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A Lesson in Pattern Play

A few months back my client contacted me wanting some fun chairs for her new farmhouse. The chairs were going to define the space and she would decorate around them.

The design began with four different chair frames…two of each to make a total of 8 chairs. The chairs always look a little sad at the beginning, but I know what they can become, so I’m never worried about that part.

It was a quick search to find our hero fabric (that’s the floral one), and then all I had to do was offer some various patterns in the hero fabric’s colors. There were so many options, and none of them would have necessarily been wrong. She opted to bring in the orange, pink, green, and a little black.

The chairs got a creamy coat of paint in one of my favorites, Benjamin Moore Linen White. Then, the upholstery went on a little at a time so that I could figure out what colors to repeat without over doing it. I love it when my clients trust me to do this work…it takes a lot of thought to get it right.

For pattern mixing, I used 4 different colors in the pinstripe: orange, pink, green, and black. Then, I used a pink check, orange wave, and green fuzz dot to add more fun to the set.

I decided that all the front tops of the chairs needed the hero fabric. Then, I could mix and match the seats and backsides with the fabrics she choose for the set. I decided that the welt cord trim on the top of the chairs should match the seat fabric just to give them a bit more whimsy.

Because we had so much fabric, I was able to cut it on the bias—which is something I rarely do to keep from wasting fabric.

I intentionally matched the backside fabric color to what is on the seat fabric…different patterns of course! The key to pattern mixing is to stay within the color scheme and use different scale patterns.

Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule that I make (and that’s what I’m doing…making my own rules for how the fabric works on this set).

With the check fabric, I chose to take it on the diagonal for the backside. This takes a lot of patience to get this to lay right.

One of my favorite rules to follow is that every room needs a little black and since this fabric has a hint of black, it was a perfect addition of a neutral. There are so many different scenes on this fabric, but this peacock takes the cake!

Finally, each chair needed a little embellishment. I used acrylics and other Benjamin Moore paints that I had on hand to embellish the flowers on each chair. I had been secretly wishing to do something like that on this chair below.

To give each part a little “something extra,” I took a cue from the colors in the hero fabric of orange, pink, red, and green.

I didn’t paint every possible embellishment, though. Some of these chairs had a lot of carving; I used restraint when doing this so that I wouldn’t overwhelm the fabric.

I distressed each embellishment to keep them from being so perfect looking.

Isn’t this set the most fun for a kitchen or dining space? It’s definitely going to light it up with color.

That’s the key to pattern mixing. It’s really about playing with fabric, and trying things out to see if they work. Start with a floral, use colors within that fabric, then play with scale. If you want to learn about working with a hero fabric, I wrote about it a while back. You can read about it by clicking here.

Wendy Conklin

I'm Wendy Conklin, The Chair Stylist.

What brings me joy is helping others live more creatively. I design antique-inspired, boutique chairs, and I teach others how to do what I do. Check out my shop, services, and courses to bring more whimsy into your home and life!

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