Better In Pairs - 27 East


Residence / 2015977

Better In Pairs

Number of images 2 Photos
A pair of table lamps takes center stage in this bespoke dining room.

A pair of table lamps takes center stage in this bespoke dining room. CHRISTIAN HARDER

A Pair of mid-century modern chairs in this contemporary living room on Jobs Lane in Bridgehampton.

A Pair of mid-century modern chairs in this contemporary living room on Jobs Lane in Bridgehampton. CHRISTIAN HARDER


Interior Report

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Aug 31, 2022
  • Columnist: Andrew Bowen

Look at virtually any professionally photographed interior, and a noticeable trend will inevitably emerge: matching pairs. Of chairs, of tables, of pillows; you name it, you find it. This is, of course, no mistake. Functional benefits aside, the eye craves forms that provide symmetry and rhythm.

While psychologists and even scientists will spar for eternity, research suggests that our visual attraction to symmetry is rooted in familiarity and order. It should come as no surprise, then, that architects, designers and decorators the world over have latched onto this effect for essentially all of written history.

Simultaneously, rhythm keeps us interested, it generates a perceived sense of movement that inspires visual wandering from piece to piece through repetition.

In a classic Hamptons home, incorporating matching pairs is practically a prerequisite. (Cue references to the ever-popular set design for “Something’s Gotta Give,” which is not not one of my favorite films.) That being said, stylistically, this strategy works well in all contexts; modern, postmodern, contemporary … the list goes on. But there are some guidelines to keep in mind before doubling up on every item you find.

For living room seating, incorporate a pair of armchairs or slipper chairs to complement the other elements in the space. Depending on the context, positioning each directly next to one another with a several-inch gap could work well, or, if dimensions permit, including a small drink table in between can be a welcome addition. For rooms with round coffee tables, or just to break the orthogonal mold, rotate each chair toward the center point a bit for a conversational boost. Additionally, large elements like sofas can be paired, though typically are done so either on opposite ends or adjacent sides of an imaginary square. Such arrangements are often best executed in grander volumes to afford exceptional capacity and allow for everything from multiple nappers to rest following a long battle with Labor Day traffic, to celebrating special occasions with loved ones indoors as the months cool.

On lighting, pairs of lamps or light fixtures are also a significant component of most design schemes. Unlike pairs of seats which are often arranged adjacent to one another, dual light sources usually anchor a central focal point, such as a fireplace, window or artwork. Doing this not only provides more diffuse and even lighting through physical separation but highlights important compositions and dignifies the interior as a whole. For a more traditional approach, place a pair of shaded table lamps on either end of an entry console, flanking an oversized mirror. For something more contemporary, install a pair of petite, minimalist sconces on either side of a large window opening. Exceptions exist, of course, as seen with pendants hanging above an island, or dual chandeliers atop an oversized dining table. Sometimes, one is simply not enough.

At a smaller scale, with accessories, there are a handful of ways to incorporate pairs into your styling. On a fireplace mantle, when igniting a full roaring fire is a bit too strenuous, place two matching candleholders atop and kindle those instead. To invoke historic charm, consider fairly ornate and relatively tall holders at opposite ends of the mantle. (Vintage is always a plus.) For something more modern, place two blocky, veiny stone holders together toward one side of the mantle and counterbalance them with a single larger-scaled item on the other side, such as fresh cut greens in a glass vase. As for soft goods, pairs of pillows are — I almost hesitate to say — a near-must, particularly in generously sized homes. Place a pair of matching pillows on either end of a sofa for a standard look, or layer them on top of one another toward one end for a lived-in look. To create additional rhythm, separate a matching pair in two and place each onto opposing sofas.

While pairing items is generally good practice, generally speaking, it should also be done in moderation, particularly in one room. It is possible to overdo it and end up with a space that is almost dizzying in its repetition. In fact, one of the most effective methods is to group pairs with singles, especially in seating groups. Doing so allows the eye to rest as it surveys its surroundings, and makes the occasional pairing ever more impactful through contrast.

In practice, at times this also means creating intentional asymmetry for maximal benefit. For instance, rather than position a single chair or ottoman directly opposite a pair of armchairs, try positioning it toward the edge or near the outer corner of the group, facing toward the center of the coffee or cocktail table, flanked by a small side table. This type of layout, in many other iterations as well, enhances the ability for each vignette to stand on its own, rather than require a broad brush appreciation from afar.

AutorMore Posts from Andrew Bowen

Color Block Wall Painting Is Brighter, Bolder, Riskier

Paint. For some, the word conjures memories of new homes, a fresh start, or for ... 26 May 2022 by Andrew Bowen

Making A Seating Statement: Ottomans Add Sculpture, Function And Personality To Any Room

When it comes to furniture, seating is queen. Surely, neighboring categories — like tables, cabinets ... 14 Mar 2022 by Andrew Bowen

The Daybed: Reintroducing Your Sofa’s Chic Cousin

Ah, the daybed — the enigmatic, versatile, alluring, not-quite-a-bed, but also not-quite-a-sofa staple. In a ... 18 Jan 2022 by Andrew Bowen

Pick The Best Dining Table For Your Space

Thanksgiving — or, the unofficial start of the holiday season — is finally upon us. ... 19 Nov 2021 by Andrew Bowen

Design Exterior Living Spaces To Enjoy The Last Vestiges Of Summer

Labor Day weekend is finally upon us. Despite the title of this column, squarely centering ... 31 Aug 2021 by Andrew Bowen

Make A Statement

When it comes to interiors, so much time and energy today is spent on deciding ... 28 Jun 2021 by Andrew Bowen

Curved Sofas Are Back And Taking New Forms

Wherever you’re looking lately, it seems clear that there’s a growing penchant for sumptuous, curved ... 22 May 2021 by Andrew Bowen

Add Personality To A Brand New Home

It’s a tale as old as the real estate industry: historic, or contemporary? Do you ... 5 Mar 2021 by Andrew Bowen

Design Your Family Room To Enjoy The Indoors In The Cooler Months Ahead

With fall now in full swing out east, the cool air has invariably pushed many ... 20 Nov 2020 by Andrew Bowen

Create A Home Office That Suits Your Needs

During this turbulent year, it’s utterly impossible to calculate the sheer number of times that ... 2 Oct 2020 by Andrew Bowen