There are actually very few rules about what goes together and what does not when it comes to patterns (although Brian Patrick Flynn does a bang-up task of explaining pattern layering here). You can stick to the colour wheel or throw it. You can stay geometric or decide which florals and plaid look divine together.
But throwing things collectively rarely works out. As with anything in great design, patterns should be used with intention. And though the principles are flexible, there are a number of things to keep in mind in regards to layering patterns.
It is very good to have a unifying component. Sometimes it’s colour, sometimes it’s colour value (the lightness or darkness of a color), and sometimes it’s something more difficult to define. I love to call it a vibe, but “theme” probably works also. Pay attention to the scale of a pattern. You do not want a lot of large-scale designs competing. Pick one large-scale layout and let it function as anchor. Clutter is a patterned room’s worst enemy. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking, blueprint functions well when it isn’t competing with lots of knickknacks or a large wreck. In the end, layering pattern can be hard, but it is well worth the effort. Layered patterns keep a space from looking as a corporate apartment. They include depth and character and make a room unique. But doing so does take courage.
All these 15 chambers — from opulent traditional to Topanga Canyon boho — all get pattern layering right.
Katherine Robertson Photography
A Persian rug is a patterned masterpiece — rich, vibrant and timeless. It is tempting to let it be the focus of an otherwise neutral area. However, these carpets go so well with so much, there is no need to restrict yourself. This eclectic room incorporates classic stripes, a modern abstract painting and a number of patterned pillows. Together the look is a hot meeting of old and new, traditional and bold.
Here is another instance of a Persian rug getting along swimmingly with several patterns and textures. In this room it’s not merely the fabrics but also the materials — wood and stone — which contribute to the general effect. The space functions because there is a yellow-beige undertone throughout, tons of black and white in different scales, and hardly any mess.
Erika Bierman Photography
I’m not exactly sure how this chamber does it, but it functions. I believe that it’s the pop art feeling of the graffiti wall and also striped dresser against the very traditional design and style in the rest of the room. The dresser is like a piece of art here — not afraid to be noticed.
Look at this conventional, subdued and elegant room only chockablock with pattern. It is about the rug, the ceiling, the display and the pillows. It remains subtle because the colors are soft or neutral and everything about the space is completely symmetrical.
Pal + Smith
Employing wallpaper is going to add a lot of pattern to a space. But that doesn’t at all mean it needs to be the sole pattern. This bold mod blossom design is compared to and complemented with the bold geometric rug. The greens throughout — at the painting, the wallpaper and small touches — deliver the look together, and the pops of magenta add needed brightness.
Many conventional cultural patterns are only made for blending. Embroidery of all colors and styles can work in a controlled mess. Obviously, it is helpful to have a low-key, impartial background like this roof deck will. It allows all those patterns to pop up.
Madison Modern Home
Here is another example of how many traditional and cultural patterns can mix nicely. There are Tibetan prayer flags, a Persian rug and all manner of other patterns and colors. They share a deep shade scheme — lots of burgundies, browns and indigos — and a geometric decoration. But they share a exotic, earthy feeling.
See more of this cottage of curiosities at Los Angeles
Adeeni Design Group
Here is another pattern-filled room that is brought together by the deep, rich hues. That zebra print against a Persian rug should not work, but the entire room mellows out it using all the earthy browns, mossy greens and dark reds.
The mod-house version of layering pattern. I love the way the several patterns, colors and textures help split the different spaces in this long, open hallway and also draw the eye ahead. Why do the patterns work? Because the rest of the space is indeed clean, neutral and uncluttered, and because the scale and shape of the pattern are varied.
See more of this gloriously untamed Manhattan house
Nothing about this space could be described as clean, neutral and uncluttered, and yet the crazy mix of patterns and colors functions also. Why? Partly because the designer was completely fearless, and partially due to geometric lines and vivid colors are repeated. See that flowery design on the pastel pink pillow? It echoes the glowing starburst from the wallpaper. The wooden chair matches the orangey red in the wallpaper, and the pictures themselves are a part of the grid layout. But then that which is loose enough not to seem too styled. Confusing, huh?
Lindsay von Hagel
The wallpaper and chair fabrics in this slick, modern dining area are all in exactly the same geometric family in complementary colors with similar values.
Lauren Ostrow Interior Design, Inc
This conventional living room has lots of layout, but the designs are all repeated — three flowery blinds, two plaid stools — also brought together with precisely the same lace blue and yellow-beige. You may even select the small-, medium- and – large-scale patterns pretty readily.
Paula Grace Designs, Inc..
Another pattern-crazy conventional living area. Here the uniting force is gold yellow and also a tactile lavishness. Everything in this room appears worthy of touching.
Tara Seawright Interior Design
The designs here are so soft and subtle, they nearly enroll as solids. But do not be fooled; stripes, florals and abstracts do hard work changing what could have been a dull room into a gorgeous beauty loaded with feel.
Tara Seawright Interior Design
Another soft, relaxing area awash in pattern. The black and white flowery wallpaper gets the grounding effect of a solid-color wall, but it’s considerably more intriguing. The light yellows and greens soften this, and the utter lack of distracting clutter makes it function.
More: A decorator’s formula for layering patterns directly