Tips on Mixing Fabric Patterns
Great interior design is easy when you begin with a great inspiration piece. This is often a designer fabric you are crazy about. Although everyone can mix a pattern with one of the solid colors in it, many are afraid to use more than the one "safest" or lightest, most neutral color and even more fearful of mixing patterns and textures. That third element is often just what is needed to make an "okay" room look superb and have that special something that makes a room welcoming. Some companies offer coordinating fabrics and even ready-made items and wallpapers that work together, but what if you want something not available in a pre-designed package or the fabric you fall in love with is one-of-a-kind or vintage or you just want something more unique?So where do you start? We suggest you begin by choosing a fabric in a pattern that you love, such as the Brunschwig & Fils large scale floral chintz shown above, since that will set the tone for your overall decorating scheme. Or you might want to consider Clarence House, Scalamandre , or other lines usually available only through interior decorators but made available to you on ebay at huge discounts. Choose a pattern with at least 3 colors. Then choose two or more additional fabrics that each have one of the colors from your inspiration fabric. The fabrics should be different in at least one of the following ways in addition to having a color from your main fabric:
- Contrast: Vary the lightness and darkness of the colors in the fabrics. Using the above floral as an example, you might choose a paler pink and a dark green, or a lighter purple with a deeper rose tone.
- Texture: Choose fabrics with different textures. The above fabric has a smooth finish, so you might want to look for a more coarsely woven fabric like a hemp or linen, or perhaps a velvet or chenille or a puckered or matelasse silk.
- Scale: Patterns should be different sizes. The floral chintz we started with here is a large scale, so you would look for a more medium scale (perhaps a plaid, check, or stripe in coordinating colors) and one smaller pattern or a solid. Vary the size of the patterns by including one large, one medium, and one smaller pattern (a small patterned print, or embroidered design) or solid (preferably in a textured finish).
- Sheen: Use fabrics that have a sheen (and reflect light) with fabrics that have a flat or matte finish (and absorb light).
- Patterns: Mix different types of patterns. The chintz shown above is a curvy flowery pattern, so look for a geomtric check, plaid, or trellis design, a linear toile, and maybe a small print or patterned solid. Although the examples here focus on three patterns, you can apply them to combinations of four or more if you wish.
Be sure to consider your walls and floors when selecting fabrics, as they provide additional places and sources of color and patterns. The scale of your furniture should also be considered. The same "rules" outline above can be used. Just substitute a wallpaper for one of the fabrics. Wallpaper can even be your starting point instead of a fabric. These are not hard and fast rules, and exceptions can often be successfully made but this guide is meant to be just that -- a guide to help you build the confidence and skills to create the room of your dreams.
We will be posting pictures of different pattern combinations and styles and some room setting photos in the coming weeks, so check back for more ideas. You might also find our other fabric guides useful.