A few weeks ago, I took on the subject of texture as a design element. I thought a post on the element of pattern would also be fun to put together. A lot has been written on this subject and honestly, it’s a bit of an art. However, there are a few rules of thumb that make working with patterns easier and more rewarding. Here are a few to consider:
- Large patterns work well as a focal point for a space like a feature wall. Use them where you want the eye to go first.
- Subtle patterns are best for larger elements like wall coverings and drapery and bolder patterns are better on small items like accent chairs.
- As with most things in design odd numbers are more pleasing to the eye so plan to use three patterns or five patterns, not four.
- A few solid accents mixed in among your pattern selections will really make them pop.
Now for every rule there is an exception. When you are ready to step away from rules and mix it up on your own there is a process you can follow to perfect your pattern mix.
Choose a foundation pattern
Everything has to start somewhere. Choose the pattern you want to build around whether that’s one on a rug, the wallpaper, your upholstery or throw pillows. Build it out from there. Break that foundation pattern down. Make a list of the colours. Describe the type of pattern. Is it flowing, geometric, branching or random? What size is the pattern? I’ve included some examples of different types of patterns on my Pinterest page.
Organize by colour
Colour is a great tool for building out your pattern mix. If you’ve already identified the colours decide which ones you want to work with and choose other patterns that have one or more of those colours. It will make your final mix appear intentional. One of my favourite online sources for inspiration is Houzz and they have an excellent article with images on getting the colour portion right.
Choose your scale and type
The final element of mixing is getting the scale and pattern types right. Every pattern has a scale. Essentially, they are small, medium or large. Medium-scale patterns can play together if you vary the shapes, but you want to avoid pairing small patterns with small patterns and large patterns with large. Anything else is good to mix. Apartment Therapy did a great job in this post laying out the different types of patterns that flow well together.
The best thing you can do is take some time to gather samples, lay them out together and see what happens. Remove choices that command too much attention, identify the gaps in terms of scale and type so that you know what specific colour or size you need to round out the mix.
Mostly, this should be fun. Let me know what you put together. I’d love to see samples!