Professional Fabric Palettes

Now that you have the general idea of how to mix patterns in fabrics, how do you choose the fabrics for decorating your entire room  - upholstery, window treatments and accent pieces?   This is a task where interior decorators shine, they can see the forest through the trees, and you can as well.

Choose a central fabric, usually the upholstery fabric while the other two will be chosen around this main fabric.  Don’t be shy, and don’t choose a solid, especially if you want to hide dirt and wear for a more kid and pet-friendly room.  What you should choose is a pattern that has at least three colors.

To choose your other two patterns, use these guidelines:

  • Each fabric should have at least one of the colors from your central fabric.
  • Each fabric should contrast in color, including the central fabric, you should have one light fabric, one medium fabric and one dark fabric to provide the contrast within the room that allows each fabric to ‘pop’.
  • Choose two curved patterns and one straight or vice versa – two straight patterns and one curved.  A solid is versatile and can be counted as either straight or curved.
  • Each fabric, including the central fabric should have different sized pattern – one large, one medium and one small.
  • If you choose a solid for your fabric, only choose one, the remaining two should be patterned.  The solid will count as your small pattern.
  • Vary the texture of the three fabrics, using smooth and rough textures to add interest.  Ideally your upholstery fabric will be more textured to hide wear and tear.
  • Vary the sheen of your fabrics.  Sheen refers to the reflection of the light off the fabric.  Silk and chintz are shiny and have a high sheen, wools are dull with a low sheen. You need one fabric with a high sheen and two with a duller sheen, or vice versa.

If we were to take our example from Mixing and Matching Patterns, we used a floral throw pillow and chair, with a small rosebud throw pillow with a low density pattern against a high density patterned chair, in a bold floral print. 

Make the throw pillows a chintz to add sheen, the bold floral upholstered chair could be a printed denim for a dull sheen.  Now we can mix in a solid colored window treatment in linen with a color that was used in both the throw pillow and the chair.

Voila!  There’s your professional fabric palette for a total room makeover without hiring an interior designer!