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What Goes with What?

Elizabeth asked me, in a comment on my last post,

Oh my gosh there is so much to learn in this post!!! My head is spinning. Terrific information, though.

Is there any way of knowing what goes with what? By that I mean, since we're not supposed to buy identical sofas/chairs/love seats (matchy-matchy) is there a way to know that one style of legs on one chair can be paired with one style of skirt on another chair, or whatever? It's always the mixing that scares me more than anything else. Well, the mixing and the placement. No...the mixing, the placement, and the color. Actually.....the mixing, the placement, the color, and the use of pattern. Okay, the mixing, the placement, the color, the use of pattern, and the dimensions. That's what scares me the most.


First of all- I don't know Elizabeth- but isn't she funny?  I really like her comments!  (keep 'em coming!)  That is such a huge question- I dont really know how I am going to answer it... 


First of all, let's assume that the advice I give in this post is for the average, eclectic home.  This is to assume that you are not decorating a Victorian home with Victorian furniture, a Craftsman home with Craftsman furniture, etc.  I am not, in any way, saying that is a bad way to do it; however, this post is for the eclectic, average home. 

Let me start with the very obvious "don't".  I personally would never purchse a sofa with matching chairs.  (sure- there might be some crazy instance where I would break this rule- but I can tell you that that hasn't happened yet.)  Go to Barnes and Noble.  Look through design magazines.  I have yet to see a room nice enough to be photographed in a magazine, and using "matchy matchy" furniture.  This might be considered by some as a "safe" option.  But the end result is greatly lacking in variety of texture, color and pattern.  It also provides little rhythm, with all of the furniture at the same height. The same rule applies with purchasing the coffee table and end table combinations.  I used to sell furniture in college, and sold MANY of those sets, and to those people, I apologize.  :) 

Next- I will attempt to set up some rules for the non-designer sure to create a professionally designed look. 

One easy way to combine is to combine skirted furniture with legged furniture.  Remembering back to my furniture selling days, I recall assisting customers who had selected a "leg type" and wanted everything to match, in style and color.  They would get all Shaker legs, or all Queen Anne legs on ALL of the furniture in the room.  My advice would be to do the exact opposite.  Do as little duplication as possible.  Keep in mind that I am not suggesting that you do not use matching chairs.  Matching chairs are frequently a way to unify a room that might otherwise feel disjointed, with all completely different furniture pieces.  I am suggesting that you do not use chairs and sofas from the same matching collection, and tables from the same collection.  If you are uncomfortable with the job of mixing leg styles- go to my original advice, combine skirts with legs.  Use a legged sofa with skirted chairs, or vise versa.  An effort to be too eclectic, by a novice, could easily come off as disjointed.  (Personally I think sometimes the efforts by famous professionals to be super eclectic actually comes off as disjointed, but that is like saying a piece of art that has made it into a nice museum is not actually attractive- there is always this fear that you are exposing yourself as someone who doesn't get real design- but I have been around long enough to feel confident enough to criticize.)   If you want to make sure you get it right- don't try too hard.

The foundation needed to know what goes with what is two fold. 

1.  Keep balance and scale.

2.  Choose what you love.

For example, if you have a large visually heavy sofa, two small chairs will not be the right scale, and will not balance out the large sofa.  If you have one chair opposite a set of chairs, the one chair better be a larger scale than the set of chairs opposite it.  Take a look at the room- do you have balance?  Is the scale of the furniture on one side of the room similar to the scale of the furniture on the other side?  When the balance is off, the room never feels right. 


After you have kept rule one- go ahead and choose what you love.  So long as you are consistently keeping a good balance and purchasing items of the right scale, it should look good.  Keep in mind that these rules have an order.  #2 is really #2.  You might LOVE some small chairs and a huge sofa, and the room will be so off balance with scale and proportion problems that it subconsciously feels wrong.  Even though it is full of things you love, you will not love the room.

I sure hope that made sense.  It is a bit of a complicated question.  When it comes right down to it, if you are not sure- ask me.  ;)

 Photos from Elle Decor