Rules for Mix n’ Match

Dear Billy:

What are the “rules of thumb” for mixing and matching colors and patterns?

Start out by defining the character of your room. Do you want it to be dashing and exciting? Soothing and serene? Or somewhere in between? Generally, the more you mix patterns and colors, the less serene the space will become. To create a room that feels clean and fresh, use varying textures in a monochromatic color scheme with subtle nuances—shades of gray, from charcoal to silver, for example, or maybe a creamy palette in mohair and cut velvet. When you mix a number of patterns, vary the scale of different materials. For example, if you’re using a large floral, mix it with a small plaid and add a medium-scale pattern to bridge the two. My personal rule of thumb is use pattern and color in smaller occasional pieces. Save splashes of scarlet, amber, or tangerine for a pull-up chair, pillows, throws, etc. Keeping larger pieces, sofas and lounge chairs, in more neutral tones will allow you to evolve your color story without breaking the bank.

— Billy Beson