Double Trouble: The Art Of Designing In Pairs

  • 01 of 07

    Double Trouble: The Art Of Designing In Pairs

    Two is better than one. You've heard that one before, right? Well, the more you read and study about interior design, the more you see certain ideas coming up again and again. Neutral colors are always the safest bet (and sometimes the most interesting one); mid-century modern furnishings like the Eames Lounge have a classic, American look; and the best interiors always seem to find a way to present their colors and patterns in an intricate combination of layers. Layering is one of those terms you'll see a lot. When done well, it can take a nicely designed room and turn it into a breathtaking interior space. We often talk about layering as one of those techniques that takes time and practice to master. But what we don't spend as much time talking about - and it’s one of my favorite things about layering - is that it's not limited to colors and patterns. Just about anything in a room can be layered, particularly furniture and accessories. The only difference is that when working with actual furniture pieces, rather than colors or patterns, you don't need quite so many iterations of the piece in order to have a strong visual impact. In fact, in most cases, you'll only need two. 

    Think of it this way: when you look at your favorite room settings have you ever noticed how many of the most stunning interiors feature furniture elements in pairs?  Well, this isn’t by accident; these rooms are well planned out, and thoughtfully executed. Rooms that double up on furniture pieces are emphasizing a more-is-more philosophy, and because of that, pairing is often a key element in some of the most luxurious spaces you can find. But while creating layers in twos might sound less complicated than pairing colors or patterns in larger numbers, this is not necessarily the case. As with other forms of layering, finding the right pieces to pair and creating balance in spaces that feature multiple pairs takes work and patience. It may require some time and a bit of trial and error in order to build up the necessary skill to execute the look in the way that you want it. Now whether you find that all of your favorite spaces tend to present things in twos, or you're just looking for a way to expand your design repertoire, this is a technique that you should definitely try at home. And to help flatten out your learning curve, I will take you through the biggest four benefits of pairing furniture in your home, and why two really is better than one.  

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  • 02 of 07

    Pairs Add Symmetry To A Space

    Symmetry is a very important part of interior design. While it's not often found in nature, it can do a lot to create a sense of balance in a room. With regard to furniture, you can start to introduce symmetry to your space when two identical pieces of furniture are facing one another from opposite sides of a room or are placed side by side. It's a simple method, but it can make a meaningful impact on just about any room. And even though this technique is a staple of high end interiors, the pieces don't need to be especially ornate to draw the eye. The repetition by itself is enough to get the point across. And when they are ornate, as with the beds in the image seen above, the additional repetition of nearly every other element in the space helps to ground the busyness of the patterns and furnishings. Simplicity is the key, and a room with symmetry brings a sophisticated simplicity to a room that can be calming to the viewer.

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  • 03 of 07

    Pairs Add Symmetry To A Space

    One pitfall to avoid when picking up this design trick is thinking that pairing is a technique that only works with small pieces of moveable furniture. The truth is, it works just as well with cabinets and kitchen islands. If you ever find yourself wondering which room would be the best one in which to experiment with pairs, my suggestion is to find the room in your home that requires the most change from a design perspective, or the one that will be undergoing a change shortly.

    A kitchen renovation is a lengthy and expensive process, but it can also be a great time to try something new. In this kitchen, it was a smart choice to install paired cabinetry such a large space. Combined with the (nearly) identical twin floating islands in the center, it creates an amazing mirror image effect that turns an ordinary kitchen into a visual delight. And the bright pop of  pink that comes in the form of the paired light fixtures hanging above is the icing on the cake.

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  • 04 of 07

    Pairs Grow Out a Room

    A living room is a great space to start designing in pairs. It’s normally a room in which you'll want to do  a lot entertaining for guests. It’s also a space that often challenges us with finding the right pieces of furniture to maximize the space without getting oversized pieces that will dwarf the room. Designing in pairs can be especially useful if you are struggling with a room that has a large footprint, and you are unsure of how much furniture you will need to fill in the space. The upside to pairing in this situation is that, with two of everything in a room, you are absolutely sure to grow out the space. Having two chairs in the corner of room, or by a window can transform a formerly empty space into a reading nook. And in the room shown above the addition of a second, large coffee table makes all the difference by complementing the seating and the extra long area rug. A living room that once had enough left over room for a bowling alley is suddenly transformed into a grand space. It is now a perfect setting for entertaining guests and a comfortable place to relax once they've all gone home. It's still a big room though, so the cleanup may take a while. 

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  • 05 of 07

    Pairs Simplify A Design Scheme

    On the other side of the coin, while pairing can help fill out a larger space, in a small or moderately-sized space, it can limit the amount of furniture that you can include in your design - which might actually be a good thing. Similar to using a limited color palette in a space, designing a room in pairs can help to simplify your design scheme, making it clearer and more coherent. This is a perfect way alleviate some of the stress from the design process, and is a handy little trick to have around if you are feeling just a bit overwhelmed. By limiting the space in this way, you will free yourself up to simply focus on the key elements of the room with a mental note that everything will simply have to be doubled when it's time to execute. You'll still need to keep a close eye on your dimensions in order to make sure that you don't have more than you need when it's time to install, but using pairs in a small space can still save you a lot of time in the design selection process.

    It's also important to note that pairing is not restricted to furniture. Lighting, accessories, rugs - all are viable options for creating a paired look. A lot of how you'll use pairs in a space will also depend on your preferred design style (i.e. modern vs. eclectic). For example, you may be more inclined to choose large pieces of furniture in a modern room setting, so those pieces would likely (though not certainly) be your first choice for creating pairs as they would make the largest visual statement. In this modern, minimalist bathroom, the romantic arrangement of the his-and-hers bathtubs take up the majority of the space, creating a charming design story while requiring the rest of the room’s design to be as simple and streamlined as it’s major focal points. This is a perfect design habit for creating relaxing spaces in which the day, and the world, can be left behind. 

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  • 06 of 07

    Pairs Simplify A Design Scheme

    Conversely, an eclectic space is normally made up of a mix of various design trends, eras, and global elements. Almost any of these can be paired, depending on what aspects of the design you want to emphasize. So in rooms like this the elements you choose to show in pairs may be in accent pieces and/or accessories.

    As accessory pieces, the two tufted x-benches in the foreground of this image provide a beautiful pop of color to an already diverse visual landscape. Pairing them next to each other not only enhances that shot of color, it adds a calming note of symmetry to the swirl of influences that makes up this space.

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  • 07 of 07

    Design & Repeat

    In the end, there’s a lot of good reasons to make pairing the newest entry to your design toolbox. But perhaps the best is not what it does to the finished product of a room’s design, but the fact that it makes planning the design so much easier. In fact, sometimes it is just as simple as design and repeat when laying out a space. Remember that when you’re planning out a design, you can implement pairs with almost any piece, and at nearly any scale. So if the idea of pairing large furniture pieces is overwhelming, consider focusing on pairing accent pieces like lighting, poufs, and end tables to start. This makes the trial and error period easier to handle while you get the hang of things. And you’ll be surprised by how big a statement you can make by pairing some of the smallest pieces in the room.