5 Simple Rules for Mixing and Matching Patterns

Kid bedroom with teepee and bunk bed.
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Your mother might have warned you growing up that patterns do not mix. And, while that might have been true many years ago, times have changed. A lively mix of different patterns and prints makes for a fun and interesting design, adding an element of playfulness that works perfectly in kid-friendly spaces.

Haphazard does not work, though. It is important to choose patterns that blend well—and therein lies the truth behind the tale. Patterns may mix, but try and ask anyone about the finer points of blending plaids and polka dots, and you are likely to be met with blinking eyes and blank expressions.

Do not fret. Mixing patterns is actually much easier than you may think. Just follow these five simple guidelines, and you will be mixing—and matching—before you know it.

  • 01 of 05

    Use Different Types of Patterns

    Floral wallpaper
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    When mixing patterns, make sure to choose two or three different types. You might pair stripes with polka dots or polka dots with florals— just make sure that each pattern is distinct.

    Multiple patterns of the same type confuse the eye, which takes a moment to register that the patterns are similar but not alike. But varied patterns are instantly distinguishable, creating clear contrast and resulting in fresh and more visually interesting designs.  

  • 02 of 05

    Coordinate with Color

    Pink pouf in kid's room
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    Of course, you cannot rely on the principle of contrast alone. Even designs that are based on contrasting patterns must have one or two unifying elements in order to blend well. That is why it is important to consider other details, like color, when making your choices.

    In a room with many contrasting elements, color can be used to create a cohesive feel, tying your different pattern selections together for a polished look.

    To achieve a well-coordinated effect, you will want to identify a clear color scheme, limiting your selection to just two or three hues. Use solids to establish your base colors, and then concentrate on choosing patterns that fall into that palette. Do not worry if you cannot find an exact match every time. Just use your best judgment to find patterned elements that fall into the same range.

  • 03 of 05

    Pair Patterns with Solids

    Cute purple girls room
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    It is a good idea to break up your patterns with blocks of solid color. For example, if you choose a patterned bedspread, pair it with a solid bed skirt in a complementary color. Using patterned wallpaper? You might want to consider a solid curtain fabric.

    By incorporating solids into your design, you will create clear visual boundaries between patterns, eliminating pattern-on-pattern confusion, and giving each patterned element a crisp, clean look.

  • 04 of 05

    Let No Pattern Stand Alone

    Kids bed in white sunny bedroom. Children room and interior design. Bed for baby or toddler boy at home. Bedding and textile for children nursery. Nap and sleep time. Children bedroom with pillows.
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    Patterns are "pack elements.” Together they make a statement, but alone, they tend to get lost in the mix. This is especially true in rooms that include more than one pattern selection.

    To make sure that each pattern choice makes a cohesive statement, you will want to feature it multiple times throughout a space. Aim for at least three or four uses per pattern. For example, you could coordinate your nursery bedding with your curtains, and use the same fabric to create an accent pillow for your rocker.

    Like color, repetition—often referred to as "rhythm" in interior decorating—helps to create continuity, ensuring a flowing and well-coordinated design.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Vary Your Patterns by Scale

    kid's bedroom with doll on bed
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    Another helpful tip is to choose patterns that vary in scale. Multiple large-scale prints compete for focus, distracting the onlooker, but a mix of small and intricate patterns can look too busy. Again, the contrast will produce the best results. Use both small and large-scale patterns, saving large-scale patterns for larger canvases, like accent walls, curtains or bedding, and smaller patterns for accent items.

    With a little research into professional design ideas, you too can design magazine-quality kids' rooms.