Extreme Pattern Mixing: Taking Cues from the Runway

Extreme Pattern Mixing: Taking Cues from the Runway

Carolyn Purnell
Nov 17, 2011

One of my favorite fashion trends this season has been intense creativity with pattern mixing. Labels like Mary Katrantzou, Suno, and Preen have sent a combination of polka dots, florals, animal print, and abstract geometrics down the runway-often in the same garment! These courageous combos have got me thinking about how to infuse my space with similarly unexpected pattern blends.

We all know that a healthy dose of pattern adds personality, style, and flair to a space, but too much can make a room seem busy and cluttered. Bold mixing may not be for the faint of heart, but when done properly, it can create a whimsical, punchy, and interesting room. To a certain extent, the mixing comes down to a gut feeling, but here are some basic guidelines to consider when devising your own combinations:

1. Mix different scales and types of patterns. For a simple combination, choose one large-scale pattern, a medium-scaled pattern of a different sort, and a third pattern with an even smaller scale. You can see this principle at work in the fourth image with the large floral pattern of the rug, the smaller-scale ikat scattered throughout the room, and the even smaller diamond print on the walls.

2. Use complementary colors of the same intensity. Your room doesn't have to be monochromatic, but it's best to keep colors in the same tonal family to maintain cohesiveness. In the fifth image, you can see how corals and pinks, all of a similar warmth and intensity, recur throughout the room and bind together a diversity of prints.

3. Put the visual weight on areas where you want the eye to travel. Sarah and Chad's space works so well because the pattern is denser near the floor, anchoring the room, and it lightens as the eye travels up, opening up the space. If a dense pattern dominates one side the room, then the eye is drawn disproportionately to that area. Additionally, be sure to balance the patterns throughout the room, since dispersing them makes the space feel more integrated.

4. For those reluctant to use bright colors, bold pattern mixing is still an option. The room in the final image is composed primarily of neutral colors, but it still makes use of a diversity of patterns that give the room visual interest. For subtler mixing, also consider the power of texture as a stand-in for pattern. Take the Dolce and Gabbana outfit in the second image: the overcoat is monochromatic, but its textural aspect gives it the appearance of pattern, which subtly plays off of the neighboring floral print.

How Mixing Patterns Is Like Mixing Guests
Tips and Ideas for Mixing Patterns
Going Bold: Mixing and Matching Patterns

Images: 1. Vogue and Sarah & Chad's Long Distance School of Style House Tour; 2. Vogue (1, 2, 3, 4); 3. Kelly Wearstler and Vogue (1, 2, 3); 4. Elle Decor via Godindesign; 5) I Suwanee; 6) Home by Novogratz (HGTV) via Trendir; 7) Architectural Digest

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