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Coordinating vs Matching: How to Curate Your Space

I never match furniture and decor to the floors and/or built-in cabinets (or to each other for that matter) for several reasons. First, it means the space is dictating your purchases, instead of allowing you to buy something that you love. For example, I bought my bed frame over 20 years ago. The same bed frame has been in three different homes and I still love it. It is NOT, nor has it ever been, the same color as my floors—and that’s okay!

The second reason to avoid excessive matching is because having everything in the same color falls flat, unless you follow some basic interior design principles, which I’ll discuss below. I find that a lot of people want to be (too) safe with their choices of furniture. “What if we move, I’ll want it to be neutral?” Is your entire wardrobe neutral and safe? Or do you have a pair of animal print shoes that you love? Maybe a red dress or red tie for when you’re feeling sassy? You can apply the same sense of style to your interiors. Maybe you bring in a red chair with an animal print rug or a painting with red in it and animal print pillows to spice up a space with other items that are neutral in tone and color.

Here are some basic principles of design to help you with your selections. The goal is to properly balance light and dark tones, warm and cool tones, and to have pattern and texture in the space for more depth. If you have a light gray wall, a light gray wood floor and a light gray sofa it all blends together, which I don’t recommend.

Room without contrast  (created by Freepik)

IF you insist on doing all gray (or whatever the next fad is), here’s how to make it work:

●  Start with an off white wall with a gray undertone (make sure it's neutral and does not have a purple, blue or pink undertone).

●  Bring in warm wood floors (they can have a gray tone running through them, but you want to bring some warmth into your space).

● Balance it out with a darker gray sofa.

This will ensure that your room has contrast and warmth. If you are stuck with gray floors, you can do a warm tone on your sofa to balance out all of the cool tones. Consider a cognac-colored leather or a rich mustard yellow fabric. You want to 

balance the warm and cool tones in a space, which is why an all gray interior doesn’t feel as vibrant.

Room with contrast (created by Freepik)

A big trend I’ve seen in the last few years that's been popping up on social media feeds is white upholstery (and even all white interiors). Unless you’re using specialty fabrics such as Sunbrella fabric, Crypton fabric, or some other high performing and easy to clean fabric, this trend is completely impractical for the majority of people. And if you don't add in visual texture (woven materials, faux fur etc), it becomes sterile and institutional.

Room without contrast  (created by Freepik)

Even with the easy to clean fabric, you STILL have to clean it and if you tend to wear denim a lot, the indigo dye will rub off on your white sofa. If you insist on the all white trend, bringing in lots of texture is even more critical to make the space interesting. You don’t have to do white upholstery to make your space bright and light. Bring in white elements through accessories, such as your lamps, planters, and other items. These don’t attract dirt and stains the way upholstery will and they bring the bright white element into a room. You can also bring in white or off white in your pillows and throws, which can be easily washed more often. Another option is to use lacquer-painted furniture, whether fully painted or a combination of paint and stain.

If you have a dark piece of furniture on one side of your room, consider how to balance it out on the other side of the room. Think of the old fashioned scale with weights on both sides. A dark piece of furniture comes across as heavy - you can balance it with a larger scale piece, one that is just as dark, or bring in art and accessories that have dark tones. As an example, if you have a really large built-in bookcase, this can be visually heavy, even if it’s painted white. A dark sofa across the room, however, would balance the large built-in beautifully.

When designing a space for a client, I never buy matching sets. This is because matching sets feels like something from a 1950’s Sears Roebuck catalog—and not in a good vintage way. Often, I will get each piece from different vendors. That means the nightstands might be from Vendor A and the dresser will be from Vendor B. The finishes aren’t meant to be the exact same. Finishes are balanced and complemented using the light/dark, warm/cool, pattern and texture rules to optimize color and light throughout a space.

If you're wondering how to integrate the balance into your space, let's set up a personalized interior design consultation to discuss your needs. Please contact me at or view my services online.

Learn more tips in my free Interior Design ebook here 

Always look for the Silver Lining


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