A Modern Guide to Mixing Patterns by MDR

A modern guide on how to mix patterns in your home decor: 


Mixing patterns in a space can seem tricky or even impossible at first. Factoring rugs, pillows, curtains, chairs, and decorations into the equation, many people choose to just stick with the same palette of colors plus the addition of maybe a few eccentric throw pillows. However, done correctly, it's possible to mix patterns without overwhelming a space or making it seem too busy. 

Continue reading to discover some handy tips for successfully mixing patterns in your living space. 


1. Stick to two distinct and different designs in coordinating shades

Image from The Spruce 


Start with first picking a bold pattern or the largest pattern you want to use in your living space. Once you have this figured out, you can pick a smaller or less striking pattern to go along with it. The first pattern will be the one that stands out the most, so it is important to start with this pattern and go from there to make sure that the space doesn’t become too overwhelming. 


HGTV says to pick a second pattern that is half the size of the first pattern and still has the same colors. If your first pattern is modern, consider picking a smaller, traditional pattern for your second pattern, and if your first pattern is organic or floral, consider a structured second pattern. 


2. Incorporate different sized patterns

Image from The Spruce 


Large patterns are often less overwhelming than smaller, more detailed patterns, so mixing the two together can create a cohesive space. As long as the color palette stays within the same realm, you can work through different-sized patterns and varieties of geometric shapes. Like previously mentioned, it is best to start with your largest pattern first and then work from there, adding smaller side tables or throw pillows with detailed patterns to complement the dominant pattern. 

When thinking of the size of your pattern, a good rule of thumb is to coordinate it with the size of the object it is on. Large furniture, area rugs, and drapes should have larger patterns while small throw pillows, decorations, and blankets should have smaller, more detailed patterns. 


3. Use similar colors

Image from HGTV 


Before you even start looking at patterns, make sure you have an idea in mind of what your overall color palette for your space will be. Choose if you want to focus on cool shades, warm shades, neutrals, or a few complementary colors and stick with them. Once you have your main colors, you should try to make sure all of your patterns incorporate those colors, aside from a few accent pieces for pops of color. MyMove says to consider “tone on tone” colors with varying saturations and tint levels like shades of brown, gray, white, and greige to create a cohesive outcome with varying levels of impact. 

This way, when you use different patterns, they can match through their shared coloring, rather than their shapes or designs and still look great together. 


4. Use simple and complex patterns together

Image from Janie Molster


One good way to start matching patterns after you’ve chosen your first patterned item is to first define that item as complex or simple. If it has clearly defined lines with a good amount of open space, the design can be considered simple. If it has crisscrossing lines with 50% or less of the base color showing, or if it’s floral, it can be considered complex. Once you know what type of pattern you're basing the rest of your decor on, you should follow the simple-complex rule. If you combine simple and complex patterns together, they won’t overwhelm each other, and it will provide more depth to a room. 


5. Use a white backdrop or neutral base and colorful patterns

Image from MyMove 


If you’re still picturing a visual cacophony of patterns, one way to tone it down is to lay your different patterns over a white or neutral background. By keeping your walls or your couch a clean, simple shade, the patterns will pop more against it, and it reduces the risk of clashing. Also, with a white or neutral background, the colors in your patterned pieces will stand out even more. 

This way, your prints and patterns can create statements without being overwhelming. 


6. Use the same pattern with inverted colors

Image from Mathis Brothers


If you are unsure of what kind of pattern to pick, a rookie trick is to pick items with essentially the same pattern that have the colors inverted. This works great with neutrals and black and white combos with chevron or striped, geometric patterns because it can create an illusion. 


Also, if you appreciate symmetry in a space like many do, this type of pattern matching can create a visual balance that is very pleasing to the eye. 


While all of these points are great tips to help you in designing your home, the way you match your patterns ultimately depends on what looks great to you! Some people prefer a clean, monotone, modern look with less distraction, while others prefer more busy-ness, excitement, and color. Whichever way you decide to design your home, though, we hope these tips can guide you along the way!


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Blog Contributor: Rachel Clark | MAKING DREAMS Realty, Marketing Specialist