Interior Design for Living: Mix of patterns creates carefree, friendly decorations


Mixing patterns in a room is an excit­ing way to create warmth, friendliness and perhaps even a sense of humor.

Hectic schedules often demand a more casual way of living and entertaining at home. A colorful, often playful combina­tion of prints is appealing for it seems to reflect that lifestyle.

Rooms that work well appear to be a natural — not forced — combination, but this skill of mixing patterns in a room is not as carefree as it may seem. There are a few basic guidelines that can establish a bit of necessary order in what other­wise would appear to be random selec­tion.

First, select the major pattern in the room. This will be the largest scale and the most striking. The other elements in the room will revolve around it.

The scale of any print should suit its application. A large dramatic print should be used for draperies or a sofa. A smaller pattern should be selected for side chairs or any item that is not large enough to effectively display the larger design.

The dominant focal point of pattern m the room does not have to be a fabric. It may be an area rug, a tapestry, wallpaper or a large painting.

Once you have selected the major pat­tern, the color scheme of the room has been determined. From this point, your concerns are correlation of color and dis­tribution and scale of pattern.

The large-scale primary pattern should be balanced in the room. For the sake of discussion, let's presume you're planning to use this major pattern for the fabric on your sofa.

A dominant pattern will appear heav­ier, especially when used on larger areas, than a fabric with a small design. Conse­quently, care must be taken to assure the room doesn't appear lopsided.

Using the same sofa fabric across the room to distribute the print, perhaps for draperies, is the most effective way to add balance. A heavily patterned sofa also may be balanced by a fireplace, wall unit, painting or large window.

If the main pattern in the room is a large-scale floral design — and your ob­ject is to mix patterned fabrics — consid­er three possibilities for your next selec­tion: a geometric, a stripe or a smaller-scale floral.

Born me selection or me furniture it­self and the fabric determine the feeling in a room. Choose the style of furniture first and then select the appropriate fab­ric.

Lightly scaled furniture and pastel flo­ral prints create a far more feminine ef­fect, for example, than a wing chair with a bold linear print in a more intense col­or.

After deciding upon two prints for the room, use the same principles — conf­lation of color, distribution and scale of pattern — to determine the third.

If you selected a stripe for a wing chair, you shouldn't consider another similar stripe. Vary the type of print and consider the importance of balance with the other patterns already selected.

If the striped wing chair is to be on one side of a fireplace and the third selection on the other, it must be strong enough to hold its own.

With a large-scale floral as your focal point in the room and an interesting col­or-correlated stripe on a wing chair, you might then consider a geometric pattern or even another floral in a small scale for the third piece. The intensity of color in the designs must balance as well as the
designs themselves.

Other very small prints and fabrics that are basically one color are easily incorporated into your scheme once the main patterns have been determined. Do not hesitate to mix the fabrics already selected throughout the room.

Pattern is introduced to a room not only by fabric selection. The other ele­ments in the room are vital to overall effect.

Accessories, such as decorative lamps, pottery, art, throw pillows and floral ar­rangements all add interest.

Lighting, such as light from the ceiling washing down over a heavily textured wall, can create pattern. Decorative pieces of furniture with faux finishes; chinoiserie or carving are other pattern possibilities. The walls, floor and ceiling provide the background of the room and also offer many choices for pattern.

For the selection of patterns in the room other than fabrics, apply the same, principles. Always keep in mind the cor­relation of color, distribution and scale of pattern as well as the overall effect that you envision.

Above all, don't be timid. Play and ex­periment. The results will be better and you'll have much more fun designing it.

Susan Gill Spellmeyer is an interior designer with a background in architecture and home construction. Readers with questions on home design may write to her in care of

The Orlando Sentinel, P.O
Box 1100, Orlando, FL. 32802-1100.

She cannot make personal replies.