How to Blend Decorating Styles for a Unified Look
Successfully combining decorating styles creates a unique, personalized home aesthetic. The key to a cohesive result? Repetition, balance and being open to compromise.
Whether you’re trying to blend two separate households or accommodating items from several different generations, merging different decorating styles can seem like a formidable task. The good news is that even the most contrasting styles can be integrated for a unified look. The best part? It’s easier than you might think. Here are some tips to get you started:
Before You Start Blending Styles
Getting your entire household involved in the beginning will pay off in the long run. Not only does it help when everyone is invested in the process and result, their input will bring to light how a cohesive look can emerge.
• Note Restrictions — Acknowledging your size and space restrictions is one of the first things to do. In most cases, it’s impossible to incorporate every single piece of furniture, so focus on eliminating any duplicates or those that are too large for the space.
• Decide on Non-Negotiable Items — There are going to be certain items that everyone absolutely cannot part with — think family heirlooms or other sentimental pieces. Allowing for non-negotiable items shows that you respect your housemates and that you’re invested in this collaboration. It also nudges everyone to think about what they’re bringing to the table. What do they like? Why? Choosing non-negotiable pieces and discussing likes and dislikes reveals common areas you can build on. Shared likes and dislikes are key to creating a unified look.
Combining Decorating Styles
Don’t Segregate — While you might think dedicating certain rooms for certain styles is a simple solution (cottage-style kitchen, contemporary bathroom, traditional bedroom), this strategy produces a result that is anything but cohesive. Along the same lines, resist gathering like items together within a space, such as putting a grouping of nautical decor in the corner of a room decorated in florals. The key to success is balance. Integrate style elements throughout the room for a unified presentation.
Pick a Neutral Base — When combining styles, try using warm neutrals as a backdrop. Greige is a good choice that goes with just about anything. Because neutrals tend to fade into the background and let the items around them take center stage, they make a strong base for anyone anxious about merging styles or trying to incorporate a lot of colors. Conversely, deep, moody shades also make a good choice when blending contemporary and traditional elements. Keep in mind that every room in the house can be different, but establishing a base for each space will help significantly in incorporating other components.
Be Deliberate with Color — An intentional color scheme is a simple way to keep a diverse style unified. Customizing the color palette makes it easier to pull off mixing two or more different styles together. Which colors to choose? Look to your non-negotiables for inspiration, while also taking into consideration the hues already included in existing styles. In addition, the 70/20/10 rule for color mixing is a great help: 70% of the room is one color (think walls and floors), 20% is a second color (furniture), and 10% is a third color (accents). Only two colors? Then the 80/20 rule applies. Having a color palette can also help decide on which furnishings will be used in what room.
Pay Attention to Scale — A difficult obstacle when merging styles is understanding and mastering the scale (size) of the furniture with respect to one another. Some design styles feature bulky, oversized furniture while others are typically small and sleek. In general, a room looks best when pieces are about the same scale. One example of a mismatch is having a coffee table that is tall and a sofa that sits low. This combination not only looks strange, but will also be uncomfortable to use. There are exceptions, of course, where furniture of different sizes work well together.
Repeat Patterns and Shapes — A combined design style that is cohesive is not necessarily an unvaried look, but one where elements don’t feel out of place. The best way to create a harmonious environment is by repeating patterns, textures and shapes within the room and throughout the home. Subtle repetition and strong resemblances in wall decor, flooring patterns, furniture shapes, and textiles go a long way in promoting a balanced and unified aesthetic.
Update Old Furniture — When trying to bring together two dissimilar pieces, sometimes painting furniture will make it so that the pair can live together comfortably in the space. For example, painting a traditional style piece of furniture a lively color inspired by a piece of contemporary wall art. Paint is the least expensive way to refresh many decorative elements, not just outdated furniture. Reupholstering dated pieces with more appropriate fabrics is another option. Consider paint and new fabric for a highly impactful transformation.
Start With Non-Negotiable Pieces — When families blend or move, there is always one piece that absolutely must be worked into the home’s decor. For example, a family with a contemporary aesthetic trying to make their grandmother’s traditional settee fit into their living room. When it comes to blending styles, there’s always a way to make things work. In this case, they can either try to manipulate the surrounding elements in order to accommodate the non-negotiable piece — pairing the traditional settee with open clean-lined furniture as modern equivalents — or embrace the uniqueness of the non-negotiable piece and spotlight it as a showpiece.
Allow for Personal Spaces — Carving out personal areas can reduce some of the stress that comes with merging design styles. Personal space might mean incorporating a designated room for someone, like a bedroom or an office, or simply having a personal table or nook in a shared bedroom. Designate space to one individual and give them complete control over it. Not only does this give the person freedom to arrange and display their special items, but also allows them to decide on their own style preferences, which can change and grow over time. Attic and basement spaces make great personal spaces.
Compromise is Key — While sometimes it may not seem like it, there is opportunity in compromise. An example? Say one partner wants the comfort of a chair in the bedroom and the other partner doesn’t. A compromise might be that the bedroom gets a chair, but the other partner gets to choose its style, color and fabric. One partner gets the comfort they want while the other gets to maintain the overall look — win/win. The rest of the room would then balance the couple’s shared likes and dislikes. Another similar example of compromise is having contemporary tiled flooring, but warming it up with a luxurious rug.