If there is one thing I know to be true, it’s that the way you design your home should be entirely up to you. That is my overall design principle. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you should feel good in your own place.
For some people, getting started in a project of transforming the look of a room or their entire home is somewhat challenging, so when I am asked about general decoration rules there are a few guidelines that are worth following and are always in my tips for friends. Besides those, I generally recommend following their own taste and common sense.
So here are a few decorating guides you should never break – and I assure you that they will make the designing task more fool-proof. I am also including here the rules (or myths) you should always break in order to give to your home a unique feeling.
Let’s start with rules that are worth listening to and following. Here are the “dos”.
Rule #1: Curtains – There is a perfect size for curtains
While it is much more common to see short curtains instead of long ones, curtains that are either too short or too long can make your space feel incomplete.
The rule is simple: curtains should always hit the floor and the higher the rod, the better.
When the panels are too short or too long is the same of dressing yourself in ill-fitting clothing. “Measure twice, cut once” totally applies here. Take the time to prep by measuring and marking your best rod placement before you order your pieces.
Image credit: Charles Dundas-Shaw
Rule #2: Rugs – Small rugs can throw off an entire room
I know the feeling: getting tempted to buy a rug that has an awesome design you love, even when the size is “a bit small”… Don’t do it. The cost or the uniqueness seem to tell you to buy it, but refrain.
Unless you plan on layering it over a properly scaled rug, a rug that is too small takes away from the space. Rugs help to establish spaces, so they should include furniture within those spaces. Make sure that at least part of the rug can be placed under some of your furniture or simply forget about the rug altogether.
Having no rug in the room is better than having one that in the end is perceived as a miniature rug, stunted by all of your human-sized stuff.
Image credit: Charles Dundas-Shaw
Rule #3: Artwork – Artwork should never be hanged too high
There is a common misconception about art height and while we see very often art hung too high, any piece always looks best at eye-level.
So, before you start putting nails in the wall I recommend you to do a little prep work. Once you find the correct level taking into consideration your height/eye level, sketch out a grid before you start pounding in nails.
Image credit: Charles Dundas-Shaw
Rule #4: Lighting – Layer your lights
Any room with just one light source, such as recessed light or pendant, can feel two-dimensional. This is why layering the lighting – or light coming from different heights and sources – is so important.
To add different types of lighting, consider adding in floor lamps, sconces, or a small table lamp to create a subtle glow. This creates a calm and welcoming environment throughout your home and can complement your design style.
Image credit: Fantastic Frank
Now that you’ve mastered the rules that I would strongly recommend you apply, it is time to break the ones that only keep you from unlocking your imagination and having fun while designing your home.
Here are the rules or “don’ts” that who knows how and why have grown over time and you should feel free to ignore. You could say they are décor myths to debunk.
The myth that you should never mix metals
Many of my clients feel hesitant to use different metals in one room out of fear they won’t match.
So, I am here to give you good news: You can always, always mix metals in design! The secret is to make sure you pick metals that are in fact distinctly different. Shiny silver chrome and brushed nickel for instance are too close and it will look accidental and clashy.
Using different metals – that fit together – helps add visual interest to a space, and gives rooms a more custom look and feel.
Usually I try to include at least two metals. And just for the record, matte black counts too! For bathrooms and kitchens specifically, I try to keep the plumbing fixtures all in one metal and then mix things up with the hardware and light fixtures.
Image credit: Styleathome.com
The myth that all wood stains need to match
When it comes to wood, I also notice many of my clients feel insecure about the idea of mixing tones and types. I know that selecting different types of wood can be a tricky territory. I also know that it can be super hard to imagine what the finished space will look like in your head, and it’s natural to worry everything won’t come together in the end. But trust me on this—working with more than one wood tone is not only ok, it’s preferable! In fact, I think that using just one wood tone all throughout a space can end up looking pretty boring.
Here is the thing: wood doesn’t need to all match, it just needs to “go together”.
Generally, I would say try to avoid mixing wood tones that are too similar (just like metals that are too similar), and try to work with 2-3 wood tones per space. Don’t be afraid to mix oak, maple, walnut, or whatever the space calls for. Bottom line: just go for it!
Image credit: Old Brand New
The myth that all furniture needs to match
Let’s go straight to the point: buying all your furniture from the same collection can make your home look like a showroom.
Going back to common design temptations, sometimes it can be pretty tempting — and surely convenient — to purchase all your furniture, rugs, and accessories from one vendor, but unless you want the space to feel impersonal, you should always mix your pieces. It will add the “story” of your home.
The key to this: don’t buy everything all at once, from the same store. Buying pieces from different shops and markets will ultimately give your home a much more well-designed vibe than any matching set.
If you don’t know where to start, I suggest you try mixing up your accessories. One of my favorite tips for beginners is to pair modern décor pieces, with clean lines, next to more traditional furniture pieces and vice versa, display more elaborate classic accessories on modern/clean pieces of furniture. It’s an easy, low-commitment way to try your hand at mixing styles that still leaves a big impact.
Image credit: Summerclassics.com
The myth that you should follow the trends
We’ve covered some of the most common design myths, but I certainly saved the best “rule to be broken” for last. All the design magazines, websites and expositions silently establish an idea that one should follow all trends regarding styles, colors and layouts. Well, there are some people whose life depends on other people following those trends. I am not one of them.
Yes, trends are fun, and sometimes there are some things that will probably catch your eye and you might even adopt them as part of your homestyle. But beware: following trends can be an endless anxiety generator in your life. So I’m officially giving you permission to break any fashion rules. It’s your home, after all!
My best advice? Go with your gut, opt for quality over quantity, and create a space that feels like home. If you love it, that’s the only rule you need.