Top 3 Tips for Mixing Patterns

DECO Pattern
DECO once again turns to Patrizia Moroso's impeccable style for advice, as seen on Yellowtrace.com.au

Combining florals with stripes is simple. But what about colourful patterns that don’t seem to have names, let alone match?  Whether you call them West African, Ethnic, Traditional or Tribal; guest writer Belinda Fourie offers DECO tips on using bold fabrics in homes.

DECO Pattern
Don’t miss out on the fun of playing with patterns, all you need is a little skill and confidence Image: decorandyouhr.com

1. Get your colours right

Choose colours that go together or are similar, even when the patterns aren’t.  It’s important to consider your existing colour scheme and ratios here. Complimentary  (colours opposite each other on the colour wheel), and adjacent colours (next to each other) are easy tools to use when creating a tasteful pattern combination.

DECO PAttern
For the brave, a triad of colours (every fourth colour on the wheel) creates an organised mix of dissimilar colours. Image: Patrizia Moroso, seen on yellowtrace.com.au

Take note of the intensity of your colours.  Although pastels and brights are in popular use with greys and blacks, combinations should generally hail from the same intensities, i.e. don’t use muted tones with pastels. As far as metals go – golds, coppers and rose golds – they’re still trending and work well with pastels, darks and neutrals

DECO Pattern
Sometimes ethnic motifs are disguised by use of pastels and pinks instead of the original blues, browns and oranges. Image: star times.com

European motifs can have an African appearance due to the use of golds, dark blues and browns. This means you can stick to your neutrals and greys, and add a proudly African touch without having an overtly traditional African décor style.

2. Banish the pattern purist

In terms of pattern combinations, it’s wise to combine one or two bold patterns along with other fine and dissimilar motifs. The finer designs almost take the place of a solid or neutral in such a case.

DECO Pattern
Carefully select your ornaments – solid, neutral colours and metals will add a sense of luxury, whereas something with a range of colours could easily look garish. Image: citylovefashion.com

If your entire space is neutral you could get away with pattern matching only and forgetting about colours.  Here you combine more than one fabric with the same design, but different colours. This focusses the eye on repetition of form and draws it away from clashing colours. It’s also a good idea to look at the type of fabric and print. If the fabric is hand printed, digitally printed, weaved or embroidered, this will have an effect on the texture of the fabrics

Header4_Mixing Prints and Patterns_Belinda Fourie_26Oct15
Although variation in texture is important, some caution needs to be taken not to lose all sense of balance and repetition.

3. Get your names right

Many ethnic patterns that are currently in vogue have their roots all over the world, such as the colourful designs iconic to West Africa:  They’re really called Dutch Wax Prints and were originally produced in Indonesia.

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Duth Wax prints mix well with European decor styles such as Scandinavian, or even Classical. Images from left: Julius Dutch Wax print by Yardwork and Vivavisco by Africa Fashion Guide

Despite their popularity on fashion runways and at design expos, these fabrics make relatively few appearances in the average South African home.  Although many may prefer the more classic designs, we wouldn’t want South Africans to miss out on the fun of playing with patterns if all they need is a little skill and confidence.


Belinda_fourie interior decorating and lifestyle writingGuest writer Belinda Fourie is a qualified journalist and interior decorator with a background in art history, theatre, English and French. Belinda creates a rich mix of the lot and runs her own interior decorating and lifestyle writing company, Tassels & Tigers, where she’s constantly inspired by new projects and loves getting her hands on beautiful artifacts, books and fabrics.Visit Belinda Fourie on her website or follow her on TwitterPinterestInstagram or Facebook.


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