How To Tie A Room Together But Avoid Being Matchy-Matchy

Q: Help! I’d really love your input and expertise with a designing conundrum I often find myself in. I’ve checked out several design/home décor books lately in an effort to grasp the ever elusive concept of “the perfect room.” It seems that everything I read both in books and online state the same thing – being matchy-matchy in decorating is the cardinal sin and anyone seen committing it should be voted off the island. So here is my dilemma: how do you coordinate a room using a chosen color scheme, but avoid making it appear too contrived and heaven forbid – matchy-matchy? I feel that every room in my house always come up short – if I stick to my color scheme, it often looks boring and flat. If I branch out and add pops of color, it tends to appear disjointed. Is there a basic rule that would help me in decorating my rooms? I’d love some pointers. As always, love you both. You’re great in every way. Cheers! – Jamie

A: Ideally, you want a room to “coordinate” but not “match.” Rooms that coordinate have varied textures, prints, materials, and tones that work together and appear balanced and cohesive. Rooms that match usually have all the same colored wood (usually all made by the same company and sold in a suite) they also have a matching sofa and loveseat or matching bedding that was sold in a set- heck, you know what matchy-matchy looks like so I won’t belabor it! Here’s a model-home-ish example thanks to JC Penney.

The basics aren’t bad (we could totally work with the tan sofas and the side tables, but we’d bring in a bigger rug with a pattern or a texture and switch out the wood coffee table that matches those side tables for a round leather ottoman or even a few smaller rattan cubes. The major takeaway from this point is that rooms that look collected over time (and feature a variety of tones, textures, and materials) always look eons more stylish than rooms that look like they could have been purchased all at once from one store.

But there’s a fine line between collected over time and mismatched and chaotic, as demonstrated by this tossed-together dorm room decor.

The key:

  1. variations in texture & materials add stylish, layered interest that draws you in, but…
  2. a deliberate, defined color palette reins things in and keeps the room cohesive

Here’s a room from House Beautiful that totally gets it right. See how the side tables are painted cream but the coffee table is dark wood? Notice how there’s texture in the upholstery and even in the grasscloth wallpaper? See how the palette is pretty tight, just yellows and creams with a dash of dark wood and two pops of deep blue?

Adding texture and subtle, layered interest is the surefire way to a warm and inviting space that feels finished yet anything but formulaic. Here are a few examples of some varied materials and textures that can be brought in to create the perfect foundation for a stylish space: leather chair + tan couch + black metal & glass coffee table + woven tray on the coffee table + dark wood TV stand + chocolate shag pillows + tan linen pillows + cream linen curtains + jute rug.

You can also see inspiration in some House Crashing photos that we have taken below (find more on all of them here in our Gallery):

Notice all the different materials and textures that will add that layered style that feels collected over time: wood with metal, linen with jute, leather with upholstery. But note that they’re still in a similar color palette: the black metal works closely with the dark wood and the brown leather, etc. Thanks to the coordinating tones of these foundation pieces, you can then add a few brightly colored accessories into the mix without fear of things looking too chaotic. It’s important to keep a tight color scheme in mind and not just go accessory crazy at Target.

Take this room that feels a bit flat as an example (also from JC Penney). It’s not nearly as textured, layered and interesting as it could be.

Just switching out the basic tan curtains with these subtly striped cream ones from West Elm, replacing the matching ottoman with this textured rattan table, and bringing in a larger patterned wool rug would add movement and texture for a serene and inviting space with character and interest. And to expand the palette and bring some color into the mix, some punchy silk pillows on the sectional and a brightly colored glass-based lamp on the side table would inject more of that je ne sais quoi!

Prints and patterns are another way to add interest and style to your space- especially if it’s feeling a little blah. And when it comes to mixing patterns, there are a few ways to keep them from looking disjointed and chaotic, and our new lattice pillow in our bedroom conveniently demonstrates a few of our favorite pattern mixing tips.


First of all, you want one of the prints or patterns to be a larger scale, more bold pattern (the pillow) while the other pattern is smaller in scale and a bit more subtle (the duvet cover). It’s usually a good idea for the smaller sized item to be the more bold piece (ex: a subtle small-scale patterned armchair paired with a graphic large-scale patterned pillow). Although we’ve seen some majorly dramatic rooms with large geometric or floral patterns in the curtains or even on the walls that knock our socks off, so it can go either way.


The other thing to keep in mind when you’re mixing and matching would be to try to keep the patterns or prints in the same color family. Thanks to the similar tone found in both the duvet cover and the pillow, they don’t seem to be fighting each other and can peacefully coexist in our master bedroom.

So there you have it: layered textures + a defined color palette + mixed & matched patterns = a visually interesting, coordinated space that looks warm and authentic and anything but matchy-matchy. Do you guys have any tips for keeping your rooms interesting and anything but cookie-cutter without erring on the side of crazy? We’d love to hear what works for you! Dish the decorating dirt…


  1. says

    Right on John and Sherry! :) Thanks for explaining it so well ~ I’m a visual girl so I love that you added pictures. Hope you have a wonderful day!

  2. says

    You did a great job of explaining that sherry…kudos to you girl..its very true..and I will say that I was a victim of matchy matchy..I think I want my bed set to be matchy..but I am learning not for the rest of the house. Thats why with my grandmothers vintage sofa and chairs that I have I wont get them all done because I dont want a matchy room..I want to get the sofa done and then add chairs.I have a vision.

  3. Kiley Cogis says

    I agree! I hate matchy matchy, though I just realized in my living room, I have a dark wood coffee table and TV stand, two smaller dark wood bookshelves, two plants stands with dark wood. Eeek! Sherry, any suggestions? I have lots of other bright, light colors throughout as decoration so maybe it’s okay.

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Kiley,

      We also love dark wood so assuming you have other items around to balance out all the dark (lighter upholstery, punches of color, soft textures, etc) it probably looks just fine. You could always switch out your coffee table for a leather storage ottoman (so functional and comfy) or even a woven one like the one we linked to in the post above (I love it so much that it’s making an appearance in a mood board any day now…). Happy decorating!


  4. says

    Agree with everything you said. When we first got married, we purchased all matching bedroom furniture and a bedset in a box! Talk about matchy-matchy explosion.

    Recently we redid our living room and unknowing used some of your tips. Neutral couches and (tall) curtains, dark wood bookshelves and tv stand and then added pops of color in our rug, a coffee table painted bright white and anthro accessories on dark floating shelves.

    Still a work in progress but that is half the charm. Good Luck jamie!

  5. says

    Super helpful! Now, I need to convince the hubby that match-match isn’t the way to go… :-) I always am telling him, “it doesn’t have to match, it just has to ‘go'”. You explanation will probably help him understand a bit more!

  6. says

    Dude, are you guys reading my mind? I spent my lunch hour today trying to figure out how to do this with my new living room. I’m trying to mesh an existing paint color and couch color with all new accessories and tables. Thanks for the tips, another set to print out and reference.

  7. Jenn says

    What would the rule be for incorporating a piece of black wood furniture into your dark wood pieces. I tend to go for the dark wood but occasionally find a piece I love that only comes in black. Does it just depend on where the piece will go in relation to the other items in the room? Or should I only incorporate black through other materials (like the metal you mentioned)? I hope this is making sense…..

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Jenn,

      We love to mix and match black pieces with dark wood! Black furniture might look a bit odd mixed with light wood (like birch Ikea chairs or something) but paired with dark chocolate wood tones they blend perfectly for that collected over time look. The only thing to be sure of is that the black piece isn’t completely different in style than the dark wood pieces (a little different is a-ok) since a big distressed black country-looking table probably won’t work seamlessly with a sleek & modern espresso wood TV table from West Elm. Hope it helps!


  8. says

    I found your blog through the 48 Hour Challenge and I’m really enjoying it! I love the befores & afters. The two tips I have to add are: 1) It’s ok to let a room evolve over time. It may start out a little matchy-matchy but if you add and edit with care you’ll achieve an authentic layered look. 2.) Accessories are where you add the story or the heart to the home. Buy art from your friends, collect souvenirs when you travel or have a small collection of objects that have special meaning to you. Then your room will never seem impersonal or out of a magazine because it can only belong to you.

  9. nana says

    Hi Sherry and John,
    I feel that I have known you both for a while – Love, love what you do. I read the blog everyday after my busy schedule at graduate school.
    I love the color in you have on your walls in your bedroom and was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing the name. Thank you.

  10. Erin says

    Hey Youngsters!
    Do you have a general rule of thumb for mixing patterned and solid throw pillows? I want to get some gorgeous green paisley Pottery Barn pillows for our new taupe couch, but I can be a bit heavy handed with accent pieces and therefore should not be trusted with these sorts of important decisions! What ratio do you guys think works best?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Erin,

      Hmm, there isn’t really a hard and fast pillow formula since patters and colors can vary so much and create lots of different outcomes and combinations. I think in general that a semi-bright or busy patterned pillow plays best with other muted solid pillows or even with muted smaller patterns (ex: a faded taupe leopard print pillow looks great with a big, brightly patterned green and cream circle pillow since the leopard guy has a semi-subdued pattern without much contrast so the green and white patterned one is the star). In fact, maybe that’s a good rule of thumb. One pillow gets to be the star (just like the pillow in the House Beautiful image above). So if you already have brightly patterned or colored pillows on your sofa I would shy away from other brightly patterned or colored ones unless you’re a pattern expert (it can certainly be done, it’s just not always the easiest thing to master). Does that make sense? Just keep playing around and it’ll come to you. And save receipts so you can switch things out until you have the perfect balance of interest and subtlety! Hope it helps. Happy hunting!


  11. JennD says

    I read your blog everyday. I think you’re decorating geniuses! <<— I hope that made sense. You guys are the Best!
    Our living room has dark wood bookcases and a black coffee table and an unmatching black end table and a white fireplace and I *think* they live together nicely :)

    As Always – Kudos to you for all the work you put into helping all of us with decorating our homes!

  12. Regina says

    Wonderful explanation! I often feel like the Jaime in my rooms as well. I want things to look like they go together without looking too purposeful or contrived. It’s not that easy– of course you guys make it look it is though!

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