"Do these go together?" is one of those age-old design questions we never seem to stop asking ourselves. Whether we're talking color, furniture—or the most mystifying of all, pattern—deciding whether two or more things mesh can be a struggle for us novice designers. To help guide our pattern mash-ups, we're taking a look at seven rooms that get it right and uncovering the top reason why they work. These principles will help build your pattern confidence, so you can let loose and trust your eye.
Vary the scale.
Combining patterns with different scales prevents a space from feeling visually cluttered. In the living room above, shot by Nicolette Johnson and spotted on Popsugar, the large-scale kilim rug draws your eye first, and only later do you discover the small-scale geometric pillows above.
Get the look: Choose small, medium, and large-scale patterns. Reserve big, eye-catching motifs for statement pieces like a rug.
Let one design shine.
In the bedroom above spotted in a Swedish home on Indie Days, William Morris wallpaper is balanced by an abstract brushstroke bedspread and a subtle striped rug. The room is filled with pattern, but it's the bold botanical print that catches your attention.
Get the look: Pair iconic and eye-catching patterns with more subtle or abstract ones so that the prints don't compete for attention. Mix watercolor designs with geometrics, or combine palm prints with understated stripes.
Keep the colors cohesive.
A mix of contemporary patterns hangs together in this living room from Veranda, thanks to a limited palette of off-whites and blues. In the space above, large-scale patterns adorn the walls and curtains, while more intricate prints are reserved for accessories, such as on the throw pillow and sofa.
Get the look: Choose patterns that adhere to a specific color scheme, but play with style and scale.
Follow a theme
In theory, combining patterned art, pillows, blankets and rugs in one spot should be visually overwhelming. However, this living room from Coco Kelly proves that the overall effect can be surprisingly clean. The trick is presenting variations on a theme—in this case, graphic patterns—and leaving plenty of white space.
Get the look: Whether geometrics, botanicals, or nautical designs strike your fancy—pick a theme and follow it. Add in solids, and be generous with white space.
Leave room for white space.
Florals, stripes, dots, and triangles can all be found in the bedroom above from Bloggaibagis. But for a space rocking four patterns, the effect is shockingly minimal. Except for small touches of blush and orange, the color palette is kept neutral, and small hits of pattern are balanced with plenty of white space.
Get the look: Find the right ratio of prints to solid surfaces. Throw pillows, blankets, and rugs add "reversible" pops of pattern, letting you experiment with prints in a room that's a blank slate.
Embrace the bohemian.
If your decor style is boho (take our Decor Personality Quiz to find out!), then you're probably already a pro at mixing patterns with abandon. For more inspiration, like the jaw-dropping porch above, follow Jennifer Harrison's stunning Instagram feed.
Get the look: Almost any pattern can work with the bohemian aesthetic, especially since the look itself is characterized by a melange of global styles. Start off with these heavy-hitters: mudcloth, shibori, kilim patterns, and mandala-inspired designs.
Start with art you already own.
Life imitates art in this living room by John Derian. Hugo Guinness prints are paired with floral and indigo-dyed throw pillows. Similar floral patterns connect the art to the pillows, while a cohesive color palette lends harmony.
Get the look: Play up an abstract painting with abstract throw pillows, or match a geometric print to a graphic throw blanket. Then pile on accessories in different patterns, but a unifying color scheme.