Does Everything Have to Match?

By Christine Brun

September 13, 2017 4 min read

There is no design police force that makes never-to-be-broken rules and regulations about your home. That is the good news! The bad news is if you want a singular style, it takes skill and a sharpened sense to construct a unique and offbeat look. Before you panic, let's unpack this idea.

One of my mentors once explained design like this when I first began: You can combine a number of textures, patterns, materials and colors, but they must look pleasant together. Each piece must be friendly with the other and possess something that acts as glue. For example, you would not want to combine an ethnic batik fabric with a Scottish tartan because the design motifs are completely opposite; one fabric is cotton, and the other is woven wool. Similarly, you could not successfully surround brick on a fireplace with highly polished marble on the hearth. These two materials are opposite in feel and appearance.

Instead, if you wanted to use an ethnic fabric at the windows, perhaps woven solid textures would be good to combine with the pattern. You might consider including a more petite cotton pattern that works with the color and character of the main fabric. Essentially, the fabrics should visually blend together well. This would not be the case if one were a textured geometric pattern and the other were a shiny, glossy silk taffeta. But the challenging part is that sometimes when you toss in a misfit, there is magic! Think about a very modern restaurant with a few crystal chandeliers. Imagine a sleek and contemporary pad with one tufted velvet Ottoman. Often one peculiar element elevates a room from ho-hum to fabulous. This is what is confusing to the amateur decorator.

In a small space, you may not have all of the options that you would like to experiment and play. There's just less room for error. Take a look at the whimsical introduction of two different shapes for breakfast bar stools. The legs are the same, but the cross supports and seats are opposite. One is upholstered and round, the other is rectangular and bare wood. This is enough of a play on a theme to introduce a tiny sense of excitement.

Another way to play with mood without taking up any extra space is to mix up the colors of dining chair seats. It's not too unusual to feature different fabric on a host and hostess chair, but try mixing in another two colors for the other guest chairs. Or you might consider upholstering a sofa or a large reading chair out of three or four different fabrics. Some years ago, this was a hot look as part of the shabby-chic movement. It can still be great fun to work out in any color scheme.

Consider using throw pillows that do not match or introducing a large piece of art that is completely opposite in flavor from the theme of the room. For example, if you have a sleek modern look, select an impressionist painting. If you have traditional furnishings, try inserting a contemporary painting for spice. In all of these suggestions, it remains critical to pay close attention to the colors and the way in which the counterpoint items sync with the main style. In my entryway, I have a very colorful contemporary painting of a howling wolf, an Afghan area rug and a Chinese country chair. The colors are what tie these otherwise opposite-looking items together.

Photo Credit: Lagoon

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego based interior designer and author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at [email protected] To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Like it? Share it!

  • 0

Small Spaces
About Christine Brun
Read More | RSS | Subscribe