Playing with Pattern

While I fully believe that rules are meant to be broken (I mean did they really expect me not to go into that pyramid in Chichen-Itza?), when you are learning a new technique, such as mixing patterns, it helps to follow some basic rules. While many well known designers have earned the right to break design rules, I am a novice and find them helpful.

There are four classic combinations of pattern matching which I will draw attention to and exemplify through pictures. Please note that the pattern matches I show are based on the colour as I see it on the computer screen. It is very important to see samples of the fabric in person before purchasing as the colours as shown on-line can be deceiving and colour matching is very important for a cohesive design look. Many fabric companies sell differently patterned fabrics with coordinating colours which makes pattern matching much easier.

Another  important element of pattern matching is mixing the scale of the patterns. A room with all large scale patterns would be chaotic looking. It is good to have a mix of large, medium and small scale patterns. It is okay to have more than one of each scale but if you are worried about making errors keeping it to one of each will help keep you on track (in the pictures below I have noted what scale the pattern is because each picture of the fabric is taken from different distances so unless you look at the scale at the bottom of the picture it is difficult to tell the size. Some look quite large in scale but are actually just a picture taken from very close up and vice versa.) 

Without further ado…

Geometric plus floral:



Due to the flowing lines of this ikat it could be considered a floral

Due to the flowing lines of this ikat it could be considered within the category of “floral”.

dwell studio mazascene taupe geometric

medium geometric

Dwell studio vintage blossom azure

large floral

Two similar patterns of different scale (eg. a medium scale and a large scale floral or a large scale plaid and a small scale plaid). The four fabrics below could also be used all together for a complex pattern mix.

Richloom whipporwill blue have,

medium floral

large floral

large floral

large plaid

large geometric

small geometric

small geometric

     Same pattern/ different colours:

cheveronpurpleyellow zig zags

Complex Pattern mix:

Three different scale florals plus one geometric:

premier prints graffiti drew berries

small floral

preimier prints rosa drew berries

medium floral print

preimier prints hippie chic

large floral print

very small geometric

very small geometric

Two different scale florals and two different scale geometrics.

thomas paul dahlia aegean

Large floral

robert allen multiop slub pool

large geometric

robert allen mod lay out slub

medium geometric

robert allen luxury floral pool

medium floral

While all the pattern samples shown above are fabric samples, pattern can also come from other aspects of the room like wallpaper and rugs. A general suggestion for larger surfaces like these is to use larger scale patterns so that it doesn’t look too busy.

I personally have commitment issues when it comes to colour and pattern in my main living spaces and if you are like me an easy and less expensive way to start your exploration in pattern matching is throw pillows.

I hope that this little tutorial is helpful for you. Please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] if you have any questions. I purposefully only showed pictures of the patterns because I thought it might make things clearer. If you google search pattern mixing you will get a wealth of pictures with beautiful pattern mixes. Happy pattern mixing!


Filed under Decorating Basics

4 Responses to Playing with Pattern

  1. Very good blog. I ALWAYS mix EVERYTHING. Having made a living at decorative painted for years and been in wallpapering business with my husband years ago, I learned the only faux pass on patterning in is if the colors do not match.
    All will look good if there is ONE basic color in hue/value/tone alike throughout the theme. And of course if you gray tone the colors as most of your examples show, they all will go together, regardless of pattern.

    Even the zigzag pattern matches. because there is the same back ground, but watch out, if one has a different background color!!! That will make you want to smack someone. hahaha

  2. Excellent article. I will be dealing with many of these issuess as well..

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