My Top 10 Interior Design Tips #9


via the mismatched chairs are broadly similar and in monochrome colours to tie the scheme together and the matching pendant lights work as a balance to the mismatch below

Which is a not very elegant way of saying that buying a three piece suite is lazy and looks like you haven’t thought about it. It gives the impression that you just loaded the whole thing into the cart (virtual or otherwise) and didn’t give it another thought. You don’t need a three piece suite, you need a sofa and two chairs. You can have two matching sofas and a different chair if you like. But the point is that it should look like three individual pieces of furniture that you thought about, cared about and made a decision about.

Now, in recent years, this has become a bit of a trend when it comes to kitchen chairs with a passion for all differents sorts that look like they were salvaged from various different skips in the neighbourhood. That was probably charming when the first few people did it but it’s become rather a cliche and now looks like you are trying too hard to be fashionable.

I know, it’s a minefield this decorating lark. So here’s the thing: you can have say two matching Eames chairs at the ends of the table (reasonable because more than that would cost a fortune) and four different chairs round the sides (two might be more realistic looking at the size of my own table, but you get the drift). Or have six matching chairs in different colours. In other words, six mismatched chairs is a cliche, one pair and four others is better.

Back in the sitting room, try to have theme of shape or fabric to tie your furniture together. A grey sofa, a grey and white patterned armchair and a plain chair with wooden arms. For example. Something that basically – and this is another rule – looks like you meant it.

You can have two lamps at different heights and styles with matching lampshades. All your cushions can be different. If you have a pair of chair you can paint the legs of one of them a different colour. I have a pair of chairs in my house which I bought specifically because they came with different coloured legs. They don’t sell them any more but you could DIY it.

By which I mean: you can be as mismatched as you like but it has to look like there was a decision, a thought process, a reason for what you have done. Otherwise it’s just lifting from the catalogue and now that there’s so much choice there’s no need to do that any more.

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Hi Kate
    Just catching up after a relaxing break…. I couldn’t agree more with all of the above. I think I’ve always been a little out of step, as I’ve often looked at houses that all match and just don’t get it….. They can look lovely and co-ordinated, but for me a little soul less… I have pieces from my grandma, an uncle and then new bits I’ve collected over the years. As for the chairs around the table, I have 2 knackered wooden ancient chairs and have saved over the last few years for 4 Eames chairs and they are my pride and joy! Although did tell my husband I got them in the sale!! So better to save and get what you want, because you want them and appreciate them, rather than being influenced by retailers. Looking forward to 2016 and always check in and enjoy your blog. All the best.

  2. I agree with the non matching concept but it seems difficult to get it right. I have seen too often unmatched chairs look exactly like that … just odd chairs. Maybe it’s just me and the need for something that ties things together – colour, material or style. I like the concept for the dining area, I have tried same chairs diff colours and also 4 chairs the same and 2 designer chairs the same at the dining table. That’s as far as I can go. Living rooms, I think are trickier to combine sofas/chairs that do not match.

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