Smart Solutions: Mix or match -- or both

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News


A variety of wood tones fills this space with a subtle contrast that is easy on the eyes.

Though the decision to mix or match your furniture comes down to personal preference, you don’t have to go with one or the other. For instance, you might want to coordinate the selection in your master bedroom and vary the contents in the rest of your home. Either way, you can incorporate distinctive elements into every space.

All it takes is a tablecloth to break up the sameness of a dining room set by adding some color and pattern to the atmosphere. You can also paint one piece like a sideboard for a current update or cover the back of a china cabinet with some whimsical wallpaper to lighten the mood.

When you select items that are meant to go together like a bedroom set, you can still add some unexpected touches along the way. It could be two different lamps for identical nightstands or a fabric skirt for a vanity. Simple tricks like painting the frame of a mirror that came with a dresser can make one piece stand out from the others in the room.

In the kitchen, comfy seat cushions on your chairs distinguish them from a matching table. A colorful rug can also add a visual distraction to a standard set. Painting the base of a kitchen island makes it feel more like a piece of furniture and less like the coordinating cabinets.

Even architectural features like built-ins that flank a fireplace don’t have to be exactly alike. The function behind them should drive their design whenever possible, like planning one to showcase collectibles and another to house a TV.

On the flip side, a pair of coordinating sofas or chairs can provide some much-needed symmetry to a spacious area like a great room where one too many disparate elements can have a disjointed effect.

It always helps to have some commonality when mixing your furniture, whether it’s a shared style, shape or material that creates a cohesive feel. Blending unrelated anchor pieces and other items successfully takes practice and patience.

Images like the ones shown from sites like, and can help to get you started.

A statement piece like a leather chesterfield sofa can provide a focal point in a room filled with matching furniture.

Introducing a statement piece like a chesterfield sofa can be a great way to add a little pizazz to the big picture. You can also change the placement of your existing contents by swapping one for another so that matching pairs in multiple rooms get an instant refresher. For instance, you might exchange a nightstand from a bedroom with a side table from a great room for an update that doesn’t cost a dime.

Another way to use what you have is to merge your dining room chairs with your kitchen chairs so that both tables feature a mix of seating.

One too many unique pieces in a room like a collection of antiques can be made to feel more consistent with the same fabric or paint color.

Whether you decide to mix or match or try a combination of the two, there are plenty of ways to get creative with your current configuration with a few quick updates to enhance your surroundings.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at