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How to Layer Pattern

Photo courtesy of Alison Giese Interiors

One of the trickiest aspects of designing a room is combining patterns in a way that feels cohesive and layered and not kooky and mis-matched. I think that is probably why many of us shy away from using too much pattern and generally keep our investment pieces fairly neutral and solid. So, as layered spaces are becoming more popular, let’s demystify the process so we can all feel more confident adding pattern and color into our homes.

There are four things to consider when it comes to pattern: color, shape, scale, and texture. Generally speaking, if you vary each of theses things and choose a unifying thread to tie them all together, you can successfully add pattern into your space.

living room with antique rug and pattern sofa

Photo by Heidi Caillier | Photo by Haris Kenjar

Vary the Scale

In general, most of the patterns in the room should vary in scale from very small to large or even over-sized. Think a tiny check or herringbone on a chair, a wide stripe on a pillow, and a large floral. It’s a common — and easy to make — misstep to not consider the scale, and if all the patterns are the same size, it can leave a room feeling busy and mismatched, rather than harmonious and carefully considered.

Design by Katie Hackworth | Photo by Thomas Story  

Use Differing Shapes

While choosing pattern with different scale, likely the shapes of the patterns will also differ. To be sure, include some that are linear or geometric and others that have more organic movement, like a floral. A vintage rug is great way to add both versions to your space as many have both geometric and softer shapes.

Living room with antique rug and wallpaper

Design by Jake Arnold | Photo by Tria Giovan for Luxe Magazine

Consider the Colors

Each of us will have a different tolerance for the number of colors in a room, but perhaps more a more important consideration is the tone of the color. If all of your colors are clear and bright, or muted and neutral (yes, neutrals are colors!), or muddy and saturated, they will live harmoniously no matter how many you use. Of course, it’s a good idea to choose something — whether a fabric or rug — that will unite all (or at least most) of the colors you’d like to use. If you have a color palette in mind and would like help sourcing a rug to pull it together, please get in touch about my custom sourcing service.

bedroom with antique rug

Design by Amber Interiors | Photo by Jess Isaac

Think Beyond Textiles

It’s easy to focus on textiles when thinking of patterns in a room, but truthfully, nearly everything has a pattern that will contribute to the overall look and feel of the room, whether it is intentionally considered or not. The grain of the wood, the veining on stone, and the pattern on the canning of a chair each have something to say and should be counted when making a tally of the patterns in a space.

I hope this was helpful and that you feel more confident about adding meaningful and beautiful layers to your homes. If you'd like to add a vintage rug, you can shop my in-stock collection, or get in touch and I can help you find one that is a perfect fit.