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{Decorating} Mixing and Layering Patterns and Colors

by | Feb 18, 2013 | Decorating Inspiration, Details, Style Tips

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{Decorating} Mixing and Layering Patterns and Colors

Colorful bedroom via BHG

Do you like the look of layered patterns in a room? When it is done well, I think mixed patterns can give a room a special warmth and unique personality you just can’t get with a more subtle or “play it safe” scheme of solids or very few patterns. I can like a neutral room too, don’t get me wrong. But there is something about color and pattern that just creatively energizes me. I can’t imagine living in a house void of pattern or color.

{Decorating} Mixing and Layering Patterns and Colors

Mixed patterned pillows via BHG

Mixing patterns well is a bit of an art form though and it may take a bit of practice! Unless you happen to have “the eye” for mixing! I saw a quote from Sarah Richardson where she said, “I’ve got a laissez-faire approach to patterns,” Richardson said. “I like to jumble them up and not overthink it.” Perhaps we just need to develop our eye for mixing patterns so we don’t have to overthink it, we can just tell if the patterns play nice together and and the room works or not. I think a lot of that “eye” comes through trial and error and a willingness to try to put things together in a way you might not normally try.

{Decorating} Mixing and Layering Patterns and Colors

Decorating mixing patterns via BHG

Starting with a solid white as a foundation and then adding in one basic color in both a large scale and one small scale pattern is a simple way to start mixing patterns. You can hardly go wrong. But from there, you can try getting a little more complicated by mixing in more colors and several scales of patterns. I love the look of the stripes with a large scale geometric!

I have great respect for people who can mix and match patterns well. It seems like some designers just throw everything together and say it’s fabulous, but to me it can just look like a hot mess. But that could just be my lack of tolerance for too much stuff in a room. It hurts my eyes. I like a happy and lively mix, but I also don’t like for everything to be competing for center stage.

Others seem to have a way of putting complicated layers together, but in a way that doesn’t scream crazy chaos. That (to me) is talent! But like I said, it is also just a matter of personal taste.

I’m the girl who has wild mood swings in decorating.And, I want both tasteful AND fun. But we don’t always have to agree on what looks good in a room, that is the beauty of having your own home. You get to create a look you can live with while still appreciating what others like too.

{Decorating} Mixing and Layering Patterns and Colors

Layered patterned bedding, turquoise ceiling, wood walls & bamboo blinds. via BHG

So the way I have to visualize patterns together is to lay everything I might want to mix together out on the floor or table before I buy. It is somewhat embarrassing to pull furniture around and grab pillows and lay out the existing fabric swatches to create my own little grouping right there on the store floor, but it really helps to visualize how things will work together. The goal for me isn’t to make it match or be perfect, just to have things look pleasant together!

{Decorating} Mixing and Layering Patterns and Colors

Bedroom via 6th Street Design School

If you can’t carry around your fabric samples when you shop, if you have a phone with a camera take a picture of your rooms and close ups of rugs and pillows and store them on your phone. That way you can see what you already have when you run across a great deal on an awesome geometric pillow that you just aren’t sure about. If you scroll through your photos and check out what you already have with the new pattern, you can save yourself the hassle of a mistake.

{Decorating} Mixing and Layering Patterns and Colors

Mix and match patterns and colors BHG

I find it much more challenging to mix and match patterns using things you already have collected over time. It is pretty easy to start over and create a nice mix in a room when you buy everything new that all goes together. No big challenge there.

But when you bring in your grandma’s colorful persian rug, your aunt’s vintage crocheted blankets and pretty quilts, your mother-in-law’s favorite antique sofa with your collection of flea market throw pillows? That is a little more complicated than a one day shopping spree to buy a room full of what pattern mixes are popular right now. But if you can bring random things together that have been in your family or found over a long period of time, your house is probably amazing and one of a kind and we should bow down to your mix and match genius!

I read an interesting article on mixing patterns over at Houzz. It has quite a few helpful tips on mixing patterns, so you might want to check it out! Also, on a related topic, see this post on The Inspired Room 5 Tips to Mix Up a Great Decorating Style!

How do you feel about mixing patterns in decorating?

{Decorating} Mixing and Layering Patterns and Colors


  1. Ann

    I love looking at rooms with mixed and layered patterns
    although I’m quite hesitant sometimes to do it in my own home.
    I envy designers who do it effortlessly and and beautifully.

  2. Ashley

    I love the look of mixed patterns and colors!

  3. Ashley

    I love the look of mixed patterns and colors! It gives a space such a collected and warm look.

  4. Deanna

    I learned watching Lynette Jennings on TV, many years ago, about mixing patterns. I love the way it looks. The key is the color and the size of the pattern.

    I love these examples you’ve shown!

    • Deanna Mutaali

      It’s funny I was online trying to find an old Lynnette Jennings clip about this very topic. No one has explained it better than Lynnette Jennings. So funny that the only other person who know s what I mean is another Deanna. These rooms are beautiful and well done

  5. Jennifer

    I did this in my son’s room recently. The only reason it turned out well is because I had the bedding in one hand and I was able to see it next to the rugs. I’ve decided I really need to carry samples around from now on! My husband commented on the rug that didn’t match the bedding, but when he saw it all together he loved it.

  6. Nicki

    I have a tough time with this. Loved your other post on the “happy medium” too. Right where I’m at right now- how to add more “fun” while not changing everything.

  7. Prissy

    I love the look of mixing patterns. In fact I’ve been trying to do this in my living room. I have a medium brown sofa, so it should be easy. But, alas, I’ve got a “Hot Mess”! LOL I wish there were a set of rules to help me choose patterns that don’t look ridiculous together. If you know of any such thing….. Please feel free to pass that info along. I love the examples you chose. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch)

    Melissa, I like that quote from Sarah Richardson. I love mixing up patterns too and just seeing what works. :) Beautiful inspiring pictures!

  9. Diane

    First…I have to say that the white fireplace with the gothic shaped design is over the top cute! Talk about character!!
    Second…I love a collected home. Probably because if I’m going to be content I need to have that mindset. You are so right. I would have no trouble going shopping over a weekend…or maybe even a trip to Home Good haha! to put together a lovely mixed pattern collected look. But…putting together what I have to look pleasing. Hmmmm. I try. Real hard. But…my oriental rug that I love doesn’t exactly go with the sofa I inherited from my mom…though it will if I ever get up the nerve to make a slipcover…though that’s another story. And so we go…it is a challenge. On the other hand I haven’t heard one of my friends ask me why I have this and that together and had I thought about changing it up. So…again…I defer to The Nester. It doesn’t have to be perfect… know the rest. :D
    Hope your week is Extraordinary!

  10. Leslie Stewart

    I love mixing patterns! Thanks for sharing some amazing examples! Great inspirations.

  11. Cottage Katie

    That first image is the epitome of the colors I love!! It has everything all rolled into one, high notes, low notes, and everything in between!

  12. tricia

    Love it and do quite a bit of it in my own cottage. It just adds to the collected feel :)

  13. CottageGirl

    Hopefully within the year I get to do a bit of redecorating. In past years I would have steered clear of using such pattern mixes, not because I don’t love the look, but because I’m afraid of making a ghastly, expensive mistake. I’ll be putting this post in my file, however. Your guidance may just give me the confidence to step out of my box! Thanks!

  14. Shelley Beckes

    I love it when a client is adventurous enough to allow me to mix patterns and color.

  15. Ashleen Moreen

    My favorite is the Layered patterned bedding and turquoise ceiling. I just love it’s combination.

  16. KMP Modern

    I am with you. I love color and patterns. I could never live in a beige room that plays it safe. Mixing patterns means you are willing to take chances, and you love life. The English are fantastic at mixing patterns. I think its because the weather is so dreary, and they love traveling. My husband is English, so I can say this will some authority. Anyway, I love how you always have such great advice. Thanks for posting!

  17. tara

    I’m learning to mix patterns.

    You’re right, it can look like a hot mess to me sometimes, so I’m a little shy in trying it.
    I feel like I”m pretty decent at purchasing large scale items for our home. Each room has some amazing pieces in it that are true show stoppers, but then I seem to get stuck in the finishing touches.

    It’s something I’m definitely working on in this new house of ours…going back and adding layers to each room.

  18. {darlene weir}

    pattern mixing girl, all the way!
    great post!

  19. Jennifer

    I love the look of mixing patterns! I’m still trying to figure it out, though. I feel like it’s an art and there’s no real science to it. Yes, there are some guidelines to go buy but my favorite combos are the ones that simply work.


    I love the idea of mixing patterns and I also love the idea of mixing colors!!!

  21. Stacey

    Color and patterns make my heart happy and enlivens my mood! Great tips and post!

  22. Laurel Stephens

    Thanks for your very helpful post! I kind-of panic when I think about mixing prints and colors in a room. Your term “layering” helps it make sense for me.

  23. Sabrina

    Great tips on how to put together patterns. I like to take a pattern with me shopping and match it up with another pattern. It seems to help if I have the patterns next to each other and outside of the room.

  24. maryrose

    I like the lived-in look of a room with mixed-up patterns. When things get too matchy-matchy, it feels more like a showroom than a home. I figure if nature can mix things up, then so can I. :)

  25. Melanie

    I’d love to get braver at mixing pattern. We are nowhere near the finishing touch stage of our project yet but I have some cushions in a geometric print bought already for our lounge. I’m not yet sure what I will mix with them so thanks for the inspiration. . . Ill keep open to ideas!

  26. Krista

    I love mixing pattern and colour! And I love colour! Where we live it is fairly grey a lot of the year so the energy of colour and pattern inside the home invigorates me. My best example of mixing pattern and colour is in our master bedroom. If you ever have a moment I’d be honoured if you checked it out on my newborn baby blog.

  27. Laura Wilmerding

    Im a huge fan of mixing patterns. My bedroom was just featured in the march issue of house beautiful magazine where i layered many patterns in all shades of blues and greens. I did a summer house in the cape and nantucket mixing patterns too. i’m a huge fan of always having one large scale pattern per room, and nothing better then pattered wall paper and fabrics.

  28. Sara Silver

    love the post…mixing colors and patterns isn’t an easy thing to do but once you get it down in can really transform a space…and nobody does it better than bhg! i love tha t many of these looks can be achieved by repurposing furtinure you already have and just investing in a new duvet cover or pillows …set out some flowers and add a few pops of color and you’re all set!

  29. Katy Beacher

    I would think that one would have to be terribly brave or terribly careful when mixing patterns. I’m afraid to do it as too many different patterns and colors in the same room are confusing to me. It brings on my claustrophobia.


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