When did we become so afraid of pattern clashing? No matter what style is yours, it’s undeniable that everyone has their own soft spot for a particular pattern or print. Whether it’s gingham or plaid, vibrant floral or the classic animal print, there is no easier way to liven up your wardrobe or living space. But somewhere along the way someone decided that patterns don’t go together. That “it’s safest to pair your bold pattern with a safe neutral for ease on the eyes”. Here at Bowerbird we aren’t interested in playing it safe and pattern clashing for us is the best way to stand out from a crowd. Let your home or outfit express your personality with a bold and dynamic statement! I don’t know about you guys but I choose to embrace the endless possibilities of mixing and matching patterns.
Still unsure? Start with the basics and follow some of my super simple steps to help you step out of your comfort zone and embrace the bold (and bright) unknown!
Choose Your Colour Palette
First and foremost is the fun bit – defining your colour palette. If you choose a warm and rosy palette, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your patterns can only be red, pink or orange. But it does mean that you get to set down the foundation for the general colour scheme you want. Colours speak to us and influence our mood. So, keep that in mind and work with one room at a time. Are you looking to bring some cooling and cleansing blue tones into a particularly busy living space? Or maybe today is the day that you feel like an unstoppable force and want to show off this energy with an outfit of strong, red vibes. Don’t try to map out the whole scheme in one go. Make a start. Add one new element to a room and see how other colours react and compliment it. Each pattern generally has strong foundational colours, and so chances are if you find patterns all rooted in cool tones or strong moods, they’re going to work in harmony.
Tip: The “Colour Palette” doesn’t need to be restricted to only colours. For example, your general theme can be warmth and include patterns that incite a feeling of warmth – like the dynamic stripes in this example from Evie Kemp. The pinks and reds to maintain dominance over the colour palette while welcoming other patterns and colours. Don’t the blacks and whites ground the pinks and reds without compromising their vibrant energy?
What Makes A Pattern?
Be bold! With the innumerable array of patterns out there, your opportunities are endless in colour, style and scale. The great thing about this point as well is that you can be so flexible with how you mix and match, right down to the smallest detail of the texture. Obviously there are spots, florals, stripes and geometrics but even your basic solids don’t have to be so basic when you have the chance to incorporate different weaves and textures of fabric.
Tip: In our many years at Bowerbird we’ve seen patterns come and go with the fashion trends. But there are still a handful that struck our hearts when we first saw them, and they are still among our favourites today. Go with your heart over what “matches”, and you’ll still love it in years to come.
Don’t Be Afraid to Tell More Than One Story
We know that every pattern tells a story through the style, size and execution of the print. A bold, abstract floral print for example will convey a completely different story to that of a delicate Chinoiserie. However this doesn’t necessarily mean that the two can’t live in harmony together! Contrary to that, the two can actually compliment each other well and work in unison to provide multiple story lines in the home (or outfit). The key is to find patterns that have notes in common. Try finding specific links between the two, such as matching focal colours or themes. If one has pops of orange throughout it, then try to find a pattern that has that too!
Let One Pattern Dominate
As we mentioned before, there’s no limitations on what patterns or how many of them you want to include. However, it’s easiest to let one pattern be the star of the show and find ‘go withs’. Choose the hero pattern that you think is the strongest – the one that always draws your eye – and work around it. Place your hero pattern in the centre and pull out various colours in stripes, spots, plains, textures and geometrics. Let the conversation grow organically. This works just as well for clothes, having a hero pattern of the outfit! Check out our new Romance Collection Culottes which could work perfectly as the centre of attention!
Avoid Pattern Clashing By Keeping A Dialogue
So we’ve covered the basics and encouraged you to expand your horizons with the different story lines of the patterns. Now let’s take a moment to emphasise the importance of these stories having a common thread. Sound complicated? Don’t worry, it’s not! There are some very simple ways to get a dialogue going between the patterns. Choose fabrics that have:
- Same theme – traditional, oriental, tropical, modern etc
- Different scale – from plain to large pattern and everything in between
- Same colour palette or tone – earthy, clear jewel tones, crisp whites, deep rich tones etc
Choosing a theme can be just as important as choosing a colour palette. Say you pick a jungle theme and your hero fabric is a large leafy pattern with a leopard. In keeping with the theme, a good ‘go with’ is a grass weave wallpaper and a zebra stripe. If you want to add another pattern, like a geometric, choose one that is a different scale to the zebra and the leafy hero. Multiple patterns of the same scale can fight and look busy. And again, always come back to the common ground of your chosen colour palette to give an overall sense of cohesion. For more examples of patterns talking to each other, check out our post on Eclectic Interior Design.
Stripes and Spots Don’t Clash
Ah the golden rule for the classics, and my favourite rule of all! Spots and stripes, and other classic patterns very rarely clash with hero fabrics (just be aware of the scale). Our eyes are already adjusted to their appearance and they are so commonplace in our lives at that they can be paired as a neutral with most patterns. You’ll find that they simply add depth and interest to your scheme without overwhelming them. On another note: We’d argue that blue and white patterns fit this rule also! Think of blue and white like a vase of flowers. It’s a pop that doesn’t need to match! If you’d like to keep the spots simple though, our signature brush stroke spot pattern has been turned into wearable fashion in our flutter top and cross skirt! Start subtle and build your confidence – and if you don’t feel like pattern clashing the two go great together!
Hopefully after reading this, you’re feeling ready to tackle some pattern combinations. In case you haven’t noticed, here at Bowerbird we aren’t exactly minimal in our fabrics! But if you want to take away some key points from reading this, I’ve summarized the important stuff and added some golden extras in:
- Choosing the colour palette is a crucial first step – have fun with it!
- Don’t limit yourself to just one type or scale of fabric
- Matching colours in patterns is the quickest path to success
- Maintain similarities between the backgrounds – A white background won’t pair well with a linen background!
- Let one pattern be the star of the show
- Make sure your patterns are talking to each other (and saying nice things!)
- Broaden your ideas of neutrals (spots, stripes, textures and the classic blue and white)