Pattern Play


As a designer, I find the most risk and reward comes from selecting fabrics for a space. From upholstery to drapes to throw pillows to bedding, coordinating fabrics can be tricky. What scales, what colors? Do you stick with matchy-matchy? Or do you step outside the box and haphazardly go with your favorites?

The first thing to consider is the scale of the prints. Each patterned fabric in a room should have a different size. For example, mix a big floral print pillow with a narrow stripe drape, and a medium geometric print side chair.

I have also heard the 2-to-1 rule. That rule states that two of your fabrics should be of the same scale and the third should be different. For instance, two small, one big. Put together a small patterned sofa with a throw pillow featuring a different small print and one pillow with a large print. Or you can have two large prints and one small.

No matter which guide you go with: all different scales or the 2-to-1, you won’t go wrong if all the prints share common colors. Perhaps your bedroom drapes are a motley mix of shapes, featuring navy, fuchsia, and purple. Throw a variegated, violet blanket on the foot of the bed. Then select bedding dappled with navy and purple flowers.

Or, if you prefer a bohemian look, throw all rules out the window! As long as all your fabrics and upholstery reflect the feel of the room, you’ll have a cohesive space. Decide on a three-word phrase to sum up the feel of the room. Then, before purchasing each fabric item, ask yourself if it reflects the phrase you’ve come up with. If it does, you have a winner! Most recently, I selected a pastel yellow, toile sheet set for a bedroom and paired it will a chocolate zebra stripe duvet. It mixed a touch of New England with sexy-chic appeal. The pairing was both subtle and sophisticated. I surprised even myself with how much I loved it!

In design, you have to know when to follow the rules and when to break them. As long as you have a clear vision for your space, fabrics are a place to have fun, take chances, and add a few elements of surprise.

— Betsy Head


Categories: Design Tips Furniture Buying Tips

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