While I fully believe that rules are meant to be broken (I mean did they really expect me not to go into that pyramid in Chichen-Itza?), when you are learning a new technique, such as mixing patterns, it helps to follow some basic rules. While many well known designers have earned the right to break design rules, I am a novice and find them helpful.
There are four classic combinations of pattern matching which I will draw attention to and exemplify through pictures. Please note that the pattern matches I show are based on the colour as I see it on the computer screen. It is very important to see samples of the fabric in person before purchasing as the colours as shown on-line can be deceiving and colour matching is very important for a cohesive design look. Many fabric companies sell differently patterned fabrics with coordinating colours which makes pattern matching much easier.
Another important element of pattern matching is mixing the scale of the patterns. A room with all large scale patterns would be chaotic looking. It is good to have a mix of large, medium and small scale patterns. It is okay to have more than one of each scale but if you are worried about making errors keeping it to one of each will help keep you on track (in the pictures below I have noted what scale the pattern is because each picture of the fabric is taken from different distances so unless you look at the scale at the bottom of the picture it is difficult to tell the size. Some look quite large in scale but are actually just a picture taken from very close up and vice versa.)
Without further ado…
Geometric plus floral:
Two similar patterns of different scale (eg. a medium scale and a large scale floral or a large scale plaid and a small scale plaid). The four fabrics below could also be used all together for a complex pattern mix.
Same pattern/ different colours:
Complex Pattern mix:
Three different scale florals plus one geometric:
Two different scale florals and two different scale geometrics.
While all the pattern samples shown above are fabric samples, pattern can also come from other aspects of the room like wallpaper and rugs. A general suggestion for larger surfaces like these is to use larger scale patterns so that it doesn’t look too busy.
I personally have commitment issues when it comes to colour and pattern in my main living spaces and if you are like me an easy and less expensive way to start your exploration in pattern matching is throw pillows.
I hope that this little tutorial is helpful for you. Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. I purposefully only showed pictures of the patterns because I thought it might make things clearer. If you google search pattern mixing you will get a wealth of pictures with beautiful pattern mixes. Happy pattern mixing!