Home Decorating and Staging
Insider Secrets to a Beautiful Home

Combining Fabric Patterns

Combining Fabric Patterns

Combining Fabric Patterns

We're ready for a little pattern in our lives and retailers are obliging with an overwhelming number of new designs! Which to choose? How to decide? What's the trick to combining? How do you create the magic and not the mess?

There is a formula that decorators use. You can learn it in Top Ten Tips for Mixing Fabric Patterns. It always works. Just follow the guidelines, let your intuition and imagination loose and invite new color and excitement into your home.

Let's test the formula and see how the West Elm designers do it. Suppose we see this pillow and it's love at first sight. Do we buy two?

That would work, but it would be more interesting to find a graphic design with some of the same colors in a geometric pattern.

So we have a floral and a geometric with complementary colors. Both large scale patterns. Now what?

We could add a smaller scale stripe like the bargello on the left, or start calming it down with a single color from our original pattern like this large scale gold bird.

Notice how the background colors (soft white) in the patterns are the same? Patterns get along better if you stick with a similar background. (Rather than mixing a bright white background on one pillow with a creamy one on another).

Play around with this and you'll see what I mean.

We have three complementary patterns. How do we pull the room together?

Add a solid. The red fabric wall hanging provides drama. Red ties together the first two pattern choices and it's large. Remember to combine items in different sizes.

Add a neutral. Give the eyes a break. A gray sectional, light gray walls and ottoman do that nicely. 

Add texture. Notice all the different textures in the room. Silk pillows (smooth), rug (soft under the feet), end table (rough), wall hanging (probably wool), hard smooth metal lamp. 

Add contrast. Pop it with some black. Black feet on the furniture, black and white art, black zig zag in the rug.

Add a surprise. "Matchy-matchy" is predictable and boring. The 60-30-10 Rule can help you here. The surprise color is the hot pink throw (an accent color in the pillows) and the turquoise tray. Just a touch.

Composition. Notice the way the items connect with one another.

  • The red wall hanging isn't hanging by itself in the middle of a wall, it's connected by a hand-width to the art and the items on the shelf. See the Golden Mean for why this works.
  • You can visually stair-step down from the red fabric to the black and white picture, to the sectional, to the floor. This is great design and it makes a room feel terrific.
  • Notice how the items are clustered in odd numbers? Two pillows and a throw. One pillow by itself.

If you're new to some of these concepts, it might seem a bit confusing at first. But, the more you observe rooms you love, and the more you experiment with these principles, the more the formula will reveal itself to you.

And within this formula, you will discover an unlimited number of stunning combinations. What are you going to come up with today?

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Combining Fabric Patterns Combining Fabric Patterns

Alex Hinst is the author of Home Decorating and Staging and owner of Alex Hinst Designs, located in Denver's Historic Highlands.

Alex Hinst Designs has hundreds of success stories in both private and investor home renovations and is dedicated to helping you create your perfect home.