Pattern Play: 5 Ways to Mix Patterns Like a Champ

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It may seem like pattern mixing is just about jumbling together a bunch of colors and prints, but it's a little more strategic than that. If you want your room to look more fantastic eclectic than fun house, follow a few basics to master the messy-on-purpose style.

1. Cultivate commonality

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Your pattern picks shouldn't be completely random — they all need to have something in common to keep the look cohesive. It can be color (keep it to 2-3 standout colors ) or style (see all the white space in the mix of patterns above?) but just make sure they have a point that makes them go together, even if they don't necessarily match.

2. Scrutinize scale

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Even though they do need things in common, your patterns also need to be different enough to keep things interesting. A great way to do this is with scale. Too many small prints will exhaust your eye, and too many large prints will hardly look layered at all, so get your Goldilocks on and mix up sizes until it's juuust right.

3. Try texture

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Think of textural elements as just another pattern — when used with other prints it just adds another yummy element into the mix.

4. Pick a focal point

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Even when mixing, picking one main pattern to highlight is a smart idea. It will give the eye somewhere to rest, keeping the whole look more focused while still looking perfectly layered. See how your eye is drawn to that gorgeous rug above? The rest of the patterns add interest, but that rug is really the star of the show.

5. Have fun

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You've read the rules (let's think of them as gentle guidelines), and now it's time to throw all that out and just have fun with it. Go on, get crazy.

(Image credits: Jacqueline Marque; Abby Stone; Marcia Prentice; Carolyn Purnell; Nancy Mitchell; Ashley Poskin)

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Jennifer is the Assistant Editor at Apartment Therapy where she spends her days writing and thinking about decor, food and fashion in NYC. Not too shabby.

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