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Pattern Mixology — Perplexing Puzzle or Pleasurable Pursuit?

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Do you find pulling together patterns and colors for your home a perplexing puzzle or a pleasurable pursuit?

Selecting and coordinating pillows, rugs, draperies, wall coverings, and wall art (all with different textures and patterns) can be tricky business if you’re unsure or overwhelmed! Choosing tile and countertop combinations when renovating can be tricky as well! Making the wrong decision with these materials will cost you big time, cha-ching!!!

Just like getting dressed in the mornings and selecting what to wear, there are certain patterns and colors that look good together — and some, well, not so much. There are so many options available to us these days, all at the click of a button, that it can easily lead to choice overload.

Have no fear, I am here to help!

Today I will share with you some of "Hattan’s Helpful Hints" to guide you as you think about mixing patterns in your home. And of course, if it’s all too much or you get lost in it all, please reach out to me!

Because THIS. IS. MY. JIVE.

Color and patterns are my THING.

I love fabrics, fashion, color and art, and I find mixing patterns to be a very pleasurable pursuit! Can you tell? I also have lots of training, certifications, and experience in this area and am here to help. I could talk about mixing patterns for days, but for now, I will keep it very short and simple. Here it is:

My simple beginner's guide to selecting and mixing patterns!

Mixing and Matching Patterns in Fabrics, Rugs, and other Textiles

Overall, patterns in fabrics and other textiles do not have to match necessarily, but definitely should “play nicely together," or that's how I describe it. And by that, I mean that patterns should coordinate and complement, not fight or compete, with one another. To accomplish this “playing nicely” rule, think of patterns as falling into three general categories:

  • Geometric patterns – These have a distinct, predictable pattern, like a plaid, diamond, Greek key, Moroccan Ogee, quatrefoil, stripe, etc.

  • Organic patterns - Usually floral patterns or other items inspired by nature like vines, birds, people, toile, chinoiserie, feathers, marble, etc.; they have more flowing patterns rather than symmetrical repeats.

  • Solids/textures – Solid colors, could have some texture to it, such as linen, velvet, or boucle fabrics.

Choose one pattern from each category, and ta-da! You have mixed patterns successfully!

Pillows from Anthropologie and Ballard Designs.

Of course, color and style elements, such as scale, should be considered within the categories, but in terms of PATTERN MIXING, this is a winning combination! And yes, you can choose more than one item per category as you continue layering your room together (for example, more than one geometric item).

Photo from Ballard Designs

The photo above, from Ballard Designs, illustrates this layering of patterns — the rug has an organic pattern, the sofa and coffee table and vase have geometric patterns, and then they added the gorgeous solid velvet fabrics of the drapes and pillows.

So what's the secret to layering several patterns in the same space? SCALE and COLOR.

Here are three Pro Tips:

  1. Too many large-scale patterns can overwhelm a space.

  2. Choose one large-scale pattern, then layer smaller pattern sizes (scale) in complementary colors.

  3. Never underestimate the power of solids. They are grounding, yet influential and tone-setting.

Photo from Studio McGee

Studio McGee loves to layer textures and patterns in natural colors, seen in above photo. Notice the different sizes and kinds of patterns, and how the textures play into the mix.

Mixing and Matching Patterns in Tiles, Stones, and Hard Surfaces

Are you ready for this: Follow the same guidelines as mixing patterns in fabrics! Think about selections for your kitchen — countertops and tile generally have patterns to them, and cabinetry and walls are usually your solids. Apply the same principles as when you mix your fabric patterns: mix an organic with a geometric with a solid, so they do not fight with each other.

For a beautiful and classic combination, try mixing a marble countertop (organic) with a herringbone backsplash (geometric), and add white cabinets (solid) and hardwood floors (organic graining AND geometric planks).

Mixing Pattern Success: Organic + Geometric + Solid

Hattan’s Helpful Hint: When dealing with hard surfaces that are glued, epoxied, or otherwise ATTACHED to something structural, I recommend playing it a bit safer when mixing patterns. I tend to err on the side of timelessness over trendy in tile or stone selections. After all, it is much easier to replace a few pillows than it is to tear out tile, level the surface, apply the adhesive, lay down new tile, apply grout, wash off grout glaze, seal the grout, etc. etc. etc.! Trends change, people get tired of patterns, or things sometimes look different from the sample when they are on an entire wall, so for these hard surfaces, I generally allow one pattern to be the star of the show, and let the other patterns play supporting roles. If this is a little scary and overwhelming to you, just schedule a Discovery Call with me! Adding my expertise in coordinating colors and patterns, can save you time, money, and headaches in the future! I am always here to help, making your decor less of a perplexing puzzle and more of a pleasurable pursuit! It’s what I love to do!

~ Karen Hattan, Professor of Pattern Mixology

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