Return to Matchy Matchy

Two of my favourite decor books of the past season were Amy Lau’s Expressive Modern and Katie Ridder’s Rooms: both designers conjure with confidence creating spaces that whisper serenity and scream luxury. One thing that surprised me about both books, however, was the tendency of the decorators to fall back on matchy matchy solutions that I mistakenly imagined were passé (photo above by Roger Davis, below by Kim Sargent).

Lau is especially fond of this path often turning a jumping-off point into a cliff dive. She loves commissioning custom art and glasswork, rugs and cushions, typically in undulating and/or spotty patterns (photo below by Kris Tamburello).

Her rooms work, make no mistake. But I find the approach ever so slightly off-putting. It’s as if her fall-back solution is to throw money at the problem and have an artisan create a custom piece that absolutely and irrevocably nails the concept. It’s a bit overt for my taste.

Ritter is less slavish but she throws some curves in Rooms that really took me aback. In the den below (photo by Lucas Allen), the colour of the vintage leather chairs has been picked up for the walls and cabinetry, something I would never, ever do because it’s just so matchy and yet in this case I think it works very well.

In the bifurcated living room below (photo by Scott Frances) Ridder repeats the chair pattern on the banquette cushions and opts for similar ribbed shades on the pendants and table lamp. Matchy matchy or just good decorating?

Ridder goes whole hog in the princess-ready bedroom below (photo by Lucas Allen) even piping the side chair in the same fabric as the canopy and pillows. For many, the room is the definition of divine; for me it’s a bit suffocating.

The Ridder sunroom below (photo by Eric Piasecki) is less overtly matchy but with so much harmony in terms of pattern and colour the space feels overly “done” to me. I recognize this is exactly what a lot of clients are looking for and that’s why Ridder is famous and I’m just a wannabe, blogging in the dark.

In Rooms and Expressive Modern, both designers showcase spaces that are unequivocal home runs, like the living room below by Lau (photo by Kim Sargent). I think the designer is at her best when the palette is less tightly restricted, when furniture style and tonal harmony unite the scheme rather than obviously repeated patterns.

Same goes for Ridder who consistently finds the balance between homey and glamourous when she’s not matching things up.



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Thursday, April 5, 2012 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 865 posts on styleNorth.

9 Comments For This Post

  1. Karen J Says:

    Matchy matchy – passé? Never;)

  2. David Says:

    It’s funny you’d post on this subject. I just put up a post with a pair of tables I ordered for the tv room, and mentioned that while I don’t like matchy I did want a little continuity.

    Speaking of books, Stephen Gambrel’s first one, Time and Place, is fantastic.

  3. Chris Says:

    Hi David,
    Yes, Mr. Gambrel’s book is high on my list — along with The World of Muriel Brandolini — although my aversion to paying full retail has so far held me back. Speaking of Brandolini, check out this YouTube teaser narrated by the decorator who says, “things do not need to match and I love to freely mix style and period.” I concur.
    Here’s a clip of Amy Lau from IDS 12.

  4. Denise Says:

    What’s the difference between “matchy-matchy” and “matching”?

  5. Chris Says:

    No difference Denise, it’s all matched up.

  6. heather Says:

    Fabulous blog with great info. I search everywhere for great idea’s for my clients… and your blog is becoming a great source I share with my clients. 8)

  7. margo Says:

    Matchy-matchy not for me, I like to mix it up finding pieces that complement each other without being obvious, the thrill of the hunt for that special item that ties the room together heaven.



  8. Claire Says:

    Such a good question–how much matchy is too much? I think it might depend on how much “empty space” there is in a room, to offset the matching. Or maybe how bold the contrasts are. That room painted to match the leather chairs results in fewer visual “seams,” whereas repeating a small pattern everywhere makes the eye go bonkers. My two cents!

  9. shescomeundone Says:

    It may well be an unconscious right/left brain thing for some of us. The human brain wants to find order and is drawn to symmetry. Deliberate matching and echoing of pattern or lines takes a discerning eye IMHO. I have gone there in the past, mainly the gawdaweful 80’s but found it was more by accident than conscious choice. As for the matching pillows, well, again it’s an 80’s throwback to when wallpaper with coordinated borders and fabrics were sickeningly au courant. Another hazard is that leftover yard or two of fabric and before you know it, it’s been transformed into a throw cushion goblin. Better to make a gift of it to a friend than keep.

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