How to Pair Furniture
Fact: furniture sets are less common than ever in today’s interior design.
Why? The most impactful spaces use designs that effortlessly combine colors, textures, weights and even wood finishes. They seamlessly cross periods and styles…
They unite into something that’s uniquely “you.”
Once you’re left without the pre-ordained furniture sets, though, WHERE does that send you? Do you envision furniture pairing as a ticking timebomb, liable to explode in the middle of your living room if you don’t make the right selections?!
It doesn’t need to be that way. All you have to do is follow a few key design rules to weave new trends in with classic picks and crisscross your way across styles and periods with the selections that work best for you.
Start with a look at your interior design style! Take our style quiz for instant results!
Mixing periods and styles can feel like an immediate “no,” like it’s what you’re NOT supposed to do. But I’m here to tell you this is what quality design can do!
If you’re looking for a “quick start” to begin imaging the possibilities, here’s what I have to say…
Matching colors and patterns is your playground. It’s actually the more technical details (like furniture “weight” or even the style of furniture legs) that must be cohesive to give you this flexibility in the color department!!
Try any of these combinations I personally LOVE:
- …Sage green sofa with a taupe color throw blanket…
- …ANY type of leather sofa next to a wood coffee table…
- …Neutral-colored couch and a bold rug in your FAVORITE bold colors…
- …Blue sofa with white seating (or the other way around)…
Consider the shape of furniture, too. For example, a rounded or oval coffee table will look GREAT in a room with rounded seating and rounded doorknobs.
I stand by ALL those recommendations, but now I know you’re ready for more.
Here’s where we get into the real science of it…
The 60/30/10 rule is a classic design concept that many interior designers use to balance variety in a space.
Here’s how it goes:
- 60% of your room should be devoted to the main color, including the walls, maybe an area rug, and maybe the couch
- 30% of your room should be devoted to a secondary color (or set of colors), favoring selections like your window treatments or smaller pieces of furniture
- 10% of your room is then devoted to your accent color—using it sparingly is what makes it “pop!!”
Speaking of color, when it comes to pairing colors, you DON’T need to be afraid to think outside the box!
Think of your favorite color…and imagine you’ve always seen it as “too bold” to use or pair…but if you remember your primary colors, you’ll be fine!
For example, take GREEN. Green is made with yellow and blue, right? If you combine yellow and blue selections in a space, you give the green “vibe” while also composing a space that’s more richly saturated in color. Yellow is a warm color and blue a cool one, too, so you even balance the feeling of warmth and coolness.
If there’s anything NOT designed to “mix and match” and get funky with, be sure to coordinate the “weight” of the furniture and accessories.
What’s that mean? Think of your dining room table. If it’s a heavy, rectangular slab of oak, you’ll want to coordinate square-back chairs in a similar finish to go with it.
That table has NO business being paired with delicate, “light” chairs.
You’ll want to frame artwork in the room with a finish that matches the table, too. This attention to detail brings the whole space together in ways people won’t even notice—but that’s the point!
Remember: good design gets people’s attention. They say “wow.” But superior design gives off a feeling…people walk into an experience without any one feature sticking out.
If you’ve started a design with one wood finish you LOVE, you can mix and match wood finishes in as accents!
Surprised though you might be, YES, this can be beautiful! And it doesn’t even break any “design rules…”
Imagine a built-in at the far end of a living room, its clear finish gleaming over a honey-blond maple.
Then, add a few frames around the bigger photos or pieces of artwork in a dark walnut.
Coordinating wood colors this way works in the same complementary way that color coordinating does…and it really can be stunning!!
The legs matter!
Ah yes, speaking of furniture “weight,” there’s also the detail-specific (but HUGELY important) detail of the legs.
Furniture legs that work well together share three features in common:
- The height
- The shape
- The material
This means that pairing furniture successfully starts with matching pieces based on their legs. A surprise, maybe, but a design tip you’ll be happy you knew!!
The modern state of interior design is a HUGE mishmash of genres. Designs now borrow from different corners of the world and different eras all at once.
This is helpful for you, because this actually makes pairing EASIER. You no longer have to “marry” whatever furniture options come as part of a set…instead, you can find the perfect piece that functions for your likes and lifestyle.
Hundreds of decisions go into designing a space that looks and feels right.
I know this, and I realize it can be overwhelming.
Use these tips to pair furniture a little more confidently, and make sure you tap into your resources! For a little more inspiration, check out our most recent quarterly design magazine…or get in touch with us for a virtual design consultation!