Pattern Play: Four Tips for Mixing Prints at Home

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From assembling an outfit to designing a room, there’s an art to incorporating prints in a way that’s purposeful and fun. It’s a modern look that’s also risky—the wrong addition can make a space feel disjointed or even chaotic—but in the end, that makes it even more rewarding when you strike the right balance. “One of the beautiful things about layering patterns and colors and textures is it allows you to really infuse a lot of different looks and styles together in kind of a common ground,” says Annie Speck, owner of Laguna Beach-based Annie Speck Interior Designs. Here’s how to get started.

Interior designer Annie Speck layered patterns in her design studio in the canyon. | Photo courtesy of Annie Speck
Interior designer Annie Speck layered patterns in her design studio in the canyon. | Photo courtesy of Annie Speck

Pick one special, beautifully patterned item to build upon

“It’s really starting with travels and collections because oftentimes when we travel, especially if we’re traveling internationally, we pick up things that are unique to our surroundings,” she says.

While this could be anything from a painting to a vase, Annie often leads with a high-quality rug. “If your carpet is neutral, you’re not going to achieve that same kind of layered, patterned look,” she advises.

If you don’t already have something on hand, she suggests looking into options from regions known for using diverse palettes and intricate designs in textiles and art, such as Indonesia. An exotic piece makes the area feel more sophisticated.

Introduce complementary prints that share the same color scheme

Once you’re set on the floor covering, one of the simplest ways to begin introducing complementary prints is with textiles that share the same color scheme. Annie notes that a key component of this look is using more tones more frequently and being consistent with them. Another important thing to keep in mind is scale: Include a variety of both large and small patterns—too many big, bold ones, and they’ll compete with each other.

Placement also plays a role. “Oftentimes a large print on drapery looks really lovely, where it might be lost on a pillow,” Annie explains.

As you introduce more prints into a room, Annie also emphasizes the impact that accessories and art—“the jewelry of the room,” she says—and more petite furniture items like unusually shaped chairs and chandeliers can have on a space.

Remember to incorporate neutrals

Neutrals are crucial for balance; think a solid-color wall with patterned curtains, or playful wallpaper with plain window panels. But neutral doesn’t necessarily refer strictly to color. Annie says that an oak coffee table with simple lines, for example, can serve the same purpose as a single-tone sofa. It’s usually easier to incorporate these basic colors via large furniture pieces. A simple couch, for example, makes the room feel more grounded.

Expand to other rooms

When it comes to spaces, there’s no need to stay limited to bedrooms and living rooms. Areas like the bathroom and kitchen can benefit from pattern play, too. Take advantage of the wide range of multicolor floor tiles, countertops and backsplash options available, and don’t be afraid to ditch archaic rules like avoiding big prints in small rooms. After all, the overarching idea behind the pattern-mixing trend is to break free from the traditional. Go bold with fun pieces and unexpected combinations for a completely original design.

—Written by Katherine Duncan

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