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Colour lesson

How to Mix Patterns the Right Way

A big hello to Maria Killam’s readers! I am your guest blogger, Saffronia Baldwin, also an interior designer and author of the blog Design Like the Pros . Thank you, Maria, for this special opportunity to do a guest post. I’m sure I can speak for all of us when I say that your fabulous posts are an ongoing source of inspiration.

How to Mix Patterns the Right Way – Is there a wrong way?

(Perhaps I should say “You won’t be happy with the results.”)

When I hear myself use the word “wrong” I sound like a design nazi. So I am modifying it a bit. Let’s talk about how delightful it is to mix patterns and how to get results you will love.

Design Associates – Lynn Zambon

Combining stripes and plaid (or checks) is a classic way to mix patterns. The stripes above are bold, bright and playful. The black and white check is also bold. Do the fight eachother or complement each other? This combo works well for me and here’s why:

1 – Black is repeated in several different places so it feels balanced.

2 – There is plenty of solid color and neutral in the room to provide places for the eye to “rest.”

Tie patterns together with color


Susan McGrath

The smart thing about this pattern mix is that the color palette is limited to shades of blue and white. All of the patterns have this one element in common that ties them together. We are seeing many designs…ikats, stripes, florals, geometrics…and they go together because they are all blue and white!

Use the same pattern in large and small


Vary the scale of your patterns. The diamond shapes in these ethnic fabrics are large (about 20″) on the sofa and small (about 8″) on the pillows. What ties them together? The diamond pattern. It’s repeated again and again. This allows the fabrics to “talk” to each other.

Pepe Penlaver

Mix in floral patterns for a feminine touch


Emily Clark

A more tailored (masculine) spin on the same thing


uses solid and geometrics only. No florals.

Vanessa De Vargas

Here’s what to do if you are afraid of commitment


Use patterns on throw pillows only! Not such a big deal…right? And look how amazing this room becomes with it’s color palette of gray, black, green and white. The real eye candy here is the bold striped pillow and the green and white floral fabric. I encourage my Design Coaching clients who are fearful about pattern to do this very simple experiment.

Camilla Molders

Wide stripes are the most UN-busy pattern you can find


Use them when you can. And combine them with smaller designs of floral, plaid or geometric. Here are two examples:

House Beautiful

Crossing the line into too much pattern


We all have our “pattern mix threshhold.” This bedroom (below) has too many patterns and too many colors . There is no empty space to breathe and rest. Instead of feeling serene…I feel agitated. Is that just me…..? What do you think? Consult your inner designer.

Style At Home

Ethnic patterns give a free pass to anything-goesville



The colors of most (not all) ethnic fabrics are red and blue so that is the common denominator between all of the luscious patterns you see in the photo above. What makes this room wonderful is that 1 – the fabrics all share a similar color palette and 2 – the white walls and white upholstery are a relief to the eye (and the brain).

Animal prints are so-oo-o adaptable

They go with almost anything!

xCandice Olson

Why do these fabrics complement each other?


These 3 fabric designs work well together because there is:

  • Color continuity
  • Geometric mixed with organic
  • Large scale mixed with small scale

FYI my favorite fabric websites to use are:

I hope this quick overview of mixing patterns has inspired you to let your imaginations fly. If you are a Design Junkie like me, you might want to pop over to my blog.

Walk in beauty…it will change your life.  Saffronia Baldwin

Related posts:

Pattern or Solid? Yay or Nay

Does your Home have Colour Flow? Take the Toss cushion Test

Danger Zone; The First 24 Hours after you Take Possession


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  • Amanda says:

    Well, Maria, your blog as completely synched up with my life once again. I am headed out tomorrow to pick some patterns for my new home. This post could not have come at a better moment! THANK YOU, Saffronia! This is excellent, clearly and well-written advice. I could not be more excited to pick my fabric palatte tomorrow! Going to print this post out and take it with me…

  • StagerLinda says:

    Thanks for all the tips! Great, precise help for those of us challendged by mixing it up. Love the bold stripes tip.

  • This post is packed with the kind of advice you don’t always find about mixing patterns. Thanks for sharing the spotlight with Saffronia, Maria. Clearly, she knows what she’s talking about and is generous to share her expertise.

  • Eleanor says:

    Probably one of my favourite blog posts of yours ever, Maria! Pattern mixing is definitely something that can scare clients occasionally. It comes pretty naturally to me (probably because of my fashion background) but when I stop and think about it, it’s likely because I’m using all these tips!

  • Tricia says:

    Nice guest post, Maria. Just to let you know the link to “Design like a pro” is not working on my computer.

  • Sandra Rollins says:

    Great tips and examples! I love the boldness of mixing patterns. Thanks Saffronia!

  • Becky says:

    Great post!! This came at the right time ! I am helping my Mom redo a guest room with prints!!
    Thanks for the advice.

  • Great examples, can’t wait to go over to your blog !

  • lis says:

    This post is so helpful! I guess the best way to learn to play with patterns is to actually try them out, and this post gives great pointers to get started.

    (Also I know others have mentioned, but the links to Saffronia’s blog are not working!)

  • Eileen says:

    Can’t subscribe to her blog….beautiful work!

  • Squeak says:

    Thank you for the terrific advice. Just yesterday I ordered some memo samples of beautiful Scalamandre silk plaids, one of which I want to pair with a floral in the living room. I think it’s going to work perfectly because both the floral and the plaid contain pomegranate red and sage green on a white background. The floral contains other colours as well, so it won’t end up looking like Christmas year round!

  • Thank you for your lovely feedback! I am happy the ideas are useful. My goal is to help people release their “inner designer.” Most of us have one in there just waiting for some direction and encouragement.

  • Desiré says:

    Wonderful advice and examples! Thanks so much Saffronia…on my way to check out your blog…

  • Robin says:

    Can clutter be considered a pattern?! My family room is filled with solid colors: the sofa, the pillows, the rug. I find this very soothing and I realized after reading this informative post that I am not introducing a lot of pattern because I have 2 teenage sons whose socks, notebooks, game controllers, etc. create a lot of busy-ness. I love stripes and texture and will certainly bring in more of this when my young men head out to college. 🙂

  • Linda V says:

    Thanks for a great post Saffronia. I notice when I look at that pic. of the bedroom, some of the patterns almost seem to “vibrate” next to each other, especially all the black & white patterns (pillows, quilt & ottoman). That’s probably while you feel agitated looking at it.

  • Linda V says:

    Ughhhhh, after scrolling up and down to look at that pic some more, I actually feel a bit motion sick. Imagine spending a fortune on decorating a room with beautiful patterns only to find the whole room make you feel physically ill!!!
    Yay for the expert advice we have here.

  • Very informative article Maria.
    I guess because I have always been ‘a fabric junkie’ so to speak, I find it difficult to comprehend why people have problems mixing patterns. The last photo is definitely horrendous!
    Can you imagine sleeping there? You would surely have nightmares. 🙂

  • D. D. says:

    RE — How to Mix Patterns the Right Way
    July 9, 2012
    Well, you can re-title that — The Vegtable Soup Way. OMG!

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