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 (www.urbandictionary.com) 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.
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.
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.