End tables are an essential element of living area furniture arrangements. They augment the seating area by creating a space to place plants, electronics, dishes, and mugs, but they do much more than serve as placeholders.
End tables are also a decorative element of every living space, so they should be purchased and arranged to create a visually compelling space. There are several ways to do this so that the tables look coordinated without being matching. Read on to learn about various approaches to mixing and matching end tables.
Why Mix and Match End Tables?
Many people wonder why mixing and matching is becoming such a decorating trend. It is so much harder to achieve just the right look when you are not purchasing a pre-matched set to plop into a room.
The classic approach to end tables is to purchase a pair that matches, preferably with a matching coffee table. This approach is an enduring design choice that creates a sense of unity, peace, and symmetry. Symmetry is classically linked with high-end, luxurious rooms and furnishings, so it has been an interior design staple for centuries.
However, this symmetrical approach is also predictable, and predictable is not necessarily fun. It is elegant, classic, and very peaceful, but does not give a lot of food for visual consumption. It is brief, blunt, and does not leave much to the imagination. The typical couch sandwiched by matching end tables has been done forever. It is beautiful, easy to do, and completely predictable.
Mixing and matching can be an art form in itself, with interior designers creating spaces from found items that they seem to pull together into a single seamless tapestry of intriguing beauty. Mixing and matching furniture is not for the fainthearted, but it is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and perfected to create aesthetic bliss in every room.
Keys for Designing Mix and Match Spaces
There are just a few keys to keep in mind when choosing to mix and match. They are easy to learn and get easier with practice.
- Find something similar between the two pieces. This can be a similar color, a similar height, a similar size, similar materials, or similar trim. Find something that will echo from one piece to the other to create a pleasing yet unpredictable symmetry.
- Find pieces that “speak” to each other. Similar to the previous tip, this may be a material similarity between the two pieces. However, end tables should not be forced to work well together. The two pieces should click together in a way that makes them seem like they might be cousins.
- Symmetry is not necessary in the strictest sense, but balance is. If two tables are of a widely differing height, but they click in every other way, then choose lamps that balance them out. A short lamp on the taller table and a tall lamp on the shorter table will create visual balance in an unexpected way.
- Balance is necessary for every room. Chunky furniture should not be paired with chunky end tables. The heavy furniture can be balanced with more delicate lines and materials on the end tables.
- Do not feel the need to mix everything. Matching items bring cohesiveness to mixed pieces. For example, place matching lamps on mismatched end tables, or matching throw pillows on mismatched chairs.
- Do not mix styles that are completely different. There is no way that Victorian revival and ultra-modern sleek pieces will go together. The pieces will not look cohesive, and they will throw off the vibe of the whole room.
For pairing end tables that are of dissimilar weights, this can be done if the furniture itself is of a more balanced nature. For example, if the couch is a design with straight, elongated cushions and it sits on fine conical feet, then it can handle a pairing with both a more chunky end table and a more delicate end table on the other side. However, both end tables should have some other attribute in common to tie them together.
The last note is to avoid creating different design styles for each room in the home. There can be subtle variations between rooms, and kids’ rooms inevitably have a jarringly different design theme. This should not be the case for every room. For instance, a Mediterranean luxury dining room should not be paired with a modern chef’s galley kitchen and a farmhouse chic bedroom.
Ultimately, every homeowner should seek to create a unified living space between every room in the home, with variations for intrigue and playfulness running throughout.
Shake Up the Classic Matching End Tables
Owning matching end tables is not the end of the world. They do not have to be discarded to create a more mix-and-match interior.
The classic matching end tables have shapes, colors, textures, and styles that match each other with the rest of the furniture in the room. This can easily be changed by refinishing one or both of the end tables instead of purchasing a new pair.
The legs can be swapped out on one or both table tops for a new tripod base or a single pedestal base. If the tops are matching, then do one of each. The matching tops will keep them looking great together.
Homeowners who have matching pairs of end tables can split up the set and purchase a coordinating piece instead, to give a little more of a trendy style without completely discarding the old set. The unused table can be used in a bedroom as a nightstand, in the office as a printer table, in the bathroom as a small vanity, or on a deck as a small coffee table.
Matching Color End Tables
Rather than purchasing two identical end tables, many people choose to purchase two tables that match in a single attribute such as color, but have a different shape or are made from different materials. This sense of matching makes them coordinate rather than creating a directly matching set.
Color matching does not have to be exact, but the colors chosen should be in the same color family, and of a similar tonal quality. For example, a room featuring white couches and a black walnut brown coffee table can host end tables that are in any range from off-white to a deep gray-brown.
Alternatively, a glass-topped table with metallic legs and hardware can coordinate well with various colors of fabric furniture and wood colors. Neutral colored hardware, such as black, can bring a sense of anchoring to the piece without disrupting the color scheme.
When it comes to color matching, this should not be overdone if the goal is to create a visually balanced space. Too much color matching can create a room where nothing stands out. This type of decorating can look overly uniform and unimaginative. It can be practiced for the majority of the room, but care should be taken to integrate complementary colors for visual interest.
Complementary Color End Tables
Complementary colors are a more energizing way to coordinate colors in a room. They help to balance the warm and cool palette in a room and create a sense of evenness. Where a room that is done only in cool colors may feel impersonal and uninviting, a room done in only warm colors may feel overly stimulating and chaotic.
The perfect way to create a room that has a sense of balance between moods is to balance between warm and cool colors. This can be done by choosing color families that are opposite on the color wheel. This color wheel from Adobe helps people to choose complementary colors in a variety of ways including split complementary which gives three colors that complement each other perfectly, creating balance.
Choosing end tables with complementary colors can be done in different ways. Choosing complementary wood colors can be a beautiful and natural way to incorporate complementary colors into a room. An example would be pairing a navy blue couch with two end tables. One table is a deep redwood, and the other is a plank of highly textured mango wood.
Complementary colors can also be utilized with metal. The same navy blue couch could be paired with a redwood topped table with chrome legs. This color pairing is blue, orange-red, and essentially a white-grey; a very balanced and visually intriguing look. A second end table does not have to match. Pull a favorite attribute from the first end table and match the second one. Perhaps the second also has chrome legs.
Choose Shapes That Match
Any single attribute can be chosen to coordinate, creating a resonance throughout the room. This single attribute does not have to be only in the end tables. This attribute can reappear like a rhythm throughout the room, drawing the eye from piece to piece. This method of decorating creates visual intrigue and invites visual interaction throughout the room.
In one example, you can have a repetition of shapes that echo throughout the room. Two popular shapes are circles and triangles. These shapes depart from the typical square or rectangular furniture, giving them a fun twist on traditional furniture and decor.
The two end tables do not need to be exact replicas, but matching shapes in different colors or materials will bring a sense of unity to the pieces. Also, allowing the circles or triangles to reappear throughout the room will give a playful sense of coordinated repetition, drawing the room together.
Choose Subtle Lines That Match
Matching lines are a little different than matching shapes. Shapes are more distinct, and lines are just a bit more ethereal, but they are just as easy to decorate with and bring subtle coordination and class to any living space.
For example, if the home has an open concept that features a breakfast bar, end tables can be chosen to echo design choices in one room and bring continuity through the entire living area. Supposing the kitchen eating peninsula featured pedestal bar stools, different living room end tables that balance on a single pedestal will bring continuity to the room, no matter the pedestal color or tabletop design.
Bringing back the idea of matching triangles or circles, these lines can be echoed throughout the furniture in less apparent ways. For instance, triangles are easy to echo by choosing an end table that sits on a tripod. Choose a second end table that has a different tabletop but also is mounted on a tripod.
Choose Materials That Match
Mixing up end tables can be so much fun, and when an element in different tables matches, they look like a great pair even though they are not matching. Another fun way to mix up end tables but still keep them coordinating is to choose different materials that are similar in different ways.
A classic pairing is leather and wood. These materials go together so well because the velvety brown of tanned leather blends so beautifully with velvety brown wood grains that are finished to a satiny sheen. This idea can be brought to end table selection by choosing different materials that are similar in one attribute. This attribute should be apparent enough that people are not left guessing as to how the pieces fit.
For example, an end table that is made of a full wood log pairs perfectly with a tripod end table with a round wood tabletop. This pairing works because both tops will be round, or mostly round, and both are made of wood. When other wood decor is used in the room, these will also coordinate beautifully with elements around the room.
Another idea is to pair glass (or plexiglass) pieces. A square or round glass tabletop that is perched on a chrome pedestal base pairs great with a square or rectangle glass table that is perched on a T-base also made of glass or chrome. This look can be either ultra-modern or retro.
Both fabric and leather furniture often have trims such as upholstery nails. These trim details can be coordinated in end tables by choosing designs that have metal banding with screws or rivets in a similar shape and pattern. For example, wood or glass tabletops often have a band of black metal with a screw pattern that runs around the circumference. End tables can be mixed that have similar metal details.
Fix End Tables With Mismatched Styles
End tables that are from radically different styles such as ultra-modern and victorian revival will not go together. However, sometimes people find pieces from very different design eras that otherwise would work together very well. Here are a few ideas for fixing big design issues on end tables that otherwise could be a nice mismatched set.
- Refinish one table or both so that they have a color or finish in common. This works especially well for pieces from different eras that are otherwise shaped similarly, such as an end table in black walnut and a similar one in whitewashed oak. One or both can be refinished to a more cohesive color.
- Pry ornate carvings off of the table. Some tables have a nice shape that is overwhelmed by ornate carvings. These can usually be pried right off with surprisingly little effort. They are typically held on by one or two finishing nails or staples. Then the piece can be repainted or refinished and look brand new.
- Some pieces are too dissimilar because of the shapes or colors, but the one who purchases them likes both and wants to use them. In this case, a quick fix is to change something to match on both. Give both an update with matching hardware, or repaint the legs to match on both pieces.
When choosing pieces that are from very different eras or design styles, keep in mind that unless they can echo off of each other, the room will not look right. Instead of a sense of peaceful adventure, it will have a jarring, disjointed look and feel.
Find ways to help the pieces look related in some way. In the case of very ornate furniture and very sleek furniture, one piece will have to be cleaned up, or one piece will need to have ornamentation added so that they look right together.
One great way to fix both is to strip off all of the ornamentations from both pieces and then sand them down and stain or paint them and add ornamentation that goes with decor that is already in the house. For a farmhouse, consider adding rope or leather trim to both pieces, and antique glass knobs. For an ultra-modern home, strip off all trim, paint them both a dove white, and add straight chrome pulls, or keep them plain.
Reasons for Choosing to Mismatch End Tables
There are quite a few reasons for choosing to mismatch end tables. In any case, the result can be much more stunning and interesting than a perfectly paired set.
- Some homeowners have a single end table. This can be through inheritance, losing or destroying one in the set, or falling in love with a single table at a sale. In any case, there is only one, leaving the other end of the couch, or the other set of chairs without a table. This is perfect for choosing a mismatch.
- Choosing to decorate with mismatched pieces opens up the world of antique stores, flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores, and furniture consignment stores. These are great places to find just the right pieces, and hunting for them is very fun.
- Choosing to reuse end tables and incorporate them into mismatched sets is a good way to reduce consumption. Many mismatched sets are purchased brand new from furniture galleries, but many of the best mismatches are made from reused end tables. This is a good choice for the earth and the wallet.
- Mismatched furniture is a major trend, and shows no sign of stopping. More furniture designers are offering brand new pieces that are made to mix and match, similar to a designer wardrobe. This takes the guesswork out of choosing pieces that are mismatched but will blend together.
There are a lot of great reasons to mix and match end tables as well as other pieces of furniture. People should not discard good end tables just because they are matched sets if they want to jump into the mismatched furniture trend. Rather, the set can be broken up and one piece used elsewhere in the home. An end table can be repurposed easily into a nightstand or night table.
Can You Mix and Match Nightstands?
The bedroom is not off-limits to mixing and matching furniture. Mismatched nightstands are a great way to personalize each side of the bed. This is a wonderful option for those who choose to break up a living room end table set and bring one piece into the bedroom as a nightstand. A separate piece can be mixed into the bedroom set as another nightstand, giving a fun mix and match vibe.
- Nightstands that are of very different heights can be balanced in several ways. Lamps of varying heights can be used to even out the visual disparity. Artwork can be hung at an even height on the wall, and then the space in-between can be filled in with books, additional artwork, or a taller lamp to even them out.
- Keep in mind that the visual impact should be balanced. A lightweight nightstand on one side will look best if it is paired with a lighter-weight nightstand on the other side.
- There should be something in common between the two nightstands. If there can be a commonality with the bed frame or bedding, even better. For instance, two mismatched nightstands can be painted antique white with gold trim, and set on either side of a bed with a white comforter with beige stripes.
- If an end table is used as a nightstand and it is nothing more than a tabletop with legs, this can be paired with a tall, thin nightstand with drawers. Visual balance can be achieved by placing something bulky under the end table nightstand such as a stack of books with matching covers or a tall, slender wooden chest.
Nightstands can be mixed and matched very well. It is a trend to paint furniture with graphic designs. This is a great way to bring out the mix and match pairings in the furniture with coordinating but different designs on each piece.
Mix and Match End Tables and Coffee Tables
Many people wonder if the mix and match can include the coffee table. Even more, wonder if a coffee table can fit in at all with two pieces that do not match. The answer is that yes, a coffee table can be a part of a mix and match living room set.
Not every living room needs to have a coffee table. Some people prefer ottomans or large cube storage ottomans to the traditional coffee table. However, for those who enjoy having refreshments in the living room, a nice coffee table is a must.
When adding a coffee table to the mix, keep in mind that the coffee table takes center stage in the assembly. The end tables can be fun and trendy, but the coffee table will be the first piece of furniture that guests notice, after the couches and chairs.
- Whenever possible, choose the coffee table first. Then choose end tables that coordinate with it, but do not match. They can be made from a similar material, be the same color, or have matching trims.
- Choose end tables that have a similar weight to the coffee table. If the coffee table has wire legs, choose end tables that have wire legs. They do not need to have the exact same type of legs, but they should coordinate well.
- Choose end tables that have a shape in common with the coffee table. An example would be to pair a modern coffee table that is a heavy wood top mounted on triangle-shaped legs with round wooden end tables on wire tripods.
- The end tables do not have to match when choosing mix and match end tables and coffee tables. In the example above, one end table could have a heavy glass top instead of a wooden top and look right at home in the set.
Choosing a mix and match coffee table and end tables can be fun and opens up a lot of opportunities for the expression of personality in the design.
Bring Outdoor End Tables Indoors
There are occasions where a design style blends the outdoors with the indoors. In these cases, bringing traditionally outdoor furniture inside is a great design choice that brings some unexpected flair into the room.
An example would be a beach cottage-themed living room. A coffee table might be made from an old repurposed surfboard. A perfect end table pairing would be a high rattan end table on one end of the couch and a high glass table on a driftwood pedestal on the other end of the couch. Each piece is quite inexpensive, but there is no doubt as to the personality and lifestyle of those dwelling in the home.
Similarly, a ski-themed space can include a coffee table made from several disassembled skis that are paired with end tables made from chair lift parts. The chair lift uprights make great table legs. The old saucer-style lift seats make charming end tabletops.