How to mix and match
Combining pattern is often one of those decorating steps we tend to avoid. Sure, we know which designs we like, but how do we know which ones complement each other instead of clashing? The only way to learn is to dive right in head first. But before taking the plunge, there are a few tips and tricks you can try to avoid a noisy, uninviting space that's a waste of your time as well as your money.
It's said that selecting the largest pattern first serves as a good jumping-off point; it allows for the addition of affordable accessories that can be experimented with and switched around at no major cost. Also, don't forget about colour blocking: statement patterns shine bright in a room where the eyes have a place to rest, be it a single-coloured wall, floor or piece of furniture. This neutral ground will pull your patterns together and won't bombard the space with too much of a good thing.
"Mixing different patterns is tricky to get right but when it's done correctly it can look very chic," says Caoimhe Derwin, in-house interior stylist at Murphy Sheehy Fabrics (murphysheehy.com). "One of the first things I would consider when mixing patterns is the colour palette. Simplifying the range to just three or four main colours creates a sense of harmony between juxtaposing patterns; any more than that can look a bit chaotic."
Texture, as well as colour, is the other element to factor in, says interior designer Eva Byrne of Houseology (houseology.ie). "The trick is to use a variety of textures: soft and hard, thick and low pile rugs, cushions and throws. Then you can use strong and punchy patterns to produce a vibrant, but not a strident, effect. A black-and-white striped rug, for example, can provide a wonderful anchor to a living room."
Size matters - large scale prints can often be too big for scatter cushions or for small rooms, and complicated, intricate patterns can get lost in places like the pleats of a curtain. It's always useful to bring home fabric, wallpaper, rug and curtain samples to see how they sit, scale-wise, within the room and how they complement your permanent accessories and furniture.
Caoimhe and Eva both advise the use of monochrome if delving into pattern mixing for the first time. "It's a great way to introduce pattern to the home. Geometric patterns work particularly well - think of stripes, spots and herringbone," says Eva. "Monochrome designs work really well against brightly coloured patterns and adding solid colours to the mix creates a sense of balance," Caoimhe adds.
If you still feel reluctant, then sticking to one colour could be the solution. Look at decorative pieces that feature differing patterns and textures but are mainly made up of a block colour. This will still add interest and show your experimental side, but it's perfect if you're hesitant about going all out.
"I think the most important rule of all is to have fun," Caoimhe emphasises. Stick to the palette you love and one that suits your personality, whether it's an outrageous clash of roses and zigzags or a safer collection of nautical stripes and seashells. Trust your instincts."
Anna Shelswell-White is editor of House and Home magazine