How to mix patterns

I’ve been on the internet several times in the last week with a young gal in Ohio who is having real trouble mixing patterns of fabric in a family room. She had picked two main fabrics that were what she wanted but there was something ‘wrong’. After quite a few e-mails back and forth, and some internet searches of fabric sites for examples, we found a solution to her problem and now she is a happy gal. It occurred to me that what we discussed might be of interest to some of you.

Here are the ‘guidelines’ about mixing fabric patterns.

The fabrics must relate to the ‘theme’ of the room. For example, if you are working on a sun room the fabric should most likely not have designs of cars and trucks, more likely it would have flowers, or pastoral scenes. ( Think back to the column on unity).

The colors in the fabrics that are the same as the color scheme must match the color scheme. No ‘almost the same color’ – must be the SAME color. Different shades and tints are OK, just do not vary from the same base colors. ( A shade is a color with black added, a tint has white added).

Pay attention to scale. A very large print needs to be paired to a print of a scale that will compliment, not exaggerate it. For example, a very large floral works very well beside a medium sized plaid, or stripe.

Think how the fabrics will appear when viewed from across a room. Often small prints or stripes dissolve into another color when viewed at a distance. I remember a hotel lobby where the carpet was orange and navy blue, up close. The right colors for the room. At a distance it was mauve.

If you are mixing patterns of all one type – all florals, for example, as well as color there should be something similar in the patterns – a leaf or a flower or even just a ‘squiggle’.

If you have two prints that you really love, but don’t relate well to each other, find a fabric that will bridge the two. This third fabric should have elements of each of the other two; colors, lines, patterns, something.

Ask for help. The ladies in the fabric stores here are really good at this. They do it a lot and love to help you put fabrics together.

I’ve had a busy few weeks, I’m just finishing an article for an international design and drapery magazine about the magnetic valance and Roman blind headrails I make. ( See my post here of April 2, 2009 about these magnetic headrails). I’ll put a link to the article on my website in the Articles Archive as soon as it’s published.

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