Make Your Home Look More Like the Catalog (In a Good Way!)

Why doesn’t your home ever look as nice as it does in the catalog? Even if you buy the exact furniture one-to-one as in the store, once you set it up inside your home it can seem different, even out-of-place. There are plenty of reasons for this – from everyday clutter to less-than-stellar lighting. The good news is, you CAN make your home look cover-worthy with furniture you order online. It just might require a little troubleshooting to match the furniture to your space. And who knows – you might even design an even better room in the process!

A Cohesive Whole

Cohesion in a room isn’t done by picking all the same pieces in a showroom; it’s about how they all go together (by Rosen Kelly Conway Architecture & Design)

The biggest reason furniture doesn’t look the same as in-store is its cohesiveness. Unlike the furniture companies, you’re allowed to mix and match brands, and you absolutely should to make your home yours! Erring on the side of too on-brand can make the space feel like a showroom and not somewhere you live. Besides, a perfectly curated set of furniture won’t always fit your day-to-day life. Some people need a taller dresser than advertised in the collection so they don’t have to bend over too much to grab clothes; others need a softer comforter to not irritate their skin than the fabric used in the showroom. There are a multitude of reasons to not replicate the catalog, but still want to get the look. Understanding that everything in the room is influencing every other thing in key to getting the cohesive feeling right.

Pick Your Colors Wisely

Bea Cognac Velvet Sofa, cdf-S109 by Contemporary Design Furniture

Stay within the original palette in the catalog, or purposefully create your own based on your existing furniture. If you aren’t an expert on color theory, a general rule is the more limited the color selection, the better it will work together. Like with buying paint for your walls, a lot of stores provide swatches of the fabric for either free or a minor fee that you can carry around and use for comparison. You can place the swatch in your home on top of the furniture you’re thinking of replacing, like a couch or bed, and see how it looks throughout the day in different lights. A lot of color is also based on the texture of the fabric, so you’ll get a better sense of whether or not that vibrant purple is worth feeling a little scratchy, or that bland beige is much more comfortable than it looks.

Grain and Stain

Bushwick Wooden Nightstand In Brown, TOV-B7054 by Tov Furniture

A collection of furniture will typically feature a very specific palette, including the same base wood with the same stain. Unfortunately, this can be a lot harder to match. A swatch won’t always tell you the type of wood, who carved it, or the stain used – if one is available for individual purchase at all. Matching any one of these elements throughout will elevate the entire space. For example, if you get a wood bed frame, it’s more important to find a night stand with a matching or close wood than a similar design and cut. You may end up combining modern and traditional, transitional or contemporary design with a niche aesthetic in the process. As long as you don’t dislike any of the component parts, it will all come together if the wood matches (or at least looks like it).

Upgrade Your Lighting

Different rooms require different spot lighting to make their furniture shine; what works for a kitchen may not for a living room (by Vallone Design)

Good lighting is always essential, but it’s not always practical. Once again, you are not aiming to replicate the showroom here. Living in an eternally bright and fluorescent landscape may drive you insane, not to mention ruin your electric bill. The best way to have that catalog look without lighting every inch of your house all the time is through layered lighting. This lets you get bright light where you need it most – so you can see the nice upholstery on a chair, for example. It also creates a softer, more livable ambiance. Dimmable lights and bulbs with different wattages or light colors work together to light every part of a room, drawing attention where it’s needed and creating an inviting mood.

No Building is Perfect

Work with what you already have when decorating; don’t renovate a room to make the furniture fit (by Billy Beson Company)

You also have to understand that how your home looks is not always in your control. Catalogs hide the fact that the “room” they model is a perfectly-shaped space that exists only to display that exact furniture collection. Houses, apartments, condos, and the like all come in different shapes and sizes, with weird corners and nooks from the necessary construction (e.g. plumbing, ventilation) that makes your home livable. Instead of remodeling your home to make the perfect cubes of the showroom, lean into the imperfections of your existing layout. If you have a narrow entryway, leave out the entry table or shoe bench. If you have a larger than normal dining room, consider adding a buffet table that matches your table and chairs instead of storing your dishes in the kitchen.

There’s a whole industry out there that revolves around staging, presenting, and photographing furniture – whether you’re trying to sell a home or stocking a warehouse. But while these spaces are meant to entice with perfection, they don’t reflect the reality of a lived-in home. That said, making your home feel magazine-worthy isn’t an impossible task. Good lighting, thoughtful coordination, and a little regular tidying will all help make your room worthy of showing off!