Renovation & Design

Let your decor get a little rough around the edges

Wall decals are an unexpected accent. Mismatched vases, when grouped, make a pretty display.

A decor that's too perfect can be boring and static.

Matching sets of furniture and lamps, clean and polished surfaces and everything in its place just doesn't leave room for drama or individuality.

Yes, it's helpful manufacturers of home decor products try to help us with colour schemes and matching sets of furniture and linens, but the real adventurers will add their own unique touches to these mass marketed items.

The first thing to do is to shop creatively. If you're in the market for any new decorative items, consider moving outside your comfort zone and choosing the unusual versus the ready-to-buy, matching stuff. Shop at specialty shops, which will give you more unique options. Don't forget antique stores, flea markets, garage sales and online sites may have that special item you desire. When we purchased our condo I was looking for a large ottoman to use instead of a coffee table and found one on Kijiji for $30. It's exactly what I wanted and the price was fantastic.

Forgo matching sets

GONE are the days of matching living room lamps such as the ones you grew up with.

There are way too many stylish choices out there to go for the familiar or the ordinary. If you need lighting in the living room then opt for one floor lamp, one unique table lamp and an accent lamp that suit your tastes. This might mean a wrought iron floor lamp with a suede-look lampshade, a small ceramic accent lamp in a coordinating room colour and a side-table lamp with a square shade in similar tones and finishes. If you can picture the difference between this look and a set of matching ceramic or brass lamps, you'll see the former is way more interesting. One choice is safe and boring, the other is challenging and well worth the effort.

Matching furniture

WHEN buying living room furniture or a bedroom suite try to stay away from matching sets unless they are stunning.

These large pieces of furniture are going to be around for a long time and you want to ensure your decor stays current as the years progress. For example, in the bedroom opt for a new, stylish headboard and perhaps a matching dresser but forgo the matching bedside tables and second dresser. Instead, find unique pieces to serve as side tables in complimentary finishes than those of the headboard and dresser. If, say, the headboard and dresser are contemporary wood pieces with smooth, dark finishes, you might want to add texture to the room with the purchase of two wicker bedside tables in a medium tone finish. Yes, the two side tables can be matching or very similar, as it will provide appropriate visual symmetry. Throw in an antique dressing table in similar wood tones to spice things up a little.

In the living room try to stay away from sets of coffee and side tables and opt for pieces that blend together but do not match. You might find a great square coffee table at the furniture store but rather than buy the matching side tables, opt for something different. A small drum table might be one way to go and perhaps a small vintage trunk for the other. As long as they are related in some way; colour tones, finishes and styles, it should work. As an example, you probably wouldn't use a white wicker side table with your dark coffee table and vintage trunk. If you painted the wicker in a dark, coffee bean colour and put a glass top on it, it might fit in just fine.

The optimal plan is to be able to change in one or two new pieces down the line so you're not locked into one look. If you've already purchased a matching sofa, loveseat and ottoman your room might be overpowered by these three large pieces of furniture. Take a hard look at your space and try to determine if the pieces are overcrowding the room visually and literally. If the answer is yes, then one piece needs to find a home in another room. With a bit more breathing room, you might opt to replace your current coffee table with a large ottoman that will act as a coffee table and additional seating or simply bring in a one smaller scale chair in a co-ordinating style to spice things up a bit.

Get a little messy

Like I said, perfect, smooth, unblemished surfaces are static and boring. Mess things up a bit with some rustic texture. Rough, architectural salvage pieces as wall art, for example, might bring much needed texture and interest to a 'perfect' living room or den. Consider items with a distressed finish, either real or created to add some charm and warmth to your space. Rough finishes, such as stone, brick or wood will make a slick kitchen visually balanced and eye-catching. That's why honed concrete and granite finishes are so popular in new, modern kitchens. You need that touch of roughness to balance off all of the slick and shiny surfaces. Consider bringing in items from the yard and garden, like stone garden pillars as table bases, bird nests from the previous spring and accents of willow branches. A few unrefined touches will go a long way to warming up your space. Forgo the fussy pinch-pleated draperies in favour of textured wicker blinds with natural silk panels.

When to use matching items

THERE are a few times when a pair of items is a preferred choice in order to create a balanced look.

If you are flanking anything in your home, then you might want to consider a matching set on either side to create symmetry. For example, if you are flanking a fireplace with two chairs, they should be matching or very similar to achieve a sense of visual balance. Bordering a headboard with matching bedside tables is not necessary but will create more visual continuity than using two totally different tables. Unless you prefer an eclectic look, I think an elegant dining table requires matching chairs as well. If you prefer more casual dining then by all means mix it up a little in the chair department.

I hope I've given you a little food for thought. Get a little messy. It's fun!


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