There's a secret to adding character to your home, no matter its age or style: pattern--lots of it. L.A. designer Amber Lewis regularly combines ethnic textiles--as many as a dozen at a time--for rooms that look effortlessly pulled together.
If the tones match, it will look fine
It's all about color
When it comes to getting the right combo, "color plays more of a factor than the pattern itself," Lewis says. "You can mix pattern on pattern on pattern, and if the tones match, it will look fine." Lewis's method is easy to do at home: Put all the fabrics and pillows you're considering in a pile and take in the look as a whole. Pull out anything that appears off or doesn't have complementary tones.
Decorating with color
Build a quiet foundation
Keep a neutral base
White wainscoting. Walls the color of latte foam. A jute rug. The quiet foundation in the bedroom above creates breathing room for a multitude of prints. "A basic space lets you build on top of what's there and not feel like you have to work in pattern confinement," says Lewis. Italian Campaign Canopy Bed: anthropologie.com. Drapes, Kashmir Paisley in Lilac: peterdunhamtextiles.com.
Tips on choosing paint colors
Small rooms tend to be louder
Limit hues in tiny rooms
Though it's not a strict rule, small rooms with a lot of pattern tend to be louder, Lewis says. To mitigate that effect in the bedroom pictured here, she limited the textiles to purple and navy so they don't overwhelm the space. Wall color, Hague Blue 30: us.farrow-ball.com. Custom headboard: shoppe.amberinteriordesign.com. Princeton Sophomore sconce (similar to shown): schoolhouseelectric.com.
Decorate using your favorite hue
An upholstered headboard
Make a statement
For an upholstered headboard, choose a print large enough to stand out.
24 headboard ideas
Try sequins or metallic thread
Play up features
Reflect light from a blanket with sequins or metallic thread.
Zero in on a single fabric
Use one piece as a guide
It helps to zero in on a single fabric as a starting point. In the bedroom/sitting room pictured here, it was the black suzani lumbar pillow on the sofa. As Lewis picked other textiles, she referred to the suzani to make sure she covered its other hues: indigo, brick red, rusty pink, and gold. Wall color, Wimborne White 239: us.farrow-ball.com.
Spreading blue throughout the room
The homeowners already had and loved the Chinese indigo denim blanket over the ottoman. Meshing it with the other colors was as simple as spreading blue throughout the room, including in the bedspread and the window-seat pillows. Custom sofa and chairs, pillows: shoppe.amberinteriordesign.com. Custom bed: peterdunham.com.
Bring in patterns that contrast with the fabrics
Go beyond fabric
Lewis uses art and furniture--like the bone inlay side table pictured here--to bring in patterns that contrast with the fabrics. "I wanted art that was modern and abstract for more shape," she says. The tea-stain prints blend with the fabrics' earth tones. Artwork: naturalcuriosities.com. Inlay table (similar to shown): berbereworldimports.com.
Get global style
Small-scale patterns in unexpected places
Add little surprises
Use small-scale patterns in unexpected places, like a lampshade.
More decorating secrets