After weeks of searching through furniture stores you have finally found the perfect sofa and chair set for your family room. Now all you have to do is choose the fabric and place the order. You ask the sales associate if they can show you the fabric options. You are expecting them to pull out a small book with maybe twenty choices, but instead they lead you to a infinitely long fabric wall.
“Any of these,” the salesperson says, and walks off. Don’t despair. Choosing fabrics is not as hard as it first seems. The following tips will have you mastering that fabric wall and pulling together patterns like a pro.
Start with Color
Choose a color family first such as blue, red or orange, but don’t be so specific that you limit yourself. (No burnt umbers or aquamarines.) With a color in mind, start your search. The easiest way to design a room is to start with the large scale patterned fabric first. The more colors in the fabric, the easier to find coordinating fabrics to go with it.
Tip: When looking at patterned fabric, avoid cotton prints for heavily used furniture. While cotton prints typically have vibrant colors, they can fade in as little as 50 hours in direct sunlight.
The Rule of Three as Applied to Fabric Scale
The human eye is naturally drawn to patterns. It is an evolutionary trait that helped our ancestors survive during times when spotting a camouflaged predator could save a life, and recognizing the patterns of seasons could help find food. The Rule of Three is directly related to our love for patterns. Three is the smallest number needed for a pattern to be created. Not coincidentally, when mixing and matching fabrics, designers try to incorporate three sizes of pattern. Instead of using patterns that are all the same, size vary them by using one large-scale pattern, one medium and one small.
The floral shown above would be the room’s large-scale pattern. The stripe fabric pictured here works perfectly as a medium-scale pattern, while the houndstooth (the green and white fabric) serves as the small. To keep the look cohesive repeat colors from the floral in the medium- and small-scale fabrics.
Don’t Stop at Just Three Fabrics
You have found three fabrics that will be the foundation of the room, but let’s keep going. The Tori sofa by Taylor King is a perfect example of a designer adding a little pop of color to its foundation fabrics.
Here, the brown damask used on the white chair and pillows serves as the large-scale pattern. This fabric acts as a cohesive device, tying all the colors in the room together. The stripe fabric on the second chair and the pillows is the medium-scale fabric, repeating most, but not all, of the colors. The cream on the sofa acts as the small-scale fabric and as a neutral backdrop for the more dramatic patterns.
But, the designer wanted a little something more. Going back to the damask fabric, the designer pulled the two most prominent colors, aqua and brown. She incorporated aqua in the throw pillows and added the brown to the top of the ottoman, adding drama and interest to the furniture grouping.
Tip: Try to stay with an odd number of fabrics. Odd numbers appeal to our love of patterns, but keep the number of patterns to three, five or seven; any more and the design risks becoming to busy.
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