While it would be wonderful to style a space from scratch, the reality is that our homes are an accumulation of treasured items and joint possessions. If you're moving in with your S.O. or styling a shared space with a roommate, you don't have to put mismatched items in storage or buy new wares. The solution is right on trend: Blend your styles.
Unlike the interiors of yesteryear that adhered to one uniform aesthetic, the most showstopping spaces of the moment aren't confined to a single look. In fact, some of our favorite interiors reject conformity altogether—think traditional French moldings juxtaposed with ultra-modern furniture, or plush, classic pieces paired with bohemian accents. The reigning rule of 2016? There are no rules. Well, almost.
Mastering dual décor style might look simple—after all, to an untrained eye, it seems like anything goes—but interior designers reveal there's an art to pairing contradictory pieces with ease. When done well, spaces are cohesive and considered, not chaotic. Throw out the old rule book, and follow these expert tips to create a truly unique home.
To start out, Laurel & Wolf interior designer Kimberly Winthrop recommends defining the base color of your space and styling furniture to match. "When mixing two seemingly opposite design styles, it's important to look at the room as a whole space," she says. "An easy way to mix furniture pieces from different eras and styles is to create a unified color palette. The room will look put together but not matchy-matchy, since the architecture of each piece will be unique." This Brooklyn brownstone combines a blue Scandinavian midcentury chair with traditional woodwork details with ease, thanks to a warm, neutral color palette.
Unsure if you and your partner's decor styles will compliment each other? Start by experimenting with removable items, such as a runner rug or accent cushions. Just be sure to incorporate a few key pieces in the space so it looks intentional. "Avoid just swapping or adding one item," says Winthrop. "[The key is] to really integrate design elements from both styles so nothing seems out of place."
If your space still lacks personality, use artwork to seamlessly blend the two aesthetics. "Art can make all the difference in creating a unified style," says Tze Chun, founder of Uprise Art, an online gallery that spotlights emerging artists. She notes that mixing pieces in different mediums will make a home look considered and authentic. "It gives the feeling that the home and artwork has been collected over time."
Her top tip for styling conflicting artworks side by side is to pay attention to proportion. "If you're incorporating multiple décor styles, use scale to keep things from looking too cluttered," she says. If you have limited wall space, "select one larger statement piece rather than a gallery wall to keep things simple," she adds.
You've selected a base color palette, experimented with removable pieces, and dabbled with different styles of art. Now what? The next step to master dual décor requires commitment. "You have to commit to mixing. Go all-in, or it will look like a jumble of mismatched furniture," warns Winthrop.
Pay attention to unique shapes and standout colors when choosing a statement piece. Interior designer Brenda Wong gave this late Victorian–style home an unexpected twist with a piercing emerald sideboard. The hyper-modern piece is hardly in line with the home's ornate plaster ceiling and traditional staircase but makes a clear, intentional impact. "As with any room, balance is key to a space," says Winthrop. "You want to make sure you have contrasting shapes and colors to create interest."
The best way to master this trend is with inspiration—and don't worry, we've got lots of it. Once you've chosen your aesthetic, seek out references and take note of key reoccurring pieces. Some of our favorite mixed interiors have clear hallmarks, such as bright accent chairs and ornate mirrors in Swedish interiors, or Moroccan rugs and batik cushions in modern bohemian homes. These tried-and-true formulas continue to pop up in stylish spaces, so don't be afraid to learn from the design experts and borrow their winning combinations.
If Swedish and modern French interiors have taught us anything, it's that a well-chosen light can be truly transformative. This is especially true if your home has traditional moldings like this refined Parisian apartment does. "A good way to ease into a blended style is to change out accessories and lighting," says Winthrop. "Before you go reupholstering all your furniture, change out your chandelier and mirrors. There's less financial commitment, and the update will change the entire space." Opt for a dramatic pendant light or a sconce with an unexpected silhouette to add depth to a room.
Be bold about your intention by pairing contrasting pieces side by side. This 19th-century Gilles et Boissier apartment shows us how it's done with an ornate, gilded mirror layered with both modern and traditional artworks. A modern sconce and stool offset the lacy French moldings, blending classic and contemporary elements together to create a poetic space. Looking to mimic this look? Forget about mounting paintings on the wall—stand them up against a wall for a cool, nonchalant vibe.