Mixing & Matching Patterns

Trying to get that professionally designed look for your room can be frustrating.  How did they figure out that you can pair a bold floral throw pillow on a striped chair?  Mixing fabric patterns is not for the faint of heart, but if done properly, will make the room look professionally done.  How do you do it?

Two factors come in to play when mixing patterns within a room.


Size in design is often referred to as scale.  If a lamp doesn’t match the scale of a table, it’s just design speak for saying the lamp's too big for that little table.  Scale in a room is balancing sizes to blend and harmonize.  The same concept goes for fabrics and pattern, but when pairing patterns, you want to the scale to be different on each so they complement rather than clash and fight for attention.

For example, take a floral throw pillow on a floral chair.   If they both have the same sized florals in the fabric, they’re going to be fighting for attention and look jumbled.  If you have a pattern with small rosebuds against a large scaled floral, they’re going to complement each other.


Density refers to how busy the pattern is and how much background is showing – in other words, how tightly grouped the pattern is.  When you mix a low density fabric with high density, they complement each other rather than compete.  For instance, with that floral throw pillow and chair, the small rosebud throw pillow has low density against the high density patterned chair, and that, combined with the difference in scale, is what makes these two patterns work together.

Mixing patterns can be used on more than fabrics and upholstery, if you’re trying to spruce up a room and pull together a decorating style, interior decorators often use area rugs.  It’s an easy, affordable way to introduce a pattern with a different scale and density than the current furnishings.

Drapes are another decorating element that can be used to add a mix of patterns into the room, pair striped drapes with bold floral upholstery for a classic look.

In fact, for those who are taking baby steps into the world of pattern mixing, stripes and checks are good basics to start with.