It's All About the Fabric

Mixing fabrics can pull a room together with remarkable grace.

By FamilyTime


Choosing the right fabric for your living room or bedroom can transform an ordinary room into a standout. The colors, patterns and textures work together to please the eye and make the space especially welcoming.

The right fabrics make all the difference and knowing which ones to mix and match is key. Here’s how.

How to Begin

Choose a pattern with at least three colors you like. This could be a floral, geometric, or other design. The lightest color in the mix should show up as the background color for the other patterns you eventually select. Generally, this is a neutral color, such as an ivory.

Think of the first pattern as your inspiration and "master." It should be a design that you find pleasingly powerful. All else will build on it.

How to Choose Patterns

Once you have a master pattern, start selecting solids, stripes, florals and other designs that complement it and that catch your eye. Remember to match the background color of these secondary patterns with the master, and then match at least one other color. For example, if the master pattern has a lot of dark red, the other patterns should have that same red hue, although there is no reason for them to have as much of it.

Some designers suggest the 60-30-10 approach. This means that 60 percent of the fabrics in the room is the master pattern, 30 percent is a second pattern, and 10 percent of the fabric choices is more of an accent. The accent pattern might have only one color that matches the master (as well as the background neutral). The accent might also be a particularly bold pattern that makes a strong statement even when used sparingly.

Be sure to select a solid color, too, to give the eye a place to rest. And, finally, choose a few different textures to add interest to the room.

How to Use Patterns

Once you have chosen the fabrics you like, decide how to use them. They could be drapes, slipcovers, upholstery, bedspreads, or pillows — or some combination of these. Also take rugs and wall colors into account.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match the patterns and solids. Be sure to distribute them around the room, so that a stripe, for example, shows up as an accent pillow on the sofa and the upholstery on a chair.

You may fall in love with a particular fabric that costs more than the others. This could be the accent pattern.

Don’t Go Crazy!

Stick with three patterns and one solid color that picks up a dominant color in the master pattern. If you introduce too many designs, textures, and colors, the room will look jumbled rather than pulled together.

As you experiment and become more confident, you might want to add a fourth pattern, but you’ll never go wrong staying with three.

In the end, your rooms will be lively and interesting, with just enough play of color, texture, and pattern to please the eye.