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How to style clashing patterns

The word 'clash' might make you think that different patterns should never be mixed. Nick Acaster, Managing Director of Rugs Direct, says that's not the case — it's all about how you style them.

Decades ago, the idea of clashing patterns was superseded by minimalism, both in fashion and interior design. But in the last few years, with the development of the maximalist philosophy, this way of doing things is coming back into style. It existed for good reason: it is very easy to get pattern clashing wrong. But, when done with care, you can create a vibrant room that springs into life.

For most people, getting this right can be a daunting task. But, by following a few simple rules, you will be able to create a fantastic room that is as unique as it is stylish. Whether you want clashing patterns throughout your entire home, or just want to try the idea out with some soft furnishings, I’m going to walk you through what you need to take into consideration when combining clashing patterns.

Start big

It may seem a bit counterintuitive to start big. After all, we're often taught to start with small steps and build our way up. But going big is the key to perfectly executing clashing patterns. When you are thinking about how your space will look, the most important consideration is the largest pattern. Whether that is a large rug in the centre of the room or patterned curtains around the walls, the largest pattern will be picked up most by the eye, and will therefore have the most impact on how the space is perceived. Once this has been decided, you will need to think about the second largest pattern, then the third, and so on. Incorporating one pattern at a time in this way will allow you to maintain a balance between repetition and being too busy.

Tie it all together

For the most appealing design, you need to make sure that there is a method to your madness — a common thread that ties each individual piece together. This is the foundation that sets the tone for the entire room. Things to consider are the colour palette you are going for, what your style of décor is, and the shape of the room and furnishings. Of these, the most important is colour. Clashing patterns already creates a busy-looking design, so it is wise to shy away from a mix of flamboyant colours. The more colours you put in the mix, the harder the job of successfully clashing various patterns becomes. If this is your first foray into this style, I’d recommend keeping it simple. The best way to create contrast without going over the top is to use different shades of the same colour, or others that are close on the colour wheel.

Opposites attract

Clashing patterns well is its own art form, but there are some combinations that simply won’t work. When thinking about the types of patterns you will be using, you want to find those that have a subtle contrast, rather than those that are wildly different. Again, keep it simple. If someone walks into your room thinking about how many different patterns they can see, you are doing it wrong. One way to go is mixing free flowing floral patterns with a more rigid, geometric pattern. This combination looks fantastic and has many variations, creating designs that are loud and ones that blend in seamlessly.

Think texture

The subtlest aspect of styling clashing patterns is to think about the textures of the fabrics that your patterns will sit on. While the patterns themselves will undoubtedly be the star of the show, adding layered textures can help to make the room more visually appealing. A mixture of textures throughout the home, whether that is curtains, upholsters, or soft furnishings can add extra element to any room, so you should take the time to experiment with the various looks and feels that different combinations can provide. A fantastic easy option is to contrast some nicely polished natural cotton with the roughness of wool or cashmere to create some extra depth to the room.

Now you have a basic understanding of how to style clashing patterns, and top tips on how to get started on your own design. Follow the tips above and you’ll create a space that truly comes alive.
 

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