How It's Done: Mixing Bright Fabrics

I’m in the process right now of planning a set of six multi-colored kitchen chairs. Lucky for me, the kitchen is large and white. It can handle the chaos that a set of chairs like this will provide. And truthfully, this kitchen needs the color. The client doesn’t want to settle for a monochromatic atmosphere. So, how does one go about planning for a set like this? How can you make chaos live in harmony?  Well, I’ve got a few tips up my sleeve to show you how it’s done.

First, the idea is to make sure the chairs have a few things in common. They need to be similar in shape. I’m using a set of antique French chairs that have the same shape. Four are armless and two have arms. Having a similar shape helps the chairs feel like a set.

Second, the chairs need to have the same paint treatment. These chairs will be painted white. The white paint gives the right backdrop to the fabrics that I’ll select, and again, brings cohesion to the set instead of distraction. Now, I’m not preaching that you have to go with white. You’ve seen me use navy and other colors before. Just make sure the chairs are all painted the same. 

Those are the easy tricks. Now, on to the fabric selections, which can get tricky. With so many options, how does one choose?  

I have a mental grid that I use to help me keep the selection diverse not only in color, but also in pattern. It looks something like this. 

I list all the patterns that I could possibly use on one side of the grid. Then, I list all the colors I could use along the bottom of the grid. For this one I’ll list more than six so that I have options in case I can’t find a specific pattern or a certain color.

Then, as I find fabrics and place them together, I check off the boxes to make sure I’m not repeating a color or having too many of the same patterns. I might like a combination, but then I see that I have two green fabrics. I know one has to be eliminated.

Truly, I just start playing with the fabrics. I continue to mix and match until I have a few combos I can show the client.

This one is still in progress, so you will have to wait. But I’m feeling good about it so far.  In about a month or less I’ll have something done on this set, and I’ll show you the final result. 

There are many of methods of mixing bright fabrics. Do you do this differently? What works for you? Or does this scare you? I would love to hear about it in the comments section!


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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10 Best Statement-Making Fabrics from Spoonflower

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