Pattern Play: Designing with Small Scale Patterns

written by Melissa Wolck

Designing with pattern can be a little intimidating. There are so many styles to choose from, in addition to endless varieties of scale and color. A general rule of thumb for mixing fabric patterns is to select one large, one medium and one small scale, but that's just a standard formula, not the be-all end-all. Coordinating several small scale patterns can create a lot of visual interest. 

Here are a few things I like to consider when designing with patterned fabrics.

Find a Commonality

Whether it is the color scheme, theme or style, try to find a commonality between the patterns. For example, the fabrics above are all from the gold and navy blue family, they are all geometric patterns and all fairly traditional. When put together they create a dressy, sophisticated look. A common element will help connect all of the fabric patterns throughout your space. 

Incorporate Patterned Solids

In the image above I've put together a few fabrics that create a fresh take on a globally inspired look. The leaf pattern resembles a traditional block print and the tie-dye was surely inspired by traditional shibori, but the tip here is to incorporate what I refer to as "patterned solids". These fabrics are all one color, maybe two, with a subtle pattern woven into the cloth. Patterned solids add a lot of visual interest and texture to your space without being overwhelming. It's a great starting point for mixing patterns if your feeling overwhelmed yourself. 

Layer Patterns You Love

Layer patterns you love! There's not always a rhyme or reason why some things work together. Sometimes they just do. In the vignette above, I've coordinated color, but combined a traditional honeycomb chair scale pattern with a skin print, textured floral and transitional matelassé. The patterns are equally charming and provide enough interest on their own. Yet, when put together, they balance one another, creating a whole new look to stimulate the senses.

Play with pattern. Layer it. Mix it up and don't apologize. Coordinate what you like and see what you come up with. Have fun!

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