Easy Ways to Mix and Match Patterns

Some rules to help make sure your space looks chic.

Adding patterns to is a great way to jazz up a tired living room, but the challenge is doing so in a way that feels harmonious and uncluttered. These rules can help make sure your space looks chic, not circus-y.

Rule #1. If you’re timid about adding pattern, start with white, then add another color. The simple color scheme will provide an easy guide for choosing patterns. Want to go one step further? White and black are always stylish and look great with virtually every other color.

Rule #2. To prevent your home from feeling like a museum, mix modern with traditional and old with new. Reupholster a dated chair with thoroughly modern fabrics and patterns, or pair a contemporary sofa with a traditional toile or flocked wallpaper.

Rule #3. Start big, then go smaller. Choose a large-scale print that you love to serve as a sort of “home base” for the eye, then pick medium and small complementary ones. Too many large patterns will confuse and overwhelm. Don’t forget to add in neutrals or solids to provide balance and to give the eye a break.

Rule #4. Think in threes. Grouping items into threes is a basic design technique, and it applies to patterns, too. Your first pattern will make your biggest, boldest statement. Pattern #2 should be smaller but pull some of the colors from Pattern #1. And your third pattern should be another complementary color or a neutral.

Rule #5. Still unsure? Stick with what works. The design website The House of Smiths provides a handy list for tried-and-true patterns that work well together:

• Small polka dots, stripes and florals

• Animal prints and solids with texture

• Chevron, small florals and solids

• Geometric, colorful florals and small stripes

• Plaid, graphics and solids