Mixing patterns is easier than you think.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated August 14, 2019
Home Makeover with Patterns, Living Room
Credit: Thomas Kuoh

If you've ever designed your own space, you likely already know how challenging it can be to work with patterns. How do you prevent them from becoming overwhelming? How do you know if two (or more) patterns work together? How many patterns are too many patterns? If you're grappling with these design decisions but have hopes of one day become a pattern mix master, start by following the pro-approved lessons below.

In this beautiful San Francisco family home made over by the interior design firm Heaton + Williams, patterns abound. Yet they blend seamlessly into the space and they never threaten to overwhelm the room, even when multiple patterns appear together. What's the secret? We asked designers Courtney Heaton and Laura Williams-Ulam how they pulled off pattern and made it look so effortless in this home. Below, their tried-and-true tricks for working pattern into your own space.

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Home makeover living room
Credit: Thomas Kuoh

1 Switch Up the Scale

In the gorgeous living room, a mix of pattern pops on the curtains and throw pillows. "We love mixing patterns!," says Laura Williams. And while she assures us that there aren't many rules to follow, there are a few guidelines that can help when introducing patterns. Tip #1: "We usually like to mix a bigger scale pattern with a smaller scale pattern." With a smaller scale on the window treatments and a larger scale on the pillows, the patterns play nicely in the same space.

Pattern kitchen banquette
Credit: Thomas Kuoh

2 Keep Color Palette in Mind

When displaying throw pillows with different patterns, pay attention to the palette. "A good way to ensure a mix of pillows will work is to have one common color in all the pillows, this will make it all look purposeful. Again, the rule of small and big scale patterns will help make it work well together, too," explains Courtney Heaton.

Home Makeover with Bedroom
Credit: Thomas Kuoh

3 Start Small

Don't feel comfortable investing in patterned pieces just yet? It's okay to start small. "We recommend using pattern on items that don't break the bank to start," says Heaton, like adding a few throw pillows to a solid color sofa or bed. "Then once you build your confidence, move to bigger items such as accent chairs and curtains."

Pattern in Bathroom wallpaper
Credit: Thomas Kuoh

4 When Pattern Becomes Texture

If you choose a small repeating pattern, from far away, it often appears as a texture rather than a motif. For example, in the bathroom, the intricately patterned wallpaper appears textural, which prevents it from overwhelming the small space.