A vignette composed of carved wooden spiral candle sticks, an old photograph, and a large houseplant.

4 Ways To Go from Mismatch to Mix-and-Match

Most people do not buy all their furniture and decor at one time. We acquire things at different stages of our lives: leaving home, moving in with new people, having children. These periods of our lives can leave us with things we want to keep but which don’t seem to fit together.

Both Lenore and Carmen have things we have inherited from parents and grandparents, in-laws and grand-in-laws. And there’s been plenty of Kijiji finds and a general willingness to say “sure, I’ll take that off your hands!”

When people come into my (Lenore’s) apartment they often ask how I came up with this specific collection, as though it was put together at one time.

The truth is, most of my things are a curated collection I have been working on for years. I bought my couch and coffee table for my space, but I chose them to fit with my collection, not the other way around.

This is what I like about design: it constantly challenges you. It’s not always easy to integrate things from random sources but when you rise to the challenge, the rewards are fantastic.

The key to turning your mismatched things into a fantastic mix-and-match style is to keep trying different things until you find what works. With that and the four tips below, you can create a very personal and unique expression of your style.

Colour

Colour is a great way to create connections between different items.

Look at things all together – is there a palette that you can see?  Are there wood colours that are similar (like teak and walnut) or do there happen to be lots of blues, or greens, or orange?

Find the palette that your stuff tends towards and look for those colours when you need to buy new things.

For example, I have three distinctly different styles of seating in my living room, very different shapes that wouldn’t seem to go together. They are all upholstered in different materials, but in a similar shade of dark grey/black. If you look closer you will see the textures and materials and woods are all different, but they are in the same palette and so look like a set.

Theme

Looking at your things, is there a theme? Grouping things that are loosely thematic together is a fantastic way of creating an eclectic and interesting space. New items can be added where needed and can be chosen to either enhance or distract from the theme.

A living room with record player and storage, window with cactus, and vintage chair

We emphasized the music theme in this room by using the picture rail to create rotating wall art with album covers.

In Carmen’s living room, music was a major theme. We hung her partner’s instruments on the walls, and created a “listening” station with the record player and a picture rail that displays what you’re listening to (and keeps records tidy!).

Carmen had brought the vintage chairs into the mix, while John had purchased the modern media stand years ago.

We enhanced the look of the wood trim and floors by painting the room in a warm neutral that complements the wood’s undertones. This helped draw the connection between the two very different styles in the furniture by enhancing their shared wood element.

When looking for vinyl storage, we chose the (sadly discontinued) natural pine Ikea Nornas shelves. The mid-century-modern lines of the piece complement both the modern media shelf and the vintage chairs, while the natural pine fits with the warm-neutral and natural colour elements in the room.

The living room had felt cluttered and random for a long time, but once we identified the theme and palette, it quickly came together into a place that felt on-purpose.

Highlight the odd one out

Sometimes you have a pretty strong style happening, but then for some reason you end up with just one thing that is very different. You may want that piece, but it doesn’t seem to have an intuitive spot.

This is where it can get tricky and you have to start getting creative.

Sometimes, by simply sectioning off a corner for a reading nook with the odd chair out is all that needs to be done. By creating a small vignette it looks special and different on purpose.

Other times it may take some work. I loved a particular solution I saw in high school. A friend’s mother had set up an old sewing machine table to hold the phone under a stairway. This had required some carpentry skills to make it fit and function in the new way, but the end result was charming.

Other things, like fitting in some art that you love can be much easier.

If you got your Grandpa’s painting from his study you always loved but it’s in a huge ornate gold frame, you can try painting the frame to coordinate the palette with your other art frames (see point 1!).

Finding a place for the odd one out is the situation I find the most rewarding to solve, although it can also be the most frustrating.

Don’t give up hope! There is always a way to incorporate the odd one out, it just might take some time.

Revive it in your style

Sometimes we get things that are beloved, but in poor condition or just not workable as they are. In this case, refinishing or reworking something to update it can be a way of honouring the place it had in your past, while making it something you still love in your present.

Old furniture often connects us to our memories of family. But sometimes the present condition or style takes away from our ability to use that furniture or connect to it.

There is nothing wrong with refinishing or upholstering these pieces in materials and colours that go with YOUR stuff is a great way to have your dad’s old chair, and love it too. This is the time to get other necessary repairs done, so that your beloved pieces can continue to have a long life.

Changing the colours and fabrics does not disrespect the original pieces, and it can be such a nice way of integrating items that have sentimental value into your home seamlessly. This Wall Street Journal article has lots of great examples from different designers showing how people have updated or altered sentimental pieces to fit in new settings.

Show us your stuff!

Have you got a mis-match situation that needs help? Or have you got a brilliant solution you want to show off? We’d love to see them! Post a comment below or on our facebook page.

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