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Why Matchy-Matchy is Bad Design

Everyone's heard the term "matchy-matchy" when talking about

interior design, but what does that mean and why is it a bad thing?

Years ago, with the advent of stores like Rooms To Go, retailers realized that the average Joe wasn't great at coordinating design elements and started offering pre-designed "sets." Sort of like the old Wheel of Fortune rotating stage, a whole matching room was made available to you from which to choose any or all of the things in it, resting easy knowing they "go" together. If you don't get this reference, Google it, it was a magical era in TV. Essentially, all of the products offered in these "rooms to go" looked like they were drawn with the same three colors of crayon. The same exact colors are repeated over and over throughout the vignette with relentless uniformity. The same is often true of patterns, and usually neither the patterns or colors are very sophisticated. Most preschool classrooms are swathed in the same blue, yellow, and red across every surface, but we wouldn't call that aspirational design despite how well it all matches.

The problem with this uniformity is that it is uninspiring; everything is one-note. Nothing stands out as interesting or different and there is no visual relief in the design equivalent of a dripping spout. Our spaces, at their best, should be reflections of our interests, stories, and personalities. Pillows, draperies, rugs, and furniture that look like they're identical quadruplets leave us feeling like we're having interior deja vu. So, no matter how tempting it is to think you can get a whole coordinated room that matches without having to think about it, don't. It will look like you literally didn't think about it. At all.

So what can be done for a person who isn't super design-savvy but still wants to rock an amazing interior?

1. Strategize. Make a Pinterest board, look at other's Pinterest boards, look at design magazines, look at the sets on your favorite glam TV show, and most importantly, look at your stuff. Not the stuff you got from Target last week, but the stuff that you would save in a fire. What are the objects that bring you joy or remind you of something or someone you love. Those can be a great starting place.

2. Visualize. Get it all in one place where you can see it together, and preferably move things around. I recommend actual physical pictures. Photograph and print out images of your things or the pieces you are considering adding to your collection and arrange them like dollhouse furniture. Seeing things next to each other is so much more helpful that trying to imagine it in your head, plus it's a great way to group and organize the things you think make good pairings.

3. Conceptualize. Pick a starting point. An individual rug, pillow, or piece of art are some of the easiest jumping-off points because they already have a defined color scheme. Use this as a road map to develop a color scheme for your space. I suggest (more or less) five core colors. Use these colors as your primary design guide, but not as a mandate as you add pieces to your space. If things are color-adjacent to your primary scheme, but not exact, that's ok, they can play too. Think of it like the harmony in a song complimenting the melody - slightly different, but better together.

4. Edit. Plan on bringing in more things than you will ultimately keep. Not everything is going to play well with others in your space. Keep the tag and know when to cut a piece from the team if it ends up being a dud. And not every space needs to be immediately filled. Don't run out and buy a bunch of characterless junk just to fill up your shelves and walls. Leave some space for growth in the future when you find something really cool you just can't live without.

5. Know when to call in the professionals. A good professional interior designer can do this in their sleep. If it is keeping you up at night, it's time to call in qualified reinforcements. A good designer should be able to walk you through all of the above steps to help you craft a space that will resonate with you and your family. Your space should be a thoughtful, multi-layered reflection of your personality. Add some interest and leave the three-crayon color schemes at the big box stores.

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