All this snow has me ready for spring and thinking of flowers…. which has me thinking of a topic I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while: how to mix patterns in a room. I know a lot of people will fight me on this, but I love mixing patterns and prints, like in this amazing room from Southern Living…
I know what you’re thinking… that it’s “too much,” that it’s “too fussy,” or at your most generous, “that’s nice, but it’s not me.” To me, though, this space is completely fearless in its use and juxtaposition of patterns. Let’s see… we have a green chinoiserie on the wall, a purple and white area rug with a more modern pattern, and bright geometric pillows in crimson red and black & white. That, my friend, is interior design cojones.
Now look, I’m not saying everyone should or can go to this extent. But I guess I’m at a point where I’m ready to go beyond the stark modernism brought on by midcentury mania and an overemphasis on Scandinavian design. I’m ready for something bolder, more unexpected, more just plain fun. If you’re willing to come along with me, even just incrementally, here are 4 do’s and don’ts for mixing patterns in real life.
1) Beware of patterned window treatments.
Notice that in the Southern Living room, we have loads of color and funky brights, but the window treatments are nice and neutral. Too often, people start with a neutral sofa and don’t get around of thinking about color or pattern until their window treatments or wall covering. This works in more traditional spaces, but in more modern interiors, patterned curtains feel overly fussy (see Exhibits A&B below).
To be honest, I think everything in these rooms work except for the window treatments. Because they’re so bright and busy, they feel old-fashioned; more than that, they take my eye up and away from the nice play of patterns elsewhere. Another problem with patterned draperies is that you don’t have control over the amount of pattern on a consistent basis, because of course the curtains will be open and shut at different times of day. If you’re going to do a pattern in your curtain, best to make it something that won’t compete with the focal point of the room, like in this lovely and modern space:
House to Home.
2) Stripes on the floor work great with floral/geometric seating.
Here we have three rooms with the same tactic: solid walls/windows, striped rugs, and patterned/floral pillows and cushions. A winning combination to incorporate pattern into a modern space.
3) Wallpaper doesn’t need to go everywhere.
Wood trim nicely contains just a bit of the pattern; moreover it is challenged here by a modern geometric print on the ottoman. They could take this even further by hanging modern black & white wall art over the papered wall; remember, wall art limits the amount of pattern in the room as well.
4) Consider a patterned sofa.
If your walls and window treatments are going to be solid, you know where the pattern needs to come in… in your large scale pieces in the room. I know the first thought that most of you have in a new living space: let’s begin with a tan sofa. What I’m suggesting is that a neutral sofa, which you might think matches everything, has limits of its own, because it’s colorless and it takes up a lot of space. If it’s forcing you to use pattern and thus direct attention elsewhere, it is forcing your hand on a number of other choices. I know they’re not for everyone, but here are some of my favorite patterned sofas…
From Domino (RIP).
From Elle Decor.
The Kilim sofa from Anthropologie.
I personally love a plaid sofa…like this one from apartment therapy.
Ballard Designs has customizable sofas in a variety of patterns. This one is the lovely Toscana Ikat Slate.
Of course, if you’ve already gone the neutral sofa route, you can always fake the look with bright throw pillows:It’s fun if they’re all different, like this example from Haus Design.