Mixing patterns and creating color schemes is a loaded topic to write about because it depends on so many factors, and there’s *really* no right or wrong way to do it.
What colors and patterns are you drawn to? Is your style eclectic or casual? What is the room going to be used for? What’s your enneagram? Your social security number? etc.
Before we dive in, I’d like to thank Hollie of Stuck on Hue for contributing her insight for mixing pattern and color for this blog post! She is a pattern-mixing master and my go-to source for pillows.
Because it can be paralyzing to determine a starting point, let’s start with what you like. Pull up your Pinterest boards and pay attention to your favorite rooms.
I’m drawn to this room, which contains very little pattern:
….but I’m also drawn to this room, which is abundant with classic Bowood pattern:
In the initial stages of creating a mood board for a room, Hollie and I both agree that you can start by…
CHOOSING A LEAD PATTERN FIRST.
Whether that pattern or color is in the drapery, a sofa, wallpaper, a rug, even a PILLOW (nothing is ever too small to be the lead pattern) – but choose a pattern you love. Hollie prefers choosing a multicolor, large scale print (often floral) as the lead pattern.
USE THE LEAD PATTERN TO DICTATE COLORS & DETAILS FOR THE REST OF THE ROOM
OK but really…
I know this sounds simple and rather obvious but there are many different ways you can leverage that main pattern.
In our living room, the drapes are the lead pattern.
I pulled the colors out of the Althea pattern and created a color palette from the pattern to dictate the details that I have yet to choose for the rest of the room.
These colors will be pulled into the room via:
- wall paint color (or a paint color that pairs nicely will all these colors, most likely a warm taupe)
- ceiling paint color
- upholstery fabric + piping for chairs
- contrasting pillow patterns to Althea (i.e. green ticking stripes)
- a custom Oushak rug
- Custom lamp shades
Whatever lead pattern/color you choose, be sure it’s something that you love and don’t foresee yourself getting tired of any time soon.
By pulling colors and tones directly out of the main pattern, you’re creating a color scheme.
EXAMPLES OF COLOR + PATTERN SCHEMES
You may be drawn to rooms that are monochromatic, which means the room contains variations of one color.
Here’s a monochromatic color wheel:
AN EXAMPLE OF A MONOCHROMATIC ROOM:
Via Mark D. Sikes Look at all those variations of BLUE!
A BOLD (NOT SO MONOCHROMATIC) ROOM WITH SUBTLE PATTERN:
Via Ashley Whittaker. There’s a geometric on the floor, a solid pattern on the sofa, floral window treatment layered with a textured shade, floral pillows, allover small-scale pattern on the loveseat and animal print on the stool.
AN EXAMPLE OF A ROOM WITH BARELY ANY PATTERN:
Tory Burch’s living room is just, UGH. This is another example of a room with subtle pattern. There’s also plenty of texture throughout the layers of ivory, green, and light blue. Those walls are effin V E L V E T. Praise be
A NEUTRAL, MONOCHROMATIC ROOM:
Another by Mark D. Sikes – neutral pattern on pattern with plenty of textures and layers. Hollie mentions that if your lead pattern is neutral, you can layer with various textures and other neutral patterns. A classic animal print can be the lead fabric while warming up the room and acting as that neutral.
COOL COOL…SO HOW DO I MIX PATTERNS?
I created a pattern-mixing visual using Schumacher’s Indian Arbre as the lead pattern – a large scale floral – and all the different types of patterned fabrics I would pair with it.
Now…there are a billion different patterns & fabrics to choose from, but below, I’m sharing the most common types of patterns (i.e. stripe, abstract) in the colorways that I felt paired nicely with the main pattern, which consists of blue, pink, purple, ivory and brown. I also tried to contrast with smaller scale and larger scale patterns.
Let’s say Indian Arbre was the lead pattern as a pillow. You could use the above contrasting patterns as:
- Upholstery fabric
- Additional pillows
- Window treatments
- On a lampshade
Here’s a room designed by Josh Greene with another large-scale floral Schumacher fabric that contains similar colors to Indian Arbre:
See all the different colors pulled from the Schumacher pattern? And the various patterns he paired with it?
ALAS, A PLOT TWIST…
There really are no rules for mixing patterns. I believe it comes down to intuition and personal preference.
To keep things interesting, you don’t have to match colors to a T when pulling ideas out of a lead pattern. In fact, it’s more interesting when you switch things up.
An example from Hollie: maybe your lead pattern has a lovely green and you want to use green in other ways around the room (pillows, upholstery, window treatments, paint, accessories, etc). The best rooms would use variations of that green, instead of an exact match, to give the space depth and interest. Otherwise the room may look flat and stiff.
Michelle Nussbaumer is good at mixing bold color & patterns that don’t necessarily “go together” – yet, they work.
(both designs via Michelle Naussbaumer)
I really hope this post was helpful! Check out Hollie’s shop for some amazing designer pillows and this post all about pillow sizing for sofas + some pattern mixing ideas for pillows there.
Have a fabulous weekend!
Great post. So interesting that the lead pattern (color palette) can be from something small like a pillow, but that makes total sense!
I enjoyed reading this post Alisa. Your eye for pattern mixing is exceptional. Indian Arbre is one of my favorites too
Anne Stublen says
Hi Alisa! So a funny thing happened when I went to a local thrift store this week. I saw this fabric on a bolt that looked classy even though the colorway was not my style. I checked to see the manufacturer and name on the selvage and all I could think about is how much you would probably like it. Seriously – that was what was going through my head! It was pretty inexpensive, and I was familiar with the beauty of the brand so I bought it. Flash forward to this morning and what do I see on your post? Colefax and Fowler, Bowood. Want to guess what I bought at the thrift store? So, if you would like to make your Bowood dreams come true, email me! 🙂 BTW, your blue bedroom inspired my current bedroom renovation – top to bottom in blue. When I tell people what I am doing and they think I am crazy, I just show them a pic of our bedroom and then they get it!
No way – are you serious?! Ugh finding a bolt of Bowood at a thrift store would be a dream of mine, haha!! Thank you so much for sharing that story! 💚 have a great weekend!!
Anne Stublen says
I was serious about it if you want it! I will never use it. 🙂
Is this still available? If so I would like to chat about buying it!
Great post! The different patterns and mixing colors has always stumped me.