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I think by now it's safe to assume (please Jesus let it be safe) that when it comes to buying furniture we all know to avoid buying things in a suite.

I started this off with an "I think" because I'm not entirely sure this is the case tbh. You watch an episode of BBC2's Interior Design Masters and everything you thought was common place knowledge in interior design goes out a terribly dressed window.

What is a suite?

It's the three seater sofa that matches the two seater sofa that matches the armchairs. The coffee table that matches the TV unit which matches the entrance hall table. A grouping of furniture that the uninspired, and it would seem, the very very very very busy, would opt for.

Anyways, for the sake of this we will assume we're all on board. Now however, we're faced with a new problem. The high street / online retailers like Swoon, Habitat, and the likes. These guys (and their Swedish counterparts) have redefined the idea of "suite shopping."

These stores offer everything under one roof. Which is great in terms of convenience, as you don't really have to look too far to cover all interior design bases, but because they offer it all, we buy it all, and herein lies the problem.

Just like shopping for a suite, putting all your interior design eggs in one online basket, means everything in your space starts to look like it's been painted with the same brush. Even though the pieces may be different they all have the same flavour. And more often than not, that flavour is grape...which we all know tastes nothing like actual grapes.

If you've ever been into a serviced apartment in a new build, or have walked into an office waiting area, you will know exactly what I mean by this. A room filled with new trendy furniture, but has no personality or soul to it. You've ticked the box of buying a rooms worth of stuff, none of which came as a pair, but you've ended up with the 2020 version of a three piece suite.

So how does this happen?

The first reason, a no brainer, is "house style." Just like fashion, each retailer has a vibe or a particular look, and just like fashion, sometimes it's best to not dress head-to-toe in one particular brand if you are trying to be unique. Same applies to furniture. Spread it out. Just because you can buy sofas, armchairs and side tables from one store doesn't mean you should.

Second reason is "trend." These stores make money by selling furniture that is new and trendy. They also work extremely fast at supplying you with those pieces. Just as quickly as trends sell, trends change. So if you start filling your house with them without consideration, you may end up with a cool trendy flat straight off the bat, but you'll also end up with a pretty sad and uninspired home in about a year, when trends have moved on and you're still paying off your in store credit.

"All well and good saying that, but the reason these stores are so popular is because they take out the bloody guess work."

This may be true, but there are ways to avoid having a grape flavoured flat.

Bypassing the house style? This one is easy, and let's be honest, could probably go without saying. Don't buy all your shit from one place. Might require a little more leg work, or a couple extra open tabs, but this in itself will prevent your space feeling like a showroom display.

One step up from this: Avoid buying the main piece of furniture in each room from the same store. When I design, budget and time allows me to vary my suppliers and I can call on the best guy for the job. So for me it might be easier said than done, but increasing the variety of suppliers is going to help prevent your personal tastes being overshadowed by that of the retailers house style. Not having the anchor piece in each room made by the same people works wonders to avoid this.

The best designed spaces are the ones that look curated and collected, and this is achieved by variance. There are so many suppliers out there. You really don't need to buy your wall lights from the same place that made your bed.

Avoiding trends is slightly harder to manoeuvre around. Especially if you're starting with a blank slate. Not to step on any gender norms, but if you are starting from scratch, my advice would be to shop for furniture/decor based on the following series of three. Something masculine, something feminine and something vintage (vintage is a term used loosely here, basically I just mean something that looks old.)

Shopping in this grouping of three means that you eliminate the risk of all your pieces having the same personality, which is a risk you run when buying everything new over a short space of time. What this will also do is help you to pause and investigate the pieces a little more carefully before you buy.

I'm very aware that suggesting you buy a masculine or a feminine piece of furniture is like asking how long a piece of string is, but when you start to think about the pieces in a room, you'll very quickly be able to identify the flavour that they bring.

Ultimately what this manage à trois does, is provide balance. (Balance being a whole other topic I will get to some day) but with regards to trends, balance is key to preventing your space from feeling like a suite.

Last bit of advice, customise where you can. This blog isn't one of them, but there are loads of pages and profiles that show how easy and economically this can be done if budget is an issue. Just as little as one customised or bespoke piece of furniture can make all the difference. Obviously if you have just renovated a home, having items made bespoke to suite your taste goes without saying, but having custom pieces will further help the "store bought items" to recede and become secondary within the room.

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