Mix and Don't Match: Adding Style with Prints

From our youth, we learn how to match — like when you play one of those classic card games flipping pictures of farm animals. Matching can be helpful with games and socks, but it isn’t always your friend when creating a space with personality and style. By carefully introducing complementary colors, textures and patterns you can avoid making a space feel like it’s a page ripped out of a catalog from one store (hint: also source your pieces from more than one store…always!).

One of the easiest ways to create an original design is by playing with patterns….yes, more than one. Here are a few tips for those who aren’t comfortable mixing but want to push themselves beyond their comfort zone:

1. Pick a print you love. Start with a textile or pattern that you gravitate toward and make that the foundation you build on. It doesn’t have to be on the largest piece in the room and can even be something as small as an accent pillow.

2. Take inspiration from your print for your palette. This doesn’t necessarily mean pulling specific colors from the print or every color. If it’s a bold print/pattern, it may mean finding the right neutral in tone and saturation that will ensure your print pops. Identify primary and secondary colors that can be through lines in your space. If it’s something more subtle (like the rug pictured), think about pulling a contrasting color to feature in another piece to bring out the pattern.

3. Categorize your print and contrast. Is your primary print large or small scale? Is it floral, geometric or linear perhaps? If it’s smaller in scale, you’ll want complement it with another pattern in a larger scale. Similarly, if it’s linear, consider bringing in a floral (modern or traditional) or a pattern with more movement/roundness.

4. Pick three patterns (at least). There are many principals that invoke the rule of three. Your three patterns don’t all have to be bold but they should draw from the same palette…think a rug with a subtle geometric pattern paired with a striped accent chair and a floral accent pillow on a neutral sofa.

5. Have fun! Prints are a great way to update a space with minimal investment. If you’re afraid to commit, choose things you can return and swap easily and put a hold on those custom upholstery orders. Rugs, throw pillows , duvets, table runners and even temporary wallpaper are all easy options.

Amber Harris is the owner of At Home DC, an interior decorator and a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties working with clients in DC, Maryland and Virginia.