Florals and Stripes and Geos—Oh, My!
Or, How to Successfully Mix Patterns in an Interior Setting
People of a certain age will remember. People of certain other ages won’t. For a time in the 1980s, fashion (especially British fashion) was all about pattern mixing. Taboo in many circles for decades, this delicate art saw a resurgence circa 1984-87, having not been in vogue (if not Vogue) since the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Being in my youthful heyday in the mid-‘80s (drinking age, my own place, relatively trim frame, etc.), I was greatly influenced by this—and the images I saw in the pages of I.D., The Face and Blitz. I like to think I got the hang of it back then, something which serves me today in my interiors practice.
Subtle or bold, pattern mixing brings life, personality and interest to a space. This can be as simple—and traditional—as stripes with florals (thank you Dorothy Draper and Sister Parish) or as bombastic as all get-out (similar gratitude, Jonathan Adler, Kelly Wearstler, et al). In my own work I tend to hover in-between, although I do swing the pendulum as necessary. The practice is hardly alchemical; rather, it is a matter of scale and, in large means, gut instinct. You either get it right or you don’t. And your clients will either get it or not.
When the two meet the result is magical: gratifying, exciting and photo-worthy. I particularly like acting as a traffic cop who allows collisions at the corner of Modern Street and Traditional Avenue. In this context the two aesthetics gain strength from one another; the modern lending order to the traditional and the traditional infusing the modern with soul. I recently reupholstered some show-wood armchairs with a Robert Allen print reminiscent of sunlight on water—perfect for my client’s new river-view penthouse. Sitting atop a traditional Persian rug in ivories, golds and blues, the chairs they experienced for years in a very conservative setting were given both new life and new purpose. They love them (and me, naturally) as a result.
As I mentioned previously, successful pattern-mixing is largely a matter of scale: the correct blend of small, medium and large, with a bit of texture thrown in for good measure. I can’t remember if it was Thom Filicia or Nate Berkus but one of them also cited theimportance of density in the mix, opining that the negative space around a print is as crucial as the pattern elements themselves. A wise observation, whoever it was…
There’s no law saying you require the assistance of a professional to tackle this successfully but, believe me, it does help. I can’t tell you how many times clients have said, “I would never have put those things together myself but I love it!” Certainly a gratifying response to one’s efforts… If you’re working on your own, be sure to ‘play’ as much as you can, blending your elements with abandon using swatches and samples before committing to the scheme. A good rule of thumb in a medium-sized space is two large prints, three medium ones and five small. Like I said, much of this comes down to gut instinct—so go with your gut if you truly feel your blend is working. However, if doubt persists and all else fails, you can always contact me…