Pillow Arranging and Pattern Mixing with Designer Erin Gates

Let’s be honest; it’s fun to break the rules—especially when it comes to decorating. That’s why we invited our favorite rule-breaking designer Erin Gates of Elements of Style to go crazy with hundreds of outdoor pillows to create five unique arrangements just waiting to be cozied up to in any outdoor space. How does she do it, you ask? We got Erin to spill all of her best tips and tricks so you can create fresh combinations of your own. 

Even when you’re throwing the rule book out the window, there are a few tried and true tips to help ensure your experimentation doesn’t go awry. Erin recommends combining a solid or texture with a graphic or linear pattern and then layering in an organic print (think florals, ikats, paisleys and animal prints). “It’s important to pay attention to scale,” Erin says. “You want to have two patterns that are different in size – if they are the same they will look too busy together. When you have a pair of pillows on a sofa, it’s usually a good idea to have the large one in back that is a solid color or texture and the smaller one in front with a pattern.” 

 And don’t forget to have a place to store your pillows! While outdoor pillows are made to be durable, leaving them out during long stretches of bad weather can make them look sad. A nice little patio storage chest that coordinates with your furniture is a great idea. Plus, it can serve as extra seating or a serving piece in a pinch. 

Erin Gates is the founder and principal designer of her Boston-based interior, fashion and event styling firm as well as the blogger behind the acclaimed design blog Elements of Style. She is the author of a best-selling design book of the same name and specializes in blending the high with the low and the modern with the traditional for fresh styles no matter the budget. Follow Erin on Instagram @elementstyle

“I love these patterns – I can see them looking great on some black iron furniture with white cushions – very crisp and clean,” Erin says. Pro tip: Lumbar pillows are the perfect way to fill in a gap on a sectional. Two square pillows in back and a lumbar up front tie the whole look together.

Take a walk on your wild side with this jungle-inspired look. Stripes ground the arrangement, while patterns of different scales are linked by a black-and-white palette with accents of orange and green. 

Blue and white are a classic combination. Add a twist by layering in a pop of garnet and playful details like pompoms for a style that looks perfect in a coastal setting. 

“I always like to consider the natural surroundings when I design an outdoor space. In a country setting, I love to see neutrals mixed with blues or greens,” Erin says. 

When mixing lots of patterns, Erin likes to stick to just a couple of colors. A multicolor stripe is always a good way to incorporate lots of color into one pattern in a way that doesn’t overwhelm. 

How do you mix and match patterns in your outdoor space?
Follow us on Instagram @frontgate and show us your pillow combinations using #Frontgate.