No More “Safe” Designing

My first job out of college was (& is) working in a textiles showroom. Before this job, I was deathly afraid of “mixing it up”. I was what you call a  ‘safe’ designer- I only used textiles and patterns that matched, were from the same color family and like I said, were very safe. Since working in the textiles world, I realized how much fun I was missing out on. Mixing fabrics, textures and colors is now one of my favorite aspects of design. There is no sense in being afraid of mixing patterns- go crazy, and for god’s sake, have some fun!

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Here are some lovely little “reminders” to help you mix-it-up:

1.) Work with the magic number 3. It is said that groupings of objects in 3 or in odd numbers are more appealing to the eye than even numbers. Odd numbers in design force the eye to keep moving and add visual interest.

Pattern #1: Use this pattern as your focal point. Let this fabric be the largest scale of all the 3 patterns. All the other patterns will be inspired from this pattern.

Pattern #2: This pattern should contain colors that go well with pattern #1; there should be some colors that are also in pattern #1. This pattern should be half the scale of pattern #1 so these two don’t fight.

Pattern #3: This pattern should be in the neutral family, let this pattern be more quiet.

Here is some more knowledge from apartment therapy on “mixing it up”:

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Color Intensity: Stay with the same color tones and intensities. Veer away from mixing primary colors with pastels, or muted ones with jewel tones.

Solids and Textures: You don’t want to put too many patterns on top of each other. You need a place for the eye to rest. Add in solids and textures to balance and separate.

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Graphics: Choosing a black and white (or color and white) graphic is a good way to add in an eye-catching element to unify the space.

Balancing: Whether you begin with your patterns or solids first, be sure the rest of the room is continued in that same color palette to create harmony.

White: White is a great base that brings everything together and lets your patterns make a vibrant statement. Just make sure to keep the same white throughout for a crisp, clean look.

Companion Fabrics: If you need a little study time to push you into the world of mixing patterns, look into companion fabrics. Companion fabrics are designed by companies as pre-mixed harmonious patterns by color palette. Just head to the fabric store, ask for some companions and start studying what works together and why.

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Pattern Buddies: Ok, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What looks good together:

  • Polka Dots, Textures and Graphics
  • Small Polka Dots, Stripes and Florals
  • Plaid, Paisley and Graphics
  • Ikat, Polka Dots and Paisely
  • Chevron, Floral and Geometric
  • Toile, Texture and Stripes
  • Animal Prints and Texture
  • Two Ikats and Texture
  • Damask, Floral and Stripes


…So, are we having fun yet?!

Are you a “mixer”? What is your favorite way to mix-it-up in design?