5 Decorating Rules It’s Okay to Break

striped wallpaper hallway

If there’s one thing I always say it’s that you must learn the basic rules of interior design before you can go ahead and break them. There are of course certain things we hear by various design experts, bloggers, the media – and hey, even our parents! – but if we followed every single rule out there and applied them to our home, well, what we might end up with is something a little bit bland.

And so, while it’s absolutely recommended to have a good understanding of your space, understand the light it gets, how you’ll use the room and what your budget is, and then plan for all those accordingly, it’s more than fine to rebel a little bit from certain tried-and-tested rules we hear all the time. And in that spirit, here are 5 often-repeated rules that I’m giving you full permission to break!

All your furniture must match.


Long ago, a fully matching set of furniture was seen to be a luxury but more and more, people are starting to realize that your home can look so much more interesting and ‘collected’ when you bring pieces of different styles to create a unique, eclectic look.  The trick to mixing and matching furniture lies in finding commonalities among your pieces in their shape or style or tying things together with a limited palette of color.  The most important thing, however, is that you love the pieces themselves – if you do, you can always make it work and you will always be surrounded by the items you truly love.


Break the Rules Eclectic Mixing

chair / art / bar cart / throw / lounge chair / coffee table


Dark paint colors will make a room look small and cramped.

dark wall colours

While darker colors don’t recede the way paler colors do, there is absolutely no reason not to go with a darker color if you love the look and it certainly doesn’t have to make a room look small. Create interest in a darker room with lots of texture or bold brights and allow each piece to shine against its dark backdrop. For tips on using dark paints, check out our post How to Create Drama with Dark Paint Colors.


Decor for Dark Walls

chandelier / sofa / art / coffee table / cushion 1 / cushion 2

Scale all your pieces to fit your space.

oversized light fixture

Now of course I’m not saying to try and fit that sprawling L-shaped sofa into your tiny studio apartment but playing with scale is a great way to fool the eye into thinking your space is less bijou than it looks. The best pieces to break the rules in terms of scale are your accessories – consider a large oversized mirror or piece of artwork, a large light fixture over a dining table or a playfully large floor lamp to create a bit of interest and wow-factor.


Play with Scale

mirror / lighting / chair / dining table / pear

Don’t ever mix your metal finishes.


While years ago, most designers would have repeated the same metallic finish throughout a home, these days, it’s absolutely fine to mix and match your metals. Consider bringing in a brass light fixture with copper accessories, using stainless steel appliances with gleaming gold cabinet pulls or a shiny chrome coffee table with gold lamps. In 2016, mixing metals is a great way to get a totally up-to-date look.


Mixed Metals

fingers crossed ornament / coffee table / bar cart / vase / trunk

You should only use neutrals for maximum resale value.

striped wallpaper hallway

Sure, every contractor out there would be happy to cover every available surface in the dreaded but inoffensive ‘builder’s beige’ but the only time you should be considering this rule is if you are looking to sell your home within the next 6-12 months. If not? Well, then you should be decorating for how you live NOW not where you think you might be living in a few years down the line. So go ahead and use that wallpaper you love, paint the walls in a fun color and get creative with your space.


Decorate for you

striped wallpaper / animal print fabric / mirror / table lamp / side table

I hope that with these tips you can see that sometimes breaking the rules can lead to a very interesting and vibrant home that you’ll love! Which design tips have you broken lately?

Image sources: Gabriel Hendifar via Erika Brechtal / Swoon Worthy / Abigail Ahern for Design Sponge / Sarah Sherman Samuel / Studio Ten 25 via Domino 

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