I don’t know about you, but I’m not really the type of person to go to the furniture store and just buy the exact set that they have on the floor exactly as-is. If you want to get a little creative with your furniture selection, but still have a cohesive look, keep calm and read on. I’ve got some great tips for how to mix and match furniture like a pro.
This past weekend I went furniture shopping for a living room “set”. I knew the odds of me finding a full set of furniture where I liked every piece was next to impossible. I know most of you are thinking you aren’t creative enough to choose pieces that “go” together, but trust me! Finding (and committing to) exactly what pieces you want is not as difficult as it seems.
Tip 1: Start with the most important piece and work from there.
The number one tip when working with furniture selection is to start with the piece that you absolutely fall in love with, or absolutely positively need. For me, it was my couch. So I shopped around for the perfect couch. I knew I wanted grey, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted a chaise attached or not. I like clean lines, and while I like modern styles, comfort is definitely higher on my list. So, I typically lean toward a more “casual modern” look. I found a lot of really nice pieces along the way. Here’s a few I had my eye on:
Neutral grey couches are a great base to start with when you want to mix and match furniture pieces from different sets.
Most of the preliminary shopping I did was online… the search and filter features on most websites these days make it really quick and easy to do, and I’d highly recommend starting there. If you do shop online, though, try to only visit websites of stores in your area. That way, once you find something you like, you can go to the store and try it out. I wouldn’t recommend buying any furniture that you can’t sit on first. Measurements and descriptions online can be deceiving, and it’s amazing how you can sit on 20 sofas, and just hate all of them. This seat is too low, that cushion is too hard, the back is not high enough for me to rest my head, I’m falling into the cracks between the cushions, etc. So, try before you buy.
Proportion refers to the way that an object relates to the room as a whole. It’s important to choose furniture that will work for the space you have. Virtual “Design a Room” applications can help you to layout the furniture. Or a simple drawing with the dimensions of the pieces from the store will work. Most importantly, trust your judgement… if your room is small, buying 3 oversized pieces of furniture may not work. However, buying 1 oversized couch for a small room would possibly work. Apartment Therapy has a good article about buying “big” furniture for a “small” room.
Tip 2: Try to remove the “staged accessories” from your mind.
After visiting Ashley furniture and actually sitting on the Yvette steel sofa (2nd row, on the left), I really, really liked it. Everything in the store was 25% off, so the price was also great! The only thing I didn’t “love” about the sofa were the pillows and accessories surrounding it. Don’t let this affect you! Take the pillows off the sofa if you have to, or push the ugly coffee table, lamp, vase, etc. away from it so you can see it for what it’s worth. The furniture stores tend to stage each set with every matching piece under the sun! The sofa that I went with had matching pillows, matching loveseat, a wooden chair with a pattern that matched a pillow, and a cushioned chair and ottoman that matched the other pillow. There was even a rug that matched one of the patterns on the pillow. Ugh… gag me. Too “matchy-matchy”.
This is the staged set for the sofa I picked out. It’s super traditional looking, although the couch actually has very modern lines. The blue and taupe and flowery stuff doesn’t go with anything in my house. Looking at it as a “whole package” would have made me miss out on this piece that I ended up really, really loving. It’s important to read between the lines.
These are optional coordinating pieces that also go with the set: club chair, upholstered wooden chair, rug, and ottoman.
Tip 3: Shop around the store for pieces you like that would compliment or match your key piece.
This is where it starts getting fun! Ok. So I chose a beautiful neutral grey sofa, and now the world is my oyster! I simply walked around the store and sat in every single chair that I was attracted to, which turned out to be way more chairs than I even thought were IN the store! I took my time, and narrowed it down to about 4 chairs that I really felt comfortable sitting in. One was a recliner, one was a swivel chair, and 2 others were just regular upholstered arm chairs. One was leather, one was orange-red, another green and grey striped, and another was a celery green color. It’s amazing how I actually gravitated to the comfort of the chairs that went with my living room color scheme!
For your reference, here’s some items in my current living room:
And here’s the comfy chairs that I liked:
Tip 4: Make sure the items “work” together.
The biggest challenge to “mixing and matching” furniture pieces into one decor involves figuring out the commonalities between the pieces. Some commonalities that can help tie your pieces together are:
Choosing pieces in the same color family is an easy way to unite them.
Choosing two corduroys pieces, even in different colors/patterns, will still work together.
Using clean lines in all pieces, or rounded backs, or even similar leg/foot shapes in furniture can tie them together.
Choosing 2 mid-century modern pieces, or 2 traditional pieces will creative a more cohesive look.
Using “apartment-sized” pieces, or “oversized” pieces generally will work, but mixing smaller pieces with larger can create balance problems.
A Little More About Scale
I’d like to talk a little bit more about scale, because I feel it’s the most important (and difficult) element in mixing different furniture pieces. The scale refer to the way that objects relate to each other in a room. Dainty chairs will seem out of place near a puffy couch. Rooms with huge/wild variations in scale will just feel “off.” The best way to combine furniture of different sets is to get items that are very similar in scale. Make sure the seat height and seat depth for each piece is roughly the same. If you are planning on putting the pieces near each other or across from each other, will it be comfortable for two people to have a conversation, or will one person be sitting up higher while the other person has been gobbled up by a really deep chair? The height of the back of the furniture piece is also important in achieving balance. A really low backed modern couch next to a really tall backed traditional couch may look strange paired together if there aren’t several other common elements about them, such as color, shape, or fabric. However, even without these commonalities, getting a modern and traditional couch to work together is possible if you are sure to keep the seat height, seat depth, and back height somewhat equal.
Most of the sales associates at furniture stores will help you to gather the items you like so you can see them together. So, corral one of them to help you move the smaller piece next to the larger piece. Seriously… they will do it for you. If you aren’t as outspokenly obnoxious as me, an alternative would be to take a photo of the one item, and walk over to the other item and hold up the picture next to it so you can see them. This won’t eliminate the issue of scale, so you’ll have to go by your eye and the measurements.
Tip 5: Mix and match accessories.
So, you like a couch from one set, and a chair from another? Are there accessories from the chair’s set that may work better with your setup? This is a GREAT way to get a cohesive look when combining furniture. By removing the blue and taupe flowered pillows, and choosing the striped and green pillows from the other set, it looks like it was meant to be together.
Here is my loveseat next to my chair. I also removed the pillows from the couch set and replaced them with the pillows from the chair’s set for a cohesive look. Notice how the scale of the two are similar, and the seat heights and backs are proportional, making for comfortable conversation between guests.
Another option would be to add an area rug with the colors of both pieces, or accent vases or lamps that go with the color of the chair.
All of these rugs would be great options to pull elements of the chair into the room. The stripes would mimic the pattern, while the green tones would mimic the color.
Use accessories such as benches, tables, lamps, and vases in the same color as the accent piece and scatter throughout the room. Varying the heights of objects (such as a low bench and a tall lamp) brings the color to different heights.
Tip 6: Look to the pros for inspiration.
Well I know most of us are not made of money, so hiring an interior designer of your very own may be beyond your budget. However, there are some furniture stores that actually have interior designers on staff and offer free room planning services for you. Check with your local stores to see if they offer this service.
If they don’t, you can still take cues from your favorite designers. Watch some HGTV, or go to their website and search the style of room you are looking to create. Sarah Richardson is an interior designer who is absolutely known for combining different furniture pieces in every design she does. Her portfolio showcases a lot of great examples of this concept, so I included 3 of my favorites. Here are some examples of professionally designed rooms:
In the first Houzz example, the furniture pieces are in the same color family, but definitely use different fabrics and have different shapes. The uniting element that makes this work together is the scale of the furniture: the back heights and seat height and depth are spot-on.
In the second Houzz example, the two couches have very different shapes. The pattern from the one works with the other one, though. The scale of the two seats is also very similar, and then the set is tied together with a pair similarly scaled chairs in a different, but coordinating, pattern.
It’s easy to mix and match furniture to come up with a completely unique style for your home. Remember to start with the most important piece first — like a neutral couch or a really unique flea market find that you want to focus your design style and color pallet around. If your chosen piece is part of a set, try to remove the staged portions of the photo or the store set up from your mind. Focus on the style of the piece you’ve selected. Is it the right color? Does it have sleek lines or more traditional touches? Is is the right size for your space? Once you are satisfied with that ONE single piece, you’ll need to choose the other pieces in the room. Some good ways to coordinate furniture pieces is by finding commonalities between the pieces. Choose furniture with either the same color, fabric, shape, style, or scale. To determine if the scale is correct, ask an associate for help and move your chosen pieces around the store so you can see them next to each other. Once you’ve chosen all of your large furniture pieces, you can add accessories and small pieces to your curated set. Throw pillows, area rugs, lamps, and benches are great pieces to use throughout your room to complete your unique look. Finally, when all else fails, hire an interior designer or look at professional designer portfolios for inspiration. Watch some HGTV or visit websites like houzz.com to get ideas.
I’d like to mention that I find no fault or problem in selecting an entire “set” of furniture. This is what they are there for. My hope and intention in writing this post was to provide some inspiration and knowledge, so you can become comfortable selecting furniture pieces that will create a creative, unique look of your own and open up more possibilities than what comes out of the box. As I said earlier in the post, with the selected accessories and coordinating pieces for my couch, I would have never chosen it. Removing those elements allowed me to realize how much I liked the piece when it was not tied to the set.