The Charm of Intentional Mismatching

Intentional Mismatching Is Not Haphazard

Mismatching Photo Credit: Jessica Weiser, Design: Lauren Wells via Style Me Pretty
Mismatching Dining Chairs, Fun to Hunt and Fun to Style

Intentional mismatching is charming, and allows you to use great pieces that would be difficult to find, or expensive in a complete set. Home decor enthusiasts and collectors alike will appreciate showcasing both breadth and eclectic taste. However, intentional mismatching is not haphazard. It is a skill that has some unwritten, well, not exactly “rules,” but guidelines.

Following A Few Guidelines: The Difference Between Chaos And Cohesive

Credit: Waverly and Grand
Monotone Palettes Highlight Mismatched Engraved Glassware
Understanding and applying these guidelines will help you create a room that is lovely, filled with personality, and (more importantly) cohesive. This is a style that caries bohemian flair, but can be used in any style.  Developing this skill, enables collectors to turned their stored collections, into homes studded with wonderful personality. For those with eclectic tastes and a desire to express some originality, this is for you. Mismatching that works may appear accidental, but it belies a hidden discipline. It can be applied to artwork, furniture and decor–all manner of genres, and so, it is a skill worth honing.
Mismatching Dining Chairs: Photographer Unknown
Intentionally Chosen Mismatched Dining Chairs

Unite Or Separate

While using disparate elements, the cohesive spaces that use mismatched items in exceptional ways, almost always have an underlying principle or element that ties the room or rooms together. This makes the space feel joyful and harmonious, rather than  cacophonous and uncomfortable. When unifying elements (often not readily obvious to most people) are not present, the room will make people vaguely uncomfortable, like being in room with lampshades or frames a-kilter. You must look for elements that will serve to unite the pieces you want to put together. It could be stylistic features, materials, color, motif, simplicity of line…If you already are a collector, you may have been doing this without ever realizing it, repeatedly buying similar items because you love them, without defining the reason. Define it. Use it. And, if  you just adore something that just doesn’t work with the group of pieces you are mismatching into a group, start a different, separate group, and build that too. In identifying a commonality between a group of items, you are also limiting the group to that commonality, and that’s a very important aspect in mismatching. There is no rule that says you can only love one style, must only collect a single focused group…or, for that matter, do just one jigsaw puzzle at a time!

Mismatched Silverware Photo Credit: Vibeke Design
Antique & Vintage Treasure-Mismatched Silverware

Link and Limit

Color, pattern, style, era, materials, and textures are echoed & linked, and are limited, in order to create an understated commonality between disparate items. Choosing no more than 2 (more, if you are really skilled) elements to carry through ensures that there will be a clear reason for the varied elements to be together. Curvilinear pattern and classic motifs common to the eras represented are what makes the silverware, in the photo above, work well together. Throw in Mid Century Modern or geometrical Art Deco era pieces into the above mix, and it would destroy the cohesion. The lines, forms, materials, shapes matter, and must share some traits to become a comfortable and beautiful blend.

Mismatched Porcelain Photo Credit: Kate Arends
Complex Coordination Grows With Your Collection. This Colorful Tableware Would Add Instant Joy To Any Meal!

Simpatico Not Sameness

Furnishings may include items whose stylistic details differ somewhat, but still fall within the same stylistic era. These could include a combination of pieces within (for example) the larger Art Deco era art movement, like Cubism, Russian Constructivism and Italian Futurism. The clearest path is to combine eras with simpatico lines, for example Mid Century and Danish Modern. Another is to contrast one style with another, as with Farmhouse comfort and Industrial, which is linked because while both embrace a utilitarian core, the comfort of “farmhouse” is contrasted with the pared back, unfinished metal of industrial, which is as at home in a farmhouse, as a galvanized pail or or chicken feeder would be. The key is not only to contrast but to link disparate styles by color, stain, attitude, or materials in both styles.

Mismatched Patterns Photo Credit: Vibeke Design
Mismatching Can Be A Subtle Play of Patterns

Certain collections are even more wonderful when intentionally mismatched. Dining chairs, dishware, silverplate or sterling silverware and tableware, linens like cloth napkins, glassware…all of these are easy and wonderful places to start. Honestly, though I very much love the family sterling, with its history and serious elegance, I ADORE the celebration of beauty that I see in a 100 piece collection of mismatched late Victorian-early 1920s silverware! Spectacular.

Prepare To Pare

So, prepare to pare  your choices to a just a couple of commonalities: color and theme match, or theme and era,  patterns types (all florals, all geometrics, all Atomic Era.) White dishware, all with differing floral patterns are fabulous, as long as the background or “field” remains white, the detail remains floral, and the flowers’ colors, from plate to plate, echo each other. It is this thoughtful culling to those pieces that feel alike in beauty, even while being different, that will make your groupings like the very best dinner party ever, where every person in attendance is so fascinating, you wish the dinner could be a bit like musical chairs, so you could talk to them all.

Mismatching For A Charming Vintage Ambiance Photo Credit: Steve Steinhardt Photography
Reception In France Using Mismatched Vintage and Antique Chairs

The first photo displays a skillful example of intentional mismatching, with no 2 chairs identical. All (the table as well) have almost Shaker clean lines. Colors are limited to the monochromatic tones of a sepia photograph. Materials and textures are limited, excluding patterns, metals, and ornamentation. This artful, supposedly carefree style is one that will never become old. Instead, it will even improve, over time, as items continue to be added in, and edited out.

Mismatched Motifs on Like Fields Photo Credit: via Sumally
Matching Motifs and Fields Creates Cohesion

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