Do you have one chair from one set, and two from another? Or, a lamp that used to be one of a pair, but that other one didn’t make it through your last party? Don’t ditch these items just because they’re missing their mates because you don’t need a matching set to create a cohesive look. With a few tricks, an eclectic mix of pieces can result in a sophisticated, playful ‘collected over time’ look that you’ll never get with a matching set.
1. Unify with Color
Use a multi-colored piece to pull together a wide range of hues. You can create a coordinated look with a mix of colors using art, pillows, or a rug that includes the colors you’ll be mixing. I’ve seen this done successfully over and over. For some great examples, take a look at Emily Henderson’s portfolio. With a multi-colored painting or rug, you’ve suddenly got a coordinated look, even if your palette goes from green to pink to blue.
Keep it simple and stick to a narrow palette. Another variation of using color to unify works just as well, and that is to keep your palette closely related. If you think about a rainbow, you’ll see red, orange and yellow next to each other, or blue, green, purple and pink next to each other (green can go in either direction). This is another great way to mix colors and fabrics while keeping it interesting and cohesive. If you have a few pieces that are different kinds of wood and you don’t mind painting, unifying them by painting them all the same color (or similar colors) can look fun and highlight their shapes, rather than the variations in wood finishes.
2. Make it Look Intentional
Remember the example with the mismatched chairs? Don’t try to fill in with pieces that look like you tried to match but didn’t quite get it right. Instead, make a statement by getting pieces that are completely different. Placing six completely different chairs at a table is a lot more interesting than adding in a few ‘wannabe’ matches that don’t work.
Break up the symmetry! That lonely lamp will look out of place if you set it up on matching end tables and don’t provide the other half of the pair. Instead be bold with your mixing and don’t highlight missing pieces by making them look like they were meant to be there. Using a variety of sizes and materials will just make you space more interesting.
3. Layer with a Mix of Materials
Instead of “wood, wood, wood” think “wood, glass, metal” when decorating a room. Rather than all wood (teak table, walnut chairs, and maple bookshelves) think about mixing it up with leather, fur, marble, glass, and metal. Layering with textures will add interest and make any eclectic mix of furniture work better.
Keep the mix coordinated with a thematic thread. For example, you could use a Kilim rug, a hammered metal table, and a carved wood lamp base for a ‘global’ look, or for a ‘mixed vintage modern’ use a brass and glass table, lucite lamp base, shag rug, and teak end table.
4. Don’t be Afraid to Edit
You don’t need to see all things at all times. You may want to move as much as you can out of the space, and add it in piece by piece. This works especially well with smaller tablescapes, vignettes, and styling bookshelves. It’s fine to keep a few items in your closet for the future (or put them up for sale on Krrb!) if they aren’t working with your current look.
Visualize how things will look together by using a furniture board. Wondering how that table you’re thinking about will look with your other pieces? Do what designers do and create a furniture board with photos of the actual pieces. You don’t need any fancy programs, use Microsoft Word, Adobe Pages or even Google slides. If you want to use a Pinterest board, create a dedicated board with only the actual furniture you have and are considering, preferably simple photos on white without any context. Include a photo or two of the actual room. You’ll be amazed how your instinct will tell you when one of these things is not like the other.