Teal room decor IKEA

If you’re a member of my private Facebook group (Interior Design Chat) you’ll know that each month I ask our community what questions people have about the topic of the month.

One of my members this month asked a really great question, which forms the subject of our blog post today: How do you infuse a room with colour, without it being “matchy matchy”?

Matchy Matchy Mistakes

The mistake that many people make with decorating is buying a “set” of items from one place. This is the cardinal sin of decorating.

A common example is buying bedroom furniture, where you buy a bed, bedside tables, wardrobe and a chest of drawers all in the same style and wood finish. Or you buy the bedding, curtains, throw cushions and light shade from the same range within the same shop. Or in a living room you buy a sofa, a couple of armchairs and a footstool all in the same fabric. You know what I mean, right? Matchy matchy. Bleurgh.

Well, just like with furniture, it’s the same with colour. It’s important to have a clearly defined colour palette, but overuse of colour makes your home decor look twee, and lacking in imagination. A well designed room contains a range of different items which have something in common, but are not identical.

“There is a big difference between co-ordinating and matching. A well designed room contains a range of different items which have something in common, but are not identical.”

— Kate Hatherell, The Home Design School

You see, there is a big difference between co-ordinating and matching. And in case you’re in any doubt, it’s co-ordinating that we’re trying to achieve.

Colour Repetition

Colour is a really helpful tool when trying to create a co-ordinated (not matching) scheme because it allows you to unite disparate items through a common colour palette.

In my colour course, I teach my students that to make a colour palette work successfully, you need to repeat it in at least three places in a room.

It is this repetition of colour, materials and finishes in your room which makes colour look intentional. Pops of colour on their own look out of place. 

However, just like with sets of furniture, you can go too far with a colour palette too, and create a colour scheme which looks overly contrived.

So how do you repeat colour, to make it look intentional, without over-repeating it and making it look “matchy matchy”?

Top Tips to Banish Matchy Matchy Colours

1. Choose a Variety of Accent Colours

Rather than just sticking to one colour in your palette, choose up to four colours to be your accent colours. Allow one of the colours to dominate and allow the others to act as supporting cast.  If you have a four- colour palette for example pick one main colour, one supporting colour and use the others sparingly as smaller accents. In the image below, green has been allowed to dominate, and a few blue accents just lift the scheme and stop it being too ‘samey’.

 Image courtesy of  Ideal Home  Image courtesy of Ideal Home

2. Use a Variety of Saturations

In the image above, although green and blue have been repeated throughout the room, different saturations of the colours have been used to add interest. Notice the glass jars for example on the top of the bookcase: a much darker, richer green next to a lighter, paler vase. These vases are different from the feature wall colour, and again different from the lime green in the artwork and the softer green of the upholstery. The greens co-ordinate; they don’t match.

3. Keep Your Backdrop Neutral

When I say neutral, I don’t necessarily mean white, but when you are considering the large spaces in your room, a neutral canvas acts as a back drop for the stronger colours in the room. In the image above, the neutral walls allow the green to shine; in the image below, the neutral walls allow the accent colours to ‘pop’.

4. Don’t Overdo The Colour

In the room below, there is a clearly defined colour palette of blue, pink and green. Yet this room isn’t shrouded in colour; it is successful because the colour hasn’t been ‘overdone’. The teal drawer units are only repeated in the box shelves and an ornament; the pink is only used in a few accessories and cushions and the mint green is on the artwork and just a couple of accessories. Because the flooring and walls have been kept intentionally neutral, the pops of accent colour bring the room to life, without swamping it with ‘in-your-face’ colour.

 Image Courtesy of  IKEA  Image Courtesy of IKEA

5. Use a Variety of Shapes, Textures and Materials

The final tip to stop colour being matchy matchy is not about colour at all! It is in fact about making sure that you have a variety of shapes, textures and materials within your room. If you want to have two armchairs in your room, choosing two different styles and fabrics stops them from being matchy, but using the same colour unites them within the scheme. Similarly, using your accent colours on different textures, such as silk and linen, wool and painted wood keeps the look dynamic and curated.

Make sure you check out our whole colour section on the website, or grab the free tutorial on choosing paint colours below:

Until next time x

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