Can’t decide between stripes and paisley, or checks and flowers? No problem, because today we’re giving the lowdown on how to combine more than one pattern in a room. Interior designers Cathy Austin and Cindy Dunaway each took a color palette and artfully brought in more than one pattern. (Tip #1: Keep it all in the same color palette.)
“I like to have a unifying thread in color,” says Cathy, based out of Charlotte, NC. “And I recommend that the patterns need to play off of each other in terms of scale and proportion.”
For her North Carolina living room, the designer based the decorating concept around the artwork, an abstract painting by New Orleans artist Amanda Talley. “I wanted to balance the organic lines of the painting with more organized patterns seen in the graphic carpet, striped drapes, checks on the chairs and ikat on the skirted table,” she says.
In her foyer, she took a cue from rosy hues throughout the house. “I realized I had this ‘dirty pink’ color in everything I owned,” Cathy says. “A touch of it was in every painting and the Tabriz rug, so the bold use of color in the foyer tied the whole house together.” She used black and white to tone down the pink, painting the doors, stair treads and handrail black so the space isn’t quite so feminine. “The zebra runner provides a visual pop,” she adds. “I always think of animal prints as a neutral pattern that work with just about anything.” (Tip #2: Animal patterns usually don’t “read” as a pattern, so they can be mixed in anytime.)
The dining room may have this gorgeous chinoiserie mural as its focal point, but Cathy chose complementary patterns that hold their own. “The small geometric pattern on the chair fabric, which actually reads as a solid, plays off the larger scale of the cream and pink table fabric,” she explains. “These pink fabrics pull the pink from the cherry blossoms in the mural. The chocolate drapery fabric has the color from the branches, but is banded in pink to visually connect the pink around the room.”
A mood board she created shows her exuberant approach to mixing and matching. “I am a certified beach bum and always drawn to the warm, bright, bold colors of summer,” says Cathy. “I dream of having a beach bungalow one day surrounded by my favorite artists … I will take anywhere from Santa Monica to Sullivan’s Island to Sayulita!” For her pretend getaway destination, Schumacher fabrics, trim and wallpaper are joined by coral watercolors, a rattan pendant and a vintage green console. Cathy even picked out a coordinating outfit, featuring a Trina Turk dress and Addison Weeks necklace to join in the fun. (Tip #3: Mixing patterns works in fashion just as easily as in rooms.)
Georgia designer Cindy Dunaway turned to cooler colors for this new house in Vickery, north of Atlanta, but kept a similar philosophy. “It’s definitely easier to mix more patterns within a monochromatic color scheme, as we’re using here,” she says. “It’s easier on the eyes than multiple colors AND multiple patterns.”
For this winning family room/breakfast area, Cindy selected darker blues as a base color. “This is a young family, so we wanted to keep it a little more fun than fussy,” the designer says. “We used Vervain’s Asante on the window treatments in the family room and pillows. The breakfast room window fabric is one of my favorites in the house — Feathers by Lucy Rose Design from the UK.”
The window treatment and ottoman fabric in the adjacent sitting room coexist nicely, despite their different looks. “The large-pattern repeat of the window treatments works well with the small pattern of the Greek key on the ottoman,” says the designer. “With both the sofa and the chairs being solid, we needed a little pattern to liven up the room but not to compete with the bigger pattern of the window treatments.” (Tip #4: Pair a large-scale pattern with a small-scale one.) She also likes to add another layer of interest: When using solids on upholstery, it’s always nice to include small details, like the contrast banding on the chair skirts and the nailhead and tape on the sofa, she points out. “They seem small, but these details really make a room,” says Cindy.
For her mood board, Cindy started with a floral pattern by Lee Jofa. “I love the subtlety of it, especially when used in large formats like window treatments,” she says. “It won’t overpower the room.” The solid fabric would be her choice for upholstery fabrics on a sofa and chairs, while the cut velvet animal print by Cowtan & Tout is great for “pop” as pillows on the sofa. “The check fabric would also make a great contrast for upholstered cubes in the room for extra seating or pillows on the sofa, as well,” she says.
Cindy admits that it can be hard to come up with definitive guidelines for mixing patterns. It all comes down to balance and the style you are trying to achieve, she advises. Example: If you’re trying to achieve a classic French country look, mix multiple petite prints with stripes. If your objective is a contemporary space, mix solids of different textures. “In our room here, I would say it’s my signature ‘updated traditional’ look, so I chose more on-trend fabrics and mixed them at various scales,” she explains, adding, “I always hesitate to lay down rules for design, though, because as surely as they are set, there is a case in which they need to be broken!”
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