage for a beautiful toss cushion palette! (Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray on the walls)
STEP 3 CHOOSE YOUR SECONDARY PATTERN/FABRIC
Choose TWO TO THREE COLOURS from your MAIN pattern that you’d like to repeat in a secondary, more simple pattern.
- if you only have THREE colours in your MAIN pattern, you may want only TWO colours in your secondary pattern so that it doesn’t compete (or repeat the same colours in a smaller or more subdued pattern)
- if you have FOUR TO FIVE colours (or more) in your MAIN pattern, you may want TWO TO THREE COLOURS in your secondary pattern
- of course, you can keep it simple and go STRAIGHT to solid colours (STEP 4), either simple or textured, but it’s best if these are in the main colour palette OR at least directly contrast/compliment it
larger more dominant patterns often suit graphic large scale toss cushions, ottomans, couches, area rugs and drapes
- you can have TWO TO THREE secondary patterns in your room with different colours in them, as long as they are colours that are found in the MAIN pattern (there are exceptions to this, but this keeps it simple)
Here are some examples of secondary patterns. Some have only two tones or colours, others have a variety…
And it’s not always about going BUCKWILD with colours. As shown in this next living room, the area rug has a mix of blue, cream/off-white and beige/taupe – colours that are repeated in the main furniture pieces and toss cushions. What keeps this palette INTERESTING is the shift in patterns!
STEP 4 CHOOSE A SOLID COLOUR
The solid piece can be a colour OR a neutral and can be either textured or smooth. It might have MINOR flecks of another colour in it, but keep it simple.
- you can have a multitude of solid colours in a room as long as they exist in your main piece (I wouldn’t do more than THREE)
- if your main pattern is all NEUTRALS, you can add almost any colour you like (within reason, there ARE exceptions – which are a blog post unto themselves), as long as it ties in with your room and overall theme
The two on the far right obviously aren’t SOLID colours, but in the absence of a solid, could do the trick with their simplicity (tight simple texture or basic two-tone).
CHECK OUT THE RESULTS OF STEPS 1-4
If I take my own tips and combine the above cushions, this is what I have…
MIX & MATCH FABRIC PALETTE #1
The cushion on the upper left is the MAIN pattern, as it holds all of the colours found in the secondary patterns/fabrics…
Notice how the bottom right fabric has MANY of the same colours found in the MAIN fabric, but the pattern is more subdued so it doesn’t COMPETE too much.
MIX & MATCH FABRIC PALETTE #2
The top left cushion is the MAIN pattern…
The above palette is a mix of earth tones and neutrals. But, had I put in a more COLOURFUL cushion, it wouldn’t make sense as it would fall outside of the colour palette (and isn’t in the MAIN pattern).
MIX & MATCH FABRIC PALETTE #3
The top left cushion is the MAIN pattern…
Notice how the top right cushion adds a bit of texture and interest to the palette. Likewise, even the bottom right, with its textured edge, adds some interest to what would otherwise be a flat, boring cushion.
MIX & MATCH FABRIC PALETTE #3
The top left cushion is the MAIN pattern, although the top right takes a good shot at the title…
And while there are many more wild and wonderful tips and ideas to mix & match patterns, these basics should get you started!
The palette for this room is inspired by the STONE FIREPLACE! However, the chartreuse ottoman doesn’t quite fit.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2018, MASSIVELY UPDATED IN 2022