Design Dilemma: Avoiding the Impulse to Match | Home Design Find

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Design Dilemma: Avoiding the Impulse to Match

Havana Leather Sofa Set how to tips advice

You’re in the furniture store.  On display is a matching couch, love seat and reclining chair. There are even matching pillows, side tables and lamps. The way it’s all staged makes it look… well, almost pretty cool.

And since you want your own place to look cool, you decide to spring for the whole set. Might as well get everything at once, right?


Matchy-matchy decor (see photo above)  is a pretty common road taken among those of us going for polished elegance in our interiors. We all so desperately want things to work together that in our fear of failure, we go for matched sets with matched colors, matched wood stains, matched patterns. The problem is, what looks fine in a showroom display looks flat, boring and inauthentic in a real home. Much better are those interiors in which objects relate to each other in some way, but don’t match.

So how can you go about avoiding the “matchy-matchy” look? The key lies in keeping things coordinated but NOT exactly matched. Rooms that evolve over time with pieces that feel “collected” rather than purchased, always feel more stylish. So:

1) Don’t buy everything at once from the same source. It’s the easiest way to keep your home from looking like a showroom display.
2) Think about breaking up sets in color or style. You could buy a couch and chair in the same matching leather but instead consider mixing things up.  A leather couch with a fabric chair or a leather couch and chair in two different colors are better options. If you’re looking at a bedroom set, buy the dresser or side tables, but not all three.
3) Consider mixing woods. Just because you have walnut legs on a chair doesn’t mean that there can be nothing else but walnut in the room. You may choose to stick with lighter wood tones, or darker wood tones, but don’t feel that every object in a room must be carved of the exact same wood.
4) Vary  textures. Playing around with different textures and materials can go a long way to breaking up that matchy feel. So if you’ve got a fabric sofa, complement it with a rattan or leather chair. If you’ve got two wooden end tables, consider a glass coffee table. If you’ve got wooden dressers and bedside tables, consider a bed with a chrome, rattan or fabric headboard.
5) As you vary textures and wood tones, define a color palette. Okay, so the risk of varying textures and tones is that your space may feel like just a hodgepodge of furniture, without a theme or direction. One way to stave off this problem is by choosing a color theme and sticking to it. A defined color palette can help pull together otherwise disparate items.
6) If you’ve already got many matching elements, loosen things up with pattern and color. Let’s say it’s too late. You’ve already purchased the matching sofa, loveseat and recliner. One way of adding more interest  is by adding pattern and color wherever you can. So for example, add pillows in various patterns but in the same color family. You can get more impact by combining a larger print with a more delicate print.

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In the interior above by Jessica Helgerson, a bright red chair is chosen in a completely different color than the white sofa. The colors work together, however, especially with a red coordinating pillow tossed in. Textures vary with the use of a knitted pouf and the smooth marble side table. Couch and chair have one common element: chrome legs. Nothing matches but it all works together. In the interior below, also by Jessica Helgerson, a dark wood armoire mixes comfortably with a painted white wood coffee table. In the last photo, a wood table has much more pop when it mixes with acrylic and chrome chairs. Disparate elements in all three interiors work well together because the color scheme is tightly edited to grays, red and white.

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Images:; Jessica Helgerson

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2 Comments so far to “Design Dilemma: Avoiding the Impulse to Match”
  1. The Designer Insider Says:

    Great article! I have to constantly preach this to my customers all the time. Most would like to take the easy way out and just buy the matching groups. But you have shown in your illustrations that mixing furniture makes an impact. Thanks for spreading the word!!

  2. Erica Says:

    I totally agree. Personalization is an evolving part of the space. It’s not about matching, but making it yours, combining what you have with what you want.

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