How to Mix Patterns like a Pro

Our comprehensive guide to mixing patterns in your home

We get it. Pattern mixing is scary. Between colors and scale and pattern, there’s a lot to consider, and the stakes are high because decorating mistakes can be expensive, especially when it comes to large upholstered pieces, rugs, and drapery. But there is hope, and we want to help you conquer your pattern-mixing fears.

Remember to keep balance in mind when mixing patterns together.

1. Balance

First and foremost, always keep balance top of mind. If you’re starting with a very bold pattern, consider bringing in one or two smaller scale, tone-on-tone, or solid patterns for harmony.

If you are using a large, bold pattern somewhere in the room, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything else needs to be solid and subtle to work. For instance, if you have a pair of chairs in a large print, some bold throw pillows on a couch on the opposite wall may work nicely. That balance is important to keep in mind not just in the colors but in the locations of the bold prints.

In the room above, you can see how we’ve used a strong blue ikat on a pair of chairs, while using lots of other blue patterns around the space — a buffalo check blanket, blue and white vases, and blue patterned pillows. It feels balanced because we’ve tempered all that blue with cream walls, a cream linen sofa, a white garden seat, and a natural fiber rug.

Mixing patterns in one family

2. Monotone Mixing

If you’re nervous to begin dipping your toe into mixing patterns together in a room, try this simple strategy: choose one shade and try 3-4 different patterns all in that shade. This is a sure-fire strategy that we use when designing our catalog all the time.

Mixing patterns in one family

In the space above, you’ll see how we’ve done this in a palette of taupes and grays. We’ve mixed together a pair of striped chairs, drapes with a geometric pattern, and a floral print rug. We’ve brought in each of these patterns in equal portions which could have felt overwhelming, but because they’re all in the same family, it doesn’t feel like too much.

Mixing patterns together using this foolproof formula

3. A Foolproof Formula

A great strategy when mixing pillows together is to use one of each of these four: a floral/paisley, a geometric, a stripe, and a solid. As long as each of these fabrics is in a similar color palette, you’re sure to create a beautifully mixed and matched combination of patterns.

Mixing patterns together using this foolproof formula

In the outdoor space above, you can see how we’ve used this formula. We have a pair of floral throw pillows in the chair, striped cushions on the sofa, a geometric print in the rug, and a solid ottoman, couch, and drapes. We’ve brought in tons of pattern, but it all works!

Mixing stripes with almost any other pattern is fool proof

4. The Magic of Stripes

Stripes are your secret weapon if you want to mix patterns together in your home because they go with almost any other pattern! Florals, ikats, geometrics, solids, or even other stripes, they’re very versatile! Above, you’ll see that we’ve used a very bold ikat as a table cloth, and we’ve also used a dramatic blue and white punch bowl as a container for our flower arrangement. It would be easy to just use a solid on the chairs and call it a day, but bringing in a stripe feels a little more special without taking anything away from these bold prints.

Mixing stripes with almost any other pattern is fool proof

How gorgeous is this ikat paired with a striped rug? It’s almost a challenge to come up with a pattern that doesn’t work well with stripes!

Mixing stripes with almost any other pattern is fool proof

And here, we’ve mixed three stripes together. Even on the same couch, different colors and scales of a stripe work together harmoniously. Stripes are magic, what can we say?

5. Get Your Patterns Straight

Below we’ve grouped together our favorite patterns. Learn about their strengths and where to put them below:

Textured solids work well on large furniture pieces

Textured Solids are a great starting point in a room because they’re so versatile but have more detail than a simple twill or linen. We often use these on large upholstered pieces that need to have staying power.

Geometrics are fun, bold, and modern

It’s no secret that we love a geometric print! They’re fun, bold, and modern, and they wake up a room. If you absolutely love a particular geometric pattern, put it on an upholstered piece. You’ll create that crucial focal point that every room needs. Geometrics also make great rugs, draperies, and pillows.

Florals are a classic print that add an accent to your room

Floral may often have a traditional feel, but with an unexpected application, it can feel modern too, Upholster one on an occasional chair for a classic look, or put them on a set of drapes for something unexpected. They’re a great jumping off point for a rooms color palette. Each of these florals has lots of different shades in it, which gives you a kind of road map for the other colors to bring into the room.

We love ikats. Here's why

For a bold print that will take your decor to new heights, ikats are the way to go. Ikats are characterized by a bleeding look, where the dye resists certain threads creating this beautifully dynamic pattern. We love them because it only takes a little bit of this pattern to make a statement. On pillows, drapes, rugs, or upholstered pieces, ikats are fun and youthful. Just be careful when applying it to small pieces like throw pillows; you want to be sure the area where you’re applying the fabric is large enough for you to take in the full effect of the ikat.

Stripes are a graphic, classic pattern that go with almost any pattern and with each other

What more can we say about stripes? We love them! Whether it’s a ticking stripe, a cabana stripe, or somewhere in between, they’re a classic look that never goes out of style. We especially love the way this linear pattern pairs with almost any other pattern out.

6. Pattern Combinations to Love

Our Gabrielle Paisley fabric inspired this color palette. We added an ikat, a small ditsy print, and a solid fabric to coordinate

Start with a great fabric in a pretty color palette, like our Gabrielle Chambray fabric, then pull a small scale print, a solid, and another large pattern. It’s a foolproof formula that always works.

 

Our Arryanna Spa fabric was the inspiration for this color palette

This collection of fabrics was inspired by the our Arryanna Spa fabric with touches of citron green. With a stripe, a knubby solid, and a trellis print in citron green, it all comes together.

What do you think? Will you be able to tackle pattern mixing in your own home now?

For more design inspiration, visit our Pinterest Boards, or find more gorgeous rooms in our Photo Gallery

How to Decorate Team

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.

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30 Comments

  1. Reply

    Kristen

    September 29, 2017

    This was a great article – but I am struggling to apply it to our living room! We started with a wall colorful, which is beautiful: Tranquility by Benjamin Moore. Then found gorgeous linen curtains with a matching embroidered design. We added an off-white sectional and went for a little splash of a pattern with the pillows. Then a bigger splash of a pattern with the recliner. Now I feel like these little moves we’ve made into patterns don’t necessarily work – and we still have to choose a rug! How much is too much? Is it possible to get a rug that ties everything together? Do I go solid with the rug and keep my fingers crossed? Help!

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      October 2, 2017

      Kristen,
      It’s hard to make any suggestions without seeing the space. I would say that you should pick a rug that you really love, regardless of whether it will work with any pillows you’ve already picked out. Pillows are easy to change if they don’t complement the rug, but a rug is an important part of a rug. If you want a patterned rug, then find one you really like and work from there. If you like the look of a solid rug, that will of course work, but get something you really like. Don’t compromise on a piece that big.
      If you’d like one of our designers to make more pointed suggestions, submit some photos and a description of your room here.
      Best of luck!
      Caroline

  2. Reply

    Tina

    September 18, 2017

    Looking for some help to decorate small living room with white sectional sofa and love seat. Having trouble with color.

  3. Reply

    Marybeth

    July 27, 2017

    Looking for draperies to go with my floral furniture. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Cannot see where to attach photos.

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      July 28, 2017

      Hi Marybeth,
      We would love to help you pick out drapes to match your floral furniture! We offer a free design service in which our in-house interior designers help pick out fabric, furniture, and accessories for a space. Just send them a picture of your space along with your question here, and a designer will reach out to you with a solution.

  4. Reply

    Jake

    July 4, 2017

    Hi my live room is two color grays not goal Graywas subtle Grey and gold I found a pair of curtains and the arm they have all the color grays this in my living room and in the hole and it has the exact same Gold my couch is the same color gray I couldn’t find any material that caught my eye to match the colors that I wanted but I found a pair of curtains that matches all the decor in my living room and I was wondering could I put it on my dining room chairs which are four of them and then put it across the room at the window would it be too much I also was going to mix it with two solid colors along with the pattering my living room is small so I had to make kitchen area and dining room area rather and then the live room I have to combine the two places together so that’s why I’m axing can I put the curtain on the chairs and then put it to the window I even got one side of the room A part of the wall is split in half Gold and gray so so I was wondering if I could do that would be OK fit I want to Join the room together

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      July 5, 2017

      Hi Jake!
      We’d love to help you with this decorating dilemma! We offer a free design service in which our interior designers help pick out fabric, furniture, and accessories. Just send in your question along with a picture of the room here and one of our interior designers will reach out to you with a design solution!

  5. Reply

    Shelley

    July 1, 2017

    I need help picking out some curtains, an area rug, pillows and a chair to lighten up my living room. I recently had new floors put in and a new kitchen countertop. Because the floors are darker now and more dramatic, I am unsure what to go with. I picked up these printed curtains but I am not sure. How do I send you Pics.

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      July 3, 2017

      Hi Shelley,
      We would love to help you with your living room! We offer a free design service in which our interior designers help pick out furniture, accessories, and fabric. Just send in your question along with a picture of your space here and a designer will reach out to you with a design solution!

  6. Reply

    Alison

    June 7, 2017

    Thank you for the article. Can you recommend a rug to go with two chairs I have upholstered in a geometric print (colors are navy, taupe and gray)? Our living room is carpeted so I would prefer a rug that is wool and that will lay well over carpet. Thanks!

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      June 8, 2017

      Alison,
      We’d love to help you find a rug perfect for those chairs! We offer a free design service in which our interior designers pick out furniture, fabric, and accessories! Just send your question along with a picture of the living room here, and a designer will reach out to you with your design plan!

  7. Reply

    Cassie

    May 27, 2017

    Hi there,

    I really enjoyed this article and found it very helpful but I’m afraid I am still struggling with choosing a rug for my dining room and wondering if I could have some advice please? I have beautiful curtains made with crewel work fabric I bought in India. It’s a floral pattern with blue and red flowers, a cream background, green in there too – I am about to paint the room teal. It’s a small room but with lots of light although north facing. I thought a red and teal rug would look good but im finding it very difficult to find one that isn’t very busy in its pattern as I think that would be too much. Any advice gratefully received!

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      June 5, 2017

      Cassie,
      We’d love to help you choose a rug! We actually offer a free service with our interior designers who help select furniture, fabric, and accessories. You can send in a picture of your room along with your question here, and a designer will reach out to you with a plan!

  8. Reply

    Mary

    April 25, 2017

    Your post is very helpful, I love mixing patterns , but I am struggling with what to do in our family room. The sofa is a dark charcoal, the fabric has nice texture , so it does not appear as a solid color. We have a chair and a half in a large black and white houndstooth pattern. The ottoman is 36 x 48 and I want to reupholster it, but I am at a loss as what fabric to use. The sofa, chair and a half and the ottoman are the only upholstered pieces in the room. The room is at the back of the house, off by itself so, I could add color or should I stay with the charcoal/white and add color in my accents? Also, we have hardwood floors in the room. I plan to,purchase an area rug once I decide what I am doing with the ottoman. Suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      April 27, 2017

      Mary,
      It sounds like you have some great foundation pieces to work with. I definitely think you should add some color or pattern or both! Based on your description, I think something like our Beatrice Black fabric would look fantastic. It would work well with your houndstooth chair. Another great option would be our Vierra Gray fabric. It has the charcoal from your sofa and a large print that would complement your houndstooth. One more option, consider maybe doing a brightly colored solid on your ottoman. One of our Garrison Linens or velvets would be great!
      I hope that helps,
      Caroline

  9. Reply

    Victoria

    March 26, 2017

    Love your post! Still can’t decide on a drapery for my family room. It’s open to a kitchen which decorated in white and grey. The family room itself has a grey sectional sofa and grey walls in a lighter shade. I think going for a solid drapes will be too blend as everything is solid, but don’t want too busy pattern. I would love to introduce the color but not sure if it should be only 3-coloured fabric , for example or multi- coloured can be nice too? What about florals and ornaments, is it too traditional? I would like to keep it modern. Your help and advise is greatly appreciated!

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      March 29, 2017

      Victoria,

      I totally understand your indecision on drapery panels. There are so many options! I agree that since you have so many solid pieces in your space already, your drapery panels are the perfect opportunity to bring in color and pattern. And there is definitely a way to do this while keeping your space modern. Our Meyers Drapery panel would be a great choice because the Sky color has a gray outline.

      We can also make custom drapery panels in any of our 200+ fabrics. Here are my top picks for your space: Cleo Glacier, Louise Blush, Nicolette Sky, Mira Blue, or Vivian Navy.

      I hope one of these options works out for you!

  10. Reply

    Lauren

    August 16, 2016

    We have a light cream colored sofa and loveseat with 4 of the Courtney Spa Pillows (2 on each). I am stumped on what other throw pillows to use – any suggestions? The rest of the room is mostly neutral – white, light grey, cream and wood tones – with shades of light blue/green like the edge of the pillows.

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      November 15, 2016

      Lauren,
      We actually answered your question on our new podcast! You can listen here. We hope you like our suggestions!
      Caroline

  11. Reply

    Mary Jane

    May 22, 2016

    This article is so helpful but I am still stumped on what to pair with my Coventry Banquette in black gingham check. I don’t really want to do all black pillows, but not sure where to go to bring in color without it looking like a train wreck! I was thinking about a toile and buffalo check in taupe, but not sure if the small black gingham and taupe buffalo would play well together.

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      May 23, 2016

      Mary Jane,
      We totally get why you’re stumped. Pillows can be hard to pick out! Without knowing which other colors are in your space, it’s hard to suggest something. But did you know we sell custom pillow covers? This might be a great option for you. We have a beautiful, heavy linen called our Garrison linen, and those bright, saturated colors would all look fantastic against your black and white gingham banquette. We especially love the idea of the Garrison Teal, Magenta, or Honeycomb with that black and white fabric. The colors are bright enough to pop off the black, but since they’re solids, they won’t compete with the pattern.
      We hope that helps. Let us know if you have any other questions,
      The How to Decorate Team

  12. Reply

    Kay

    May 21, 2015

    What is the orange/coral fabric on the daybed in the first picture?

  13. Reply

    Karmen

    April 14, 2015

    I am trying to find a rug that will match with floral dining room chairs. I would like some pattern, but not sure which way to go. The chairs have orange, gold, spa blue, green and cream and are fairly busy. Our walls are a light gray. Would you pick up a color in the chair? or go with a neutral gray rug or some other neutral color? We do not have curtains. I am struggling?

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      July 31, 2015

      Hi Karmen,
      We can definitely make some suggestions for you! Simply complete this form (don’t forget to include photos and measurements!), and our design team will contact you with a plan and next steps!
      The How to Decorate Team

  14. Reply

    Lauren

    March 31, 2015

    Very insightful & helpful article! Just need a little help in putting it to use in my home. I have a aqua/rain blue sofa & 2 chairs on either end of the sofa both of which have a woodblock leaf pattern in rain blue, gray & yellow/green g gold. I recently purchased curtain panels that have both the rain blue & the gray in a tangier ikat oval pattern. I am now in need of an area rug & am unsure of which direction to go with it. Don’t want to overwhelm with too much pattern. Based on my info is there a particular print/pattern/style I should go towards? Should I go more with a solid rug with a slight pattern? Thank you!

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      November 5, 2015

      Hi Lauren,
      We actually offer free design services where our experts can help you design your space. They’d be happy to make some rug suggestions for you. Simply complete this form and our Design Solutions team will reach out to you. Be sure to include photos of your space so we can give you the most helpful advice and tips.
      The How to Decorate Team

  15. Reply

    Laura

    March 23, 2015

    Would the document brown fabric pattern mix well with the Celine animal print rug in cream? After reading this article I want to say yes but I’m still not positive. What would be a good 3rd print to introduce with these two?

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      March 25, 2015

      Hi Laura,
      We definitely think the Document Brown and Celine rug would work beautifully together. As a third print to complement these two, we would suggest bringing in a taupe stripe, like our Ticking Stripe in Sandalwood or our Suzanne Kasler Flax & Blanc Stripe.
      Happy Decorating!
      The How to Decorate Team

  16. Reply

    Dorothy Arnold

    March 6, 2015

    Thank you for this most helpful article!!! Great insight. I especially love the foolproof formula, and will be putting that to good use in my new home 😉

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