Dynamic Decorating Duos: Complementary Styles to Pair

Metal plays well with wood. Simple lines go with fancy. Round and square make a pair. What gives? In decorating, the most exciting rooms happen when you mix things.

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Sofa and Coffee Table

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A round coffee table softens the lines of a contemporary sofa. "It doesn't overwhelm like a large rectangular table or a trunk does," says John Loecke, a New York City-based designer.

—"Make sure the coffee table is no lower than the bottom of your sofa frame where the cushions are," says Loecke. Standard height is 16 to 19 inches.

—Materials matter. A wood base mellows a modern setting, and the glass top adds sparkle and lightness. "Pick a carpet with a graphic pattern, especially if the sofa fabric is a solid," Loecke says.

—As a basic rule of thumb, select a table that's no more than half the sofa's width, for easy access.


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Parlor Tricks

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Update a ladylike sofa in a busy pattern by selecting a companion piece with a clean silhouette—like this oval wood one.


Aviary Tyne loveseat, $600, pier1.com for stores


Union coffee table, $299, crateandbarrel.com


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Mix, Don't Match

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To shake off a same-old feel, combine shapes and materials—a boxy tweed sofa and a round marble coffee table.


Karlstad Loveseat in Isunda gray, $579, ikea.com


Smart round marble-top coffee table, $299, cb2.com


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Ageless Accents

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Two geometric cubes in front of a traditional tufted velvet sofa can give a space a modern vibe.


Elton settee in lagoon performance velvet, $699, westelm.com


Loft stacking cubes in blue, $59 each, homedecorators.com


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Console and Mirror

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Team a carved wood mirror with a sleek translucent console in the entry hall. The combo works equally well in a living area or bedroom—anywhere you need an extra place to put things.

—Go for a big mirror—it can be a dramatic focal point and make a space appear larger.

—Choose table accessories in pottery, plaster, lacquer—but avoid a match with the mirror. "You want a variety of materials and textures," explains Loecke.

—A simple Lucite table melds with any style of room and practically disappears against the wall. Give it flair by hanging a bold frame instead of something subtle like metal.


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Wood Works

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Hang a rustic twig mirror above a minimal metal console. The rectangular shapes unify the two.


Driftwood mirror, $149, urbanoutfitters.com


Gear console table, $249, cb2.com


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Weight And See

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A graphic metal frame provides a perfect counterpoint to a hefty wood table with curved legs.


Eagan multipanel small mirror, $249, potterybarn.com


Benedetta 36" console, $299, ballarddesigns.com


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Triple The Fun

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As an alternative to one large mirror, try a trio. Natural washed wood tones down the glitzy chrome table.


Round washed-wood mirrors, $199/set of 3, homedecorators.com


Cosmopolitan console table, $399, zgallerie.com


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Dining Table and Chairs

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So long, matchy-matchy. For an updated dining room, opt for chairs that complement the table but are a different material or shape.

—"Look for furnishings that don't compete with each other," says Loecke. With square grillwork backs, these see-through metal pieces show off the sleek lines of the wood table.

—Lightweight chairs that can do double duty as extra seating in other areas of the house are a bonus.

—Don't forget the rest of the room. A plaid rug mimics the chair backs and adds some dash.


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Farmhouse Charm

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Contrasting rattan and steel side chairs lighten the mood of a rustic wood farmhouse table.


Nandor chair, $70, ikea.com


Terravida 63" dining table, $799, crateandbarrel.com


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Upholstered Upgrade

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Trade matching wood chairs for upholstered pieces in a bold floral pattern to perk up an Art Deco-style table.


Cutback dining chairs, $230/set of 2, target.com


Arc base pedestal table, from $399, westelm.com


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Family-Friendly Function

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Marry a wood plank-top table with industrial-style iron legs and modern plywood chairs for a kid-proof combo.


Originally published in the February 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.


Legare bent plywood chair, $66, kohls.com


Dylan dining table, $899, cb2.com