Home design: Don't be afraid to mix patterns

"Gallery," a room by Thom Filicia for the

"Gallery," a room by Thom Filicia for the 2012 Kips Bay Decorator Show House in Manhattan, combines patterns that aren't even in the same family by maintaining a consistent palette. (May 14, 2012) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Watching the fashion runways and reading style magazines, it's clear that what was once unthinkable is now high style. Indeed, the trend that's getting lots of attention is pattern. The new twist is mixing very different patterns and styles for a fresh look. The old rules no longer apply, so if you're looking for a fun way to invigorate your home decor, here are some creative ways to play with patterns:

Be bold

Bright, bold color is now stylish for walls and furniture in a way it hasn't been in years. Adding a big, dynamic pattern can bring an entire room to life. For example, don't be afraid to place one or two bold-patterned chairs in a room to make a big statement.

Mix it up

Feel free to combine patterns that aren't in the same family. Sure, companion pattern mixing is common stuff in wallpaper books, but the family of colors and styles remains the same. Instead, try mixing a traditional floral with a large geometric print or a toile with a metallic geometric.

Maintain color volume

To mix patterns well, make sure they maintain the same color intensity. In other words, keep pale colors with pale colors and deep, dark tones with more deep hues.

Spread the pattern love

If you opt for a bright or bold pattern, find a way to pull that pattern across the room, even if it's a single color. You'll visually balance the room by putting a touch of the color (or pattern) on the opposite side.

Put it all together

Don't be afraid to mix patterns in proximity, such as on an upholstered piece of furniture or a bed. Just try to limit the mix to three patterns; cover an upholstered chair in one pattern, the seat cushion top in another and the skirt in a third. Tie it all together with a trim that incorporates all the colors of the patterns to create a cohesive look.

Animal patterns are neutral

That's because they're natural. In today's interiors, cheetah-, tiger- and zebra-skin patterns can be mixed in a variety of decor styles, from traditional to modern, and they work, no matter what other patterns are in the room.

Tips from area designers

To mix patterns and prints well, you will need to keep one consistent base color or base pattern, and then interject other patterns or colors around that base pattern or base color."

-- Angela Leva, partner in Old Westbury design firm of Leva Visconti Designs


It's all about line and scale. First, you start with your favorite pattern -- for example, a damask or floral. That is a pattern with curved lines. For your next pattern, you can add a stripe, plaid or zigzag, because those patterns have straight lines. And if you want to add a third, you can go with any kind of pattern just by changing up the scale of the print. For an example -- a tiny star or polka-dot pattern. The trick is to have the fabrics different from each other in line and scale."

-- Aprile Marchesano, Aprile Interiors, Northport


Don't forget your ceilings. Using a patterned wallpaper on the ceiling of a powder room will add unexpected interest and show your sense of style."

-- Esther Carter, Carter Samain Interiors, Williston Park

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