Oh yes, there are RULES for everything, aren’t there? Even in design and decorating, you will hear plenty of ‘rules’ that you should probably be following. Many of these are great, don’t get me wrong. They keep us from putting artwork too high on a wall or choosing a light fixture that is far too small for a big space. They make our rooms look more balanced, alleviate making costly mistakes and generally work very well in our favour. However, there are so many different rules out there that sometimes I fear we will all end up with the same bland spaces if we listen and apply them too closely.
All rules are made to be broken, after all, and living in fear of making a ‘decorating mistake’ is often the fastest way to ensure we’ll never actually complete a room, so frozen we are with getting it wrong. So today, I’m basically just giving you permission to throw out the rule book. These are a few rules that I’ve heard repeated time and again and honestly? I think they are a load of crap. The best rooms, in my opinion, are those that flout the rules just a bit. The ones where the personality of the owners shine through and where there are two fingers held up to what we are ‘supposed’ to do. Ready to be a little rebellious? Read on to find out what rules I think are totally cool to break.
Decorating Rules to Break #1: You should carefully coordinate everything
Look at any home website and you’ll see it repeated again and again. The full set – matching sofas, matching tables, matching sideboards and dressers and coordinating materials – to give you an idea what the products might look like in your home. Don’t get me wrong – I understand they want to show off their product lines so it’s understandable. But should you repeat this look in your own home? No way.
The most interesting spaces are those that look as though they’ve been collected over time. Mixing and matching your furniture and accessories create layers of interest in a space and give a room a look that’s totally unique. If you want to know some secrets about how to create an eclectic look, you should probably check out my blog post here.
Decorating Rules to Break #2: Expect to spend a lot of money if you want something stylish
My Ikea Rast hack bedside tables – they cost me around £40 to DIY.
We all look through the pages of our favourite interior magazines and marvel at the prices of the items on show, don’t we? After all, it’s normally the homes of the well-to-do that we see reflected back at us, especially in the pages of publications like Elle Decor, Architectural Digest or Living Etc. The homes are huge, the budgets even bigger. It’s enough to make us think that we could never do up our own homes unless we have a huge budget behind us.
As I’ve been barking about on this blog for the last 8 years, you don’t need a big budget to get an amazing style. There are some great brands out there on the high street with incredibly reasonable prices. We have big box stores like IKEA which offer up incredible value on furniture for not a lot of money or H&M Home which will allow you to pick up lots of stylish accessories without spending big money. There are also supermarkets now getting in on the design action which constantly amaze me at how trend-led they can really be. And of course, please don’t forget about buying second-hand. It’s worth scouring eBay, Gumtree or your local Facebook groups for used items that are still in amazing condition at a great price. (Looking for more tips? Check out my post here.)
Decorating Rules to Break #3: There are certain colours that you should never mix
Remember the old saying, ‘blue and green should never be seen’? Yeah, it’s a silly old saying that no longer makes any sense. The truth is, nearly any colour combination can work, whether that’s yellow with pink or orange with grey or indeed, blue with green. With experience, I’ve found that if you stick with a similar saturation, you can get a unique look even when mixing colours that don’t seem at first to work together. Or, if you want to get really rebellious, try one of the colours in a very saturated tone (a bold bright perhaps) alongside a softened de-saturated colour (a pastel maybe). It creates a certain tension in a room which can actually be very inspired and totally unique.
Decorating Rules to Break #6: Never paint a small room a dark colour
Painting a room in a darker colour won’t necessarily make your room look smaller. Take my bathroom above for example. The original colour was a pale blue and the room felt cramped with the slanted white ceiling making the room feel claustrophobic. Painting the walls and ceiling black was a game-changer here because the walls and ceiling now simply work as one and in a dark colour, the corners of the room seem to recess, making them less obvious. The result is a room that actually feels better to be in and strangely, looks bigger.
Not every single room out there will suit a dark colour but if you are on the fence about going dark, there are a few factors you might want to consider (and you’ll notice that size has nothing to do with it). Check out my flowchart here which will walk you through the decision.
Decorating Rules to Break #4: You should meticulously plan every detail of the finished space
I think a lot of people are totally frozen with fear when they face the prospect of decorating an entire room from scratch. The fear likely comes from seeing what interior designers do for a living. They DO plan almost every detail of a space but it’s for a very good reason. Their time with their clients is limited and so getting every detail nailed is important to ensure the clients have a lovely finished room at the end of their agreement with them. Does this necessarily apply, however, to a homeowner who is working on their own home? Of course not.
Almost every single room I’ve ever designed has taken time. I will plan the large stuff – things like ensuring my furniture is the right size for the space, the basic colour palette I’ll be using, making sure I have the lighting right or wallpaper chosen are all big details that really make an impact on the final look. However, once these ‘big’ decisions are done, the details always get tweaked and added as I go on. This is why many of my rooms end up evolving a bit even once I’ve put down the paintbrush.
So, no, you don’t have to know exactly what vase will be placed on that sideboard or which plants you’ll need to fill up a corner. There’s nothing wrong with ‘slow decorating’ – in fact, I’d highly recommend it. Waiting for the right thing to appear is almost always better than rushing the details so take your time and let your space evolve – I promise you’ll end up with a much better and more considered room. And if you are looking for more tips to get off your ass and start your project, see my blog post here.
Decorating Rules to Break #5: Always stick with neutrals then add colour later
I’m not saying this isn’t good advice because really, it is. If you start with your largest pieces in neutral colours, it allows you a lot more flexibility to add different colours at different times in the future. However, I don’t believe that if you have loved greens for a long time, have used it in your decor for the last 5 years and you want to, say, buy that gorgeous emerald green sofa, you shouldn’t just go for it. I adore a big shot of bold colour in a room and while you can certainly stick to neutrals for most of your big stuff, it doesn’t mean you have to do it with everything.
I think this is especially true when you already have a good idea of what your favourite shades are (if you’re not sure, look at your wardrobe – it’ll give you a good idea of colours that make you feel good). If you’ve been crushing on navy for years, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pick up those glorious navy blue velvet dining chairs or navy blue tiles for your bathroom. Or if you adore mustard yellow, that you shouldn’t go ahead and buy the mustard yellow headboard. Neutrals are great for when you are on the fence, you are easily swayed by trends or you change your mind very often. However, if you know your style and your preferences well, then there’s no reason why not to break this rule.
So those are just 6 decorating rules that, in my opinion, are totally cool to throw out the window. Now it’s your turn! Which rules have you broken successfully? I’d love to hear all about your rebellious side! Let me know in the comments.