December 2, 2009

Guest Blog: Why We Don’t Like Matchy Matchy

Filed under: Color usage, Fabric Usage, Furniture, Interior Design, Paint, Wall Decoration — michaeldelicio @ 1:48 PM

By Caitlin Pitt

Pick up any of the hipper (or recherché, depending on your viewpoint) design rags and you’ll see at lot of looks. What used to be called “eclectic” is “classic” now; combining periods is the baseline. Elements of glamour (eg ormoulu and brass) that used to be old are new again. Corian is the new marble. Colors that once ‘clashed’ now ‘sizzle’.

You’ve seen everything, and you’ll see everything. But the one thing you won’t see is “matchy matchy”. At least not in this decade.

First, the definition. The Urban Dictionary ( defines “matchy matchy” as, “…used to describe an outfit that is too coordinated and consists of too many of the same types of colours [sic], patterns, fabrics, accessories, designer pieces, thematic elements, etc. Can also be used in reference to interior design…”

The expression itself embodies a mild though mocking rebuke of the old aesthetic. Even if you don’t fully understand the concept you can tell there’s something undesirable going on here. But matching is a hard habit to break! Nevertheless, when you let go of the compulsion, you’ll be surprised to find that a whole new dimension of beauty and richness awaits.

Here’s what I mean. Take, for example, this nice room here. Nothing bad one can say. It’s a comfortably appointed, calming, traditional room. I have seen this room, or a close cousin, in a thousand homes. I’ve seen this room in every city in the US. Even in the homes of very-this-century people.

Traditional Matchy

It’s certainly lovely…but is it interesting? Stimulating? Enlivening?? There is little or no acknowledgment of the intervening 150 years of design history and innovation anywhere here. Edith Wharton likely would be as comfortable in this room as my grandmother would’ve been.

Now let’s look at these rooms.

Are they transitional? postmodern? what? To say they’re “eclectic” sounds quaint, or maybe ironic, kind of like calling large item collection day at the dump “a hodgepodge”.


One common feature of these rooms is that the scale of the elements is similar to classical decorating. You’ll note that the stone sculpture above is nearly the scale of a painting that might hang over the bed in a modern room. The bronze silk upholstered X bench at the foot of the bed is a common enough item, albeit one with more “pop”. But five or ten years ago, would one have seen this bronze paired with the yellow lacquer nightstands? And stones above the bed? No, this is definitely a new way of putting things together.

Mixy 1

Here, there are lots of different colors, periods and styles, but no over-sized pieces or oddly mismatched items, such as a cherry Queen Anne stool or a 70s redwood tree stump coffee table. This room also has pairs of items that do match, lending the room a pleasing symmetricality. Would we have seen this room in the 70s or even the 90s? Likely not.


In this room, there’s very little to match – another great strategy. All-one-hue rooms with different components in various tones or values is another, more subtle, way to avoid matching too much. This room encompasses traditional, classic, modern and contemporary elements with a minimalist aesthetic and looks “mixed” rather than “matched”, but quietly so.

The point is, in this day and age there are so many ways to achieve stylishness living, and only a tiny subset of these requires that all of the elements match. Today, “go together” can mean combining similar elements in unanticipated ways just as easily as it can mean containing disparate elements within a classical framework. Whichever way one wants it, the result is distinct, crisp, provocative – and new.

Happy Decorating!


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  1. Interesting post :-) I’m sort of in between — I don’t like matchy-matchy, but I also don’t like the look of trying too hard NOT to be matchy-matchy. Make sense?? :-)

    I’m putting together a sample board for my colour theory class that doesn’t have any two things that match. But pieces in the room are tied together with repeating elements. That’s the look that I like best :-)

    The rocks above the bed create an intriguing focal point. I hope they’re stuck onto the wall with super-powerful glue — wouldn’t want one of them falling off and bonking you on the head in the middle of the night!!


    Comment by DesignTies — December 4, 2009 @ 3:43 PM

  2. Hi Kelly!

    Thanks for your great comment – it’s intriguing!

    I love your idea about repeating elements – do you mean structural elements, furniture, decorative motif? Can you elaborate? Do you have a picture? I agree with you, relentless UNmatchy is at least as bad as, if not worse than, matchy. Anything done in the extreme isn’t pleasant, at least for me.

    To tell the truth, I wouldn’t have rocks above my bed any more than I’d have them in my bed (I’ve heard that song!). But I included the picture because I found the assembly to be an interesting deconstruction of “headboard” and juxtaposition of traditional elements that don’t really “go together” but visually cohere anyway.

    Thanks again for reading, thinking – and replying! SO wonderful!


    Comment by Leona Gaita — December 9, 2009 @ 3:45 PM

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with you that eclectic spaces are the best, most true to form spaces… I’ve cultivated my home and every piece has a story of where I found it and how I envisioned it. The best way to show your personality is through your home, and that can’t really happen with the, well we bought it in a set on a Memorial weekend sale. Btw, I love your writing style!

    Comment by Soma — September 2, 2011 @ 4:44 PM

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