Interior Design

How to Mix Patterns & Get Away with It

mixing patterns

Patterns… no matter how minimal you’d like to go with your home decor, they can’t be avoided. Try as you might, they’re always surrounding you — whether you notice or not — in the flowy floor texture, the geometric bathroom tiles, the window layout and so on. But, you needn’t avoid them. Although some consider them risky, patterns are fun! They liven up any room, can say a lot about your personality, add a splash of color to your everyday life and can even take you back in time.

That said, patterns are tricky and you may be taking a chance by mixing them. Specifically, too many patterns can turn a room from funky fun to a motif mess, overwhelming the eye as soon as you step foot in the space. That’s why we put together a quick set of tips to help navigate the creative experience of how to decorate with mixed patterns.

Less is more

The key to decorating with patterns is not to be afraid to experiment and have fun. It’s as simple as that! As tempting as it is to go all in, mixing multiple prints can actually teach us how to best utilize the pieces we have in order to best highlight them.

However, if you find patterns a bit intimidating, it’s best to start with more subdued options, like simple spots or clean, geometric shapes. Then, stick to one type of pattern and let it shine in a particular area. For instance, if your couch is a Damask wonder, make sure the cushions have a single accent. Likewise, if the ottomans have polka dots, keep the carpet beneath them neutral.


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Size it up

Before you choose your prints, consider their size, as well as the size of the area you want to use them in. Large spaces, in particular, are perfect for experimenting with different types and sizes of patterns, while smaller spaces — such as studio apartments — can be overwhelmed by big, bold motifs. Extra-large patterns can also end up making the space feel crowded and even smaller, especially if most of your furniture and belongings are in that one particular room. On the other hand, smaller-scale patterns can create the illusion of space in smaller rooms, especially if they’re positioned vertically to elongate the area.


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Start from the bottom

Another trick to elongate a room with patterns is to place them on a lower level, which vertical stripes do well no matter where they’re used. In fact, basically any pattern can do wonders for the height of a room when placed at the bottom of the walls, furniture or on the floor. For example, some chevron at the bottom of the couch or a dotted carpet will have an immediate effect, particularly in a small room.

Browsing apartments for rent and already thinking about how to decorate it with patterns? If so, carpets and area rugs are another go-to if you’re looking for a quick, easy and landlord-friendly way to incorporate prints into your home decor. What’s more, broad patterns on the floor are not only eye-catching, but can also make a room feel larger. In bigger rooms, you can even get away with layering different rugs with various patterns for a more bohemian look.


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Pay attention to fabric

A good rule of thumb is that patterns don’t necessarily have to match. They just have to complement one another and have the same “vibe.” Still, combining prints on different fabrics with different textures is a challenge: What type of checkered print can go with chevron? Are polka dots and plaid upholstery compatible? Does paisley go with all florals? How much animal print is too much? In each of these scenarios, the answer is the same: It depends on what you’re going for.

Generally speaking, simple patterns go with other simple ones, while more complicated designs fit with other complicated designs. For instance, stripes, gingham, checkered prints and dots offer a modern look and go with one another if the design of the pattern itself is clean and simple. Chevron can also be included here, as long as you’re careful not to overdo it and don’t get a headache from the zigzags and stripes. More intricate designs — like paisley, detailed florals and geometrics — can work together, too. The secret is just to find some common ground, like the color palette or fabric itself.

Have some retro fun

Speaking of broad and bold, if there was ever a decade that wasn’t afraid of patterns — especially crisp, geometric shapes — it was the 1970s. Today, retro accents can be found in almost all interior styles, no matter how removed they are from mid-century modern style. And, while we’re not suggesting to whip out the old linoleum flooring and marshmallow sofas, a bright, graphic wallpaper with a bold motif can look as fresh today as it did in its heyday. The same goes for a cute, crocheted blanket with a big pattern that can also double as a boho piece.

Meanwhile, nothing combines retro charm and kitsch quite like a few loud throw pillows. In particular, asymmetry and nature-inspired patterns were also big back then, as well as rethought wicker art and furniture. Create a soothing effect and rustic style by incorporating these, in addition to natural stone elements, into your home décor.

Trends come and go, but patterns never go out of style — they just adapt. From slick monochromatic to colorful florals, prints and patterns add the visual weight we all crave in our space.

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About the author

Alexandra Ciuntu

Alexandra is a creative writer and researcher for RENTCafé. With a background in e-learning content writing and a passion for knowledge-sharing platforms, she has previously covered topics from prop-tech to renters insurance. She now enjoys researching and writing about the renting lifestyle, renter demographic shifts, and residential real estate market trends and news. You can connect with Alexandra via email.

Alexandra’s work includes collaborations with financial and business publications. Her articles have been featured in several national and international online publications, including the New York Times, Barrons, Inman, Marketwatch, Bisnow, Curbed, and Her educational background includes a B.A. in Japanese and English and an M.A. in Journalism and Cultural Studies.

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