The Art of Mixing Patterns in Interior Design: Creating a Stylish and Cohesive Look

Written by Sarah Stripe


Posted on June 20 2024

The Art of Mixing Patterns in Interior Design: Creating a Stylish and Cohesive Look

Mixing patterns in interior design, when done correctly, can bring depth, personality and a unique flair to any space. It’s about balancing different prints, colours and textures to create a harmonious yet visually stimulating environment. This blog will explore the principles, tips and some examples to help you master the art of mixing patterns in your home. Mood boards and swatches will be your friend and help you create your personal mix and develop your tastes and style. Don't be afraid to experiment and trust your instincts, after all, interior design is a personal expression of your style.


The Basics of Pattern Mixing

Where do I start? The following basics of pattern mixing will serve as your foundation, helping you make informed design choices and help you to create mixes and combinations that you love in your home.

Scale and Proportion

Scale here refers to the size of a pattern in relation to the space and other patterns around it. Balancing different scales is crucial for a cohesive look. Large-scale patterns can anchor a room and serve as focal points, while small-scale patterns add detail and complexity.

- Combine large, medium, and small patterns to create a balanced look.

- Use large patterns on dominant surfaces like walls or large pieces of furniture, and smaller patterns on accessories and accent pieces.

- Think about using mixing patterns within one item - upholstery or lighting - for interest.


 Colour Coordination

 Colour is a powerful tool in pattern mixing. It can tie different patterns together and create a cohesive look. Stick to a consistent colour palette to ensure harmony. If you are just starting to pattern-mix, start with a small area and see what you already have that you can incorporate into the space.


- Choose a base colour and build your palette around it.

- Use varying shades of the same colour for a subtle, sophisticated look.

- Introduce complementary colours for a more vibrant and dynamic space.


Pattern Types

Pattern is anything that isn't plain! Understanding different types of patterns helps in making informed decisions. Common pattern types include geometric, floral, stripes, checks and tartans, abstract or polka-dot designs, animal prints and even script based designs, the list goes on...

 - Mix patterns with similar themes (e.g., geometric with geometric) for a cohesive look.

- Combine different themes (e.g., floral with stripes) for an eclectic, dynamic feel.

- Ensure there is a common element, such as colour, to tie different patterns together.


Balance and Symmetry

Balance and symmetry will prevent a space from feeling chaotic. Symmetry brings order, while balance ensures that different patterns work together harmoniously.

- Distribute patterns evenly throughout the space to avoid clustering.

- Use symmetry in furniture arrangement to create a sense of order.


Step-by-Step Guide to Mixing Patterns

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s delve into a step-by-step guide on how to effectively mix patterns in interior design.


Step 1: Establish a Base

A base colour to work from provides a calm backdrop against which patterns can stand out. This doesn’t mean everything should be pale cream or white—your base can be a neutral tone - soft warm beige tones, cooler greys tones, muted blues and even light pastels such as pinks and peach tones - or bolder deeper blues and browns, purples and even black if you prefer a darker vibe. This should not be your paint colour as this will limit you too much. 

- Start with neutral walls, flooring, and large furniture pieces.

- Use these neutral elements as a canvas for layering patterns.


 Step 2: Choose a Dominant Pattern

Next is to choose your dominant pattern, this will set the tone for the room. This pattern will be the most eye-catching and should be used on large surfaces such as an area rug, a statement wall, or a significant piece of furniture.

- Ensure the dominant pattern includes your chosen base colour.

- Large-scale patterns work well as the dominant element.


Step 3: Introduce Secondary Patterns

Add secondary patterns that complement the dominant pattern. These should be different in scale and possibly in theme to create interest without overwhelming the space.

 - Use secondary patterns on smaller furniture, pillows, or curtains.

- Ensure these patterns share at least one colour with the dominant pattern.

-Remember that texture is great for detail.


Step 4: Add Accent Patterns

 Accent patterns are the final layer, adding detail and depth. These are the smallest patterns and can be more playful or intricate, bringing life and personality to the room.

 - Introduce accent patterns through accessories like throws, cushions, or lampshades.

- Be mindful of the scale and ensure they don’t compete with the dominant pattern.


Step 5: Maintain Cohesion with Colour

 As you layer patterns, use colour to maintain cohesion. A consistent colour palette will ensure that even diverse patterns look intentional and harmonious.

 - Stick to a maximum of three main colours to avoid visual clutter.

- Use varying shades and tones of these colours to add depth and interest.

- Now you can finalise your paint colours.


Practical Examples of Mixing Patterns 

To illustrate these principles, let’s look at some practical examples of pattern mixing in different rooms of the house.

Living Room Brief:

A living room offers ample opportunity for pattern mixing, with multiple surfaces and accessories to work with. Scatter cushions are a great place to start and an easy way to update a space.


Dominant Pattern: A large floral area rug in muted tones of blue and green.

Secondary Patterns: Geometric throw pillows in shades of blue and a striped armchair in a complementary green.

Accent Patterns: Small-scale design cushions and a check throw blanket incorporating the same colour scheme.


How it works:

- The dominant pattern on the rug will ground the space.

- Introduce secondary patterns through furniture upholstery and pillows.

- Add accent patterns sparingly to avoid clutter.


Bedroom Brief

Bedrooms benefit from a soothing and cohesive design, making pattern mixing a bit more challenging but equally rewarding. Headboards are a great way of adding pattern and shape.

 Dominant Pattern: A large-scale damask duvet cover in soft grey and white.

Secondary Patterns: Striped sheets in a lighter grey and floral throw pillows in a similar grey and white palette.

Accent Patterns: A small geometric pattern on the lampshades and a plaid blanket at the foot of the bed.



How it works:

- Keep the colour palette limited to create a serene environment.

- Use the dominant pattern on the bedding to set the tone.

- Introduce secondary patterns through pillows and throws for a layered look.


Dining Room Brief

Now more and more a part of the day-to-day living spaced, a dining table has to work in the overall room and can be plain for day to day use and dressed up for entertaining. Add accent patterns through table settings and textiles.


Dominant Pattern: A bold geometric wallpaper in navy and white.

Secondary Patterns: Leopard print chair cushions in a complementary shade of navy.

Accent Patterns: Striped napkins and a small, patterned table runner incorporating navy and white.


How it works:

- Use wallpaper as the dominant pattern to make a statement.

- Introduce secondary patterns on chairs and accessories.


 Advanced Techniques and Tips

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can experiment with more advanced techniques to create truly unique and dynamic interiors.

Pattern Clashing

Pattern clashing involves deliberately combining patterns that don’t traditionally go together. This can create a bold and eclectic look.

- Ensure there’s at least one unifying element, such as colour or theme.

- Balance bold clashes with neutral spaces to prevent overwhelm.


Texture Mixing

Incorporate different textures to add depth and interest to your pattern mix.

Texture can enhance the visual appeal and tactile experience of a room.

- Combine smooth and rough textures, such as velvet and linen.

- Use textured patterns like embroidery or woven designs.

Monochromatic Patterns

Monochromatic pattern mixing involves using patterns in varying shades of the same colour. This creates a subtle and sophisticated look.

- Choose a base colour and select patterns in different shades and tones of that colour.

- Combine different scales and types of patterns to maintain interest.


Pattern Layers

Layering patterns adds depth and complexity to a space. Use multiple layers of patterns to create a rich, multidimensional look.

- Start with the largest surfaces and gradually add layers of smaller patterns.

- Ensure each layer is visible and contributes to the overall design.


Common Mistakes to Avoid

While mixing patterns can be rewarding, it’s easy to make mistakes that can disrupt the harmony of a space. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:


Overloading with Patterns


Too many patterns can create visual chaos. It’s important to strike a balance and avoid overloading a space.


- Stick to a maximum of three main patterns.

- Use neutral spaces to give the eye a place to rest.


Ignoring Scale and Proportion


Mixing patterns of the same scale can result in a cluttered look. Always consider the scale and proportion of your patterns.


- Combine large, medium, and small patterns for balance.

- Use larger patterns on larger surfaces and smaller patterns on accessories.


Clashing Colours


Colour clashing can disrupt the harmony of your design. Ensure your colour palette is cohesive and complementary.

- Stick to a consistent colour scheme.

- Use varying shades and tones of your chosen colours.


Neglecting Texture


Ignoring texture can make a space feel flat and uninteresting. Incorporate different textures to add depth and dimension.

- Mix smooth and rough textures.

- Use textured patterns to enhance visual interest.


Forgetting Functionality


Aesthetics are important, but functionality should never be compromised. Ensure your pattern choices enhance, rather than hinder, the usability of the space.

- Consider the practical aspects of your design.

- Choose durable, easy-to-clean patterns for high-traffic areas.


Final Thoughts

Which room are you going to start with? Mixing patterns is an exciting and creative way to bring personality and flair to your home. By understanding and applying the principles of scale, colour coordination, pattern types, balance, and symmetry, you can create a harmonious and visually appealing space.


As you gain confidence, remember that each and every pattern you choose should enhance the space both aesthetically and practically.

And finally - does this image work or not? Happy decorating!