Today someone e-mailed the question, "What is the design rule for mixing and matching patterns and colors?"
Since this is one of the most common questions asked, I decided to blog it...One thing that I learned from design school (and my colleagues from SVA would agree)...if theirs a rule, break it! You want people to walk in and get the "WOW" factor not "oh nice..seen that before". I tend to find when I look at design magazines for idea's I get lost because I'm trying to replicate a trend. It works in the magazine because it works for that space, not your space.
So, first question..what style do you like? Contemporary, Transitional, Shabby Chic, etc? Second question, what is your concept? Look at your space, develop a concept and finally work around that specific idea. Your concept can be anything a painting, your heritage or a theme. So say your interested in a nautical theme for a concept but have a modern flare. I'd use lots of light gray tones as the base color and add softer palettes of blue/green for the pattern (color example, look at Wythe Blue by Benjamin Moore). If the style was Shabby Chic then I'd keep the light tones in the furniture and incorporate brighter colors in the pattern. If your having a tough time and don't know where to begin, start with a big pattern first, like an area rug. Then pull the colors from the rug and accessorize with smaller patterns. If your area rug has multiple colors then pull two for your throw pillows and a third color for an accent piece (art work, lamp, coffee table, etc). Then shop. Find a few patterns that you like, bring them home and see how they look. To avoid overwhelming the room, limit yourself with two to three patterns.
Lastly, mixing geometric patterns can look really nice as long as you coordinate the colors. Keep the intensity of colors on the same of level and they'll work. Now start shopping! Good luck!