How to Play with Pattern

Incorporating pattern into décor is an excellent way to inject personality and give new life to a space. Since coming up with a scheme that results in a chic—rather than competing—combination can seem daunting, we asked Lauren Guarcello, owner of Fair Haven, New Jersey-based Porter Design Company, to share her secrets to creating a sophisticated mix. Here, she discusses the four major elements typically involved in pattern play, and how to make them work together (hint: they don’t need to “match”). While Guarcello is quick to note that when it comes to mixing patterns there are no definite guidelines, the following principles should help you approach your next project with confidence.

Be smart with scale. While there are many exceptions, variation in scale is the key to creating the perfect pattern combination, says Guarcello, who recommends mixing small, medium, and large-scale patterns to create balance and beauty in a space. “We love pairing a large-scale window treatment fabric with a small geometric print. Adding solid fabrics breaks up the patterned pieces and creates a visual resting spot. Following this simple rule ensures that the patterns do not compete with one another,” she says.

Decide on a dominant color. “Use color as the unifying agent when playing with patterns,” Guarcello advises. “When you vary the scale and type of pattern, you can create a very cohesive look this way.”

Use organic and organized shapes: “When it comes to mixing shapes, we recommend marrying organic with more organized or geometric forms,” Guarcello says. “Organic patterns tend to have more movement while geometric patterns typically have a more definite pattern to them, so using both creates more contrast in a space.”

Create the perfect cocktail of materials. For the truly pattern-averse, Guarcello offers this advice: Mix luxe materials such as lacquer, mohair, or metallic with more natural material like grasscloth, burlap, or sisal. “Although these materials don’t exhibit a strong pattern per say, their textural features act as their pattern,” she explains.

TSG Tip 193 and featured space from Lauren Guarcello of Porter Design Company. Porter Design Company is featured in The Scout Guide Two Rivers & The Shore.