One of my greatest talents and passions as a decorator and interior designer is to pair fabrics and wallcoverings, coordinating multiple patterns in a room. To me, it is a missed opportunity to not put multiple fabrics on a sofa or a chair. I often tell clients, “Hey, we are ordering this piece custom. The manufacturer is covering it just for you, so let’s pick something only you could have!” The results of this effort and risk on install day is such a joy to me and the client when she sees all of the nuances of color and pattern play out in situ.
It takes some convincing
Some of my interior design clients embrace the idea of multiple fabrics whole-heartedly, but some take a little more persuasion. In my experience, clients are afraid to put multiple fabrics on a piece of upholstery because they think it’s too customized. They are afraid they won’t be able to move it to another room or use it in a new home where they may want to utilize it among other fabrics, wallcoverings or carpets. But, I tell them, don’t worry about that. Because of our diligent efforts to coordinate all the fabrics and colors in a house, they should be able to mix and match their pieces effortlessly. I am always conscious that the laundry room should coordinate with the foyer. That is just how OCD I am about laying out room schemes. One room should always easily lead and coordinate with the rooms around it.
This talent of combining patterns of fabrics, wallcoverings and rugs together comes naturally to me and has honed into quite a skill over my 20 years of decorating professionally and the 30 plus years of decorating as a hobby. But, for my client’s, they haven’t had the time or ability to hone this skill, so they choose safe combinations of fabrics, wallcoverings and area rugs because they are intimidated by “doing it wrong.” So here are my tips to help you select the perfect pairings of patterns for your walls, windows and upholstery.
Start with a statement print.
Picking the perfect print is the first step I take when creating, not just a room, but an entire house scheme. I look for something pretty and expressive. The best prints have an open background so that they do not get too busy. A busy print can get tiresome to look at over time.
Pick the least dominant color in the print as an accent.
This sounds counter-intuitive, but it really makes for a more interesting and layered color scheme. By selecting the more quiet or less-noticeable color in a print, the play of colors in the print become more interesting and less obvious, making for an elegant look.
Geometrics are your friend.
Every room needs a geometric. I have had clients in the past who do not like stripes or plaids. This can make a fabric scheme difficult because you need geometric shapes to play against the arabesque movements of most prints. The geometry of the angles makes for a nice counterpoint to the movement of the print, making it less fussy in an overall fabric scheme. A diamond or lattice, I find, tend to be more livable and less trendy over time. But I am, personally always mad for plaid, so if you love them too, go for it. (Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to mix plaids and stripes of different scales to create a more interesting and layered look to your room.)
Look for small, medium and large scale fabrics.
Every fabric scheme should have a small scale, medium scale and large scale. This change of size in patterns keeps the overall scheme from being too fussy. For example, you can have a large scale floral print, a medium scale geometric and another print in a small scale. Look for similarity of color to tie all of the fabrics together.
Always include an animal print!
I am wild for animal print. I love it in unnatural colors, like blue, green and coral. Animal gives a bit of whimsy to a room and it acts as a geometric, as a lot of animal prints can have stripping or dotting as a motif. The smaller the animal print is, the more it acts as a solid too, so don’t be afraid to mix animal prints, but a word of warning here. Never pair more than two, or you’ll look like Fran Dresher from The Nanny!
If you love neutrals, include a woven wallcovering, not paint.
I love color, as you know, but very rarely, I decide to go neutral. And, when I do, I have to use a wallcovering for the walls. I will either use a grasscloth or a small ditty print to give visual texture. Neutrals are inherently quiet, so to pair a neutral fabric scheme with paint is generally too visually sterile. A wallcovering with give the background just enough interest to make the neutrals more engaging.
Make sure you have 3 colors in your room scheme.
I do not gravitate to monochromatic color schemes. They just seem flat and one dimensional. And, because I love a more layered look, I try to incorporate at least three colors in a room. At my nieces home I did for her last year, the predominant color scheme was blue and green, but I threw in terra cotta as a third color in pillows. We also used it in the art. This gave the rooms a more dimensional appearance and also kept the scheme from feeling too new. Designer tip: You don’t have to use fabric as your third color, you can do it with art, lamps, pillows, towels or even flowers. One of my favorite tricks is to use purple flowers in a blue room. It is always a brightener in the overall feel of the room.
If you are creating a new look for your home I hope you will try these tips when selecting and combining your fabrics. Try to be more fearless in creating combinations that are both interesting and layered. By layering multiple colors, scales and patterns your room can be not just beautiful, but timeless.