One of the best ways to express your personality and add flair to your home is to incorporate a mix of patterns into the decor. Whether you like florals, stripes, geometrics, animal prints, paisleys or textures - they too are patterns - a variety of them can make any room visually more interesting and comfortable to be in.
“One of the secrets to successful pattern mixing,” says New York designer John Chadwick, “is continuity in the color palette. Having one shade in common and others that are similar is what ties them together.”
A dining room he recently designed for a client has a large, meandering flower pattern on the walls and plaid curtains at the floor-to-ceiling windows. While completely different from each other, they work together because leafy green and red dominate both.
Chadwick completed the scheme with chair upholstery and a rug in a dusty gold that references the walls and curtains. Woven with a raised check effect, it adds texture, as well.
Designer Cindy Raby of Oklahoma City favors deep, richly colored patterns for dark rooms: “They add drama, warmth and comfort.”
GROUNDING AND BALANCE
Also important when using patterns is “grounding” them with large swaths of solid color, says Chadwick — “perhaps a rug, wall or sofa, so the eye has something to focus on.”
Los Angeles-based designer Joe Nye tends toward sisal and seagrass floor coverings. “They unify things, and having a casual quality produce a pleasing juxtaposition with a lot of upholstered furniture,” he says.
Sometimes he repeats patterns in two adjacent rooms for “a nice bit of harmony.” And it’s key, he says, to “distribute patterns evenly throughout a room so it doesn’t appear lopsided.”
HOW TO BEGIN
Magazines are filled with ideas for composing decorative schemes, as is nature. Another path, says Nye, is to study the vignettes at retailers like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn and see how they do it.
He advises starting small with patterns — lamps, pillows and bibelots are good choices.
Artwork is another form of pattern. Not to worry if you’ve inherited a houseful of traditional furniture and you collect abstracts, Nye says. “Putting them together is contradictory in a good way, and can look terrific,” he says.
IT’S WORTH THE EFFORT
“You can turn even the most ordinary box of a room into a showpiece with color and pattern,” says Raby.
But she has found that people often are afraid to experiment. To ease them into the process, she advises a visit to a good fabric store.
“Choose a variety of colors and patterns that you like best. It doesn’t matter why,” she says, “just so they appeal to you.”