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10 Interior Design Rules That You Should Break Now

By: Casey Gerber

February 6, 2017

Design by David Jimenez; Photo by Joshua McHugh for Architectural Digest.

We all have that little voice in the back of our heads that tells us right from wrong. It reminds us to always say thank you and excuse me, never to chew with our mouths open, and to hold the door for little old ladies. But every now and then, it’s okay to listen to the devil on your shoulder and break a rule or two. Specifically, when it comes to interior design. Forget what you’ve heard about avoiding lots of patterns or never painting the ceiling, because interiors look better when the rules are broken.

1. Old Rule: Never mix and match prints.

Pattern aficionados rejoice! You no longer have to make the difficult decision between nautical stripes or leopard print in your living room. Mixing patterns adds visual interest and loads of texture to a space. We recommend starting with one large-scale printed piece like a rug and adding secondary items like pillows in complementary colors.

2. Old Rule: Don’t put large furniture in a small space.

It seems logical not to stuff a small room with large furniture. But in reality, it often emphasizes the lack of space when all your pieces are super small. You don’t want to overdo it and use only large-scale items, but a few key pieces like the sofa and credenza in the room above will ground the space and add dimension.

3. Old Rule: Stick to one design style and time period.

If every item in every home fell under the same design category and time period, interior design would be pretty boring. Just because your house is filled with vintage charm doesn’t mean you can’t bring a modern chair into the mix. Spaces that blend old and new are filled with character. But if you’re infusing multiple styles make sure you have one common denominator like color or pattern to tie everything together.

4. Old Rule: When it comes to metallics, pick a lane.

When styling jewelry, the age-old rule is to pick a metal and stick with it – gold should only be worn with gold and silver, only with silver. The same rule is often applied to interior design, but mixing metals can have a beautiful effect on a space. This farmhouse kitchen blends chrome appliances with bronze and copper fixtures, adding edge to a traditional design.

5. Old Rule: Every bed needs a bed skirt.

Also referred to as “dust ruffles”, bed skirts are only necessary if you have dust to hide. But if you’re willing to clean under your bed every now and then, you can ditch the bed skirt altogether for a sleek and modern look.

6. Old Rule: Bright colors and bold patterns only work in large rooms.

White walls are the go-to for small spaces, but bright tones, bold patterns, and even dark wall colors can add depth to tiny rooms. Consider painting the ceiling (also considered a design faux-pas!) a dark color or the same color as the walls to elongate the room.

7. Old Rule: All dining room chairs should match.

While this standard may still hold true in traditional homes, it’s no longer an absolute rule. For an eclectic look, opt for chairs in a variety of shapes, materials, and colors. To keep things somewhat unified, try using a few matching chairs and a couple different ones. Or go for it and mix them all up, and balance with a simple dining table.

8. Old Rule: Rooms should be perfectly symmetrical.

Symmetry balances a room, adding order and formality, but don’t let the interior design powers that be stop you from breaking things up a bit. Asymmetrical elements can be much more intriguing. In the bedroom above, the art isn’t centered and the lighting and side tables are different, but by keeping with a neutral color palette, the asymmetrical aspects work to create a sense of visual curiosity.

9. Old Rule: Stick to the same wood finish.

Contrast is key when it comes to using a variety of wood tones in a space. If you’re working with dark floors, brighten up the room with light-colored wood. Similarly, light wood flooring often looks best when paired with dark-toned furniture.

10. Old Rule: Always match your color tones.

We’re all for monochromatic decorating, but when everything in a room is matchy-matchy, it tends to feel very one-dimensional. You don’t need to match every shade perfectly. Incorporating a range of shades in the same color families ensures depth, texture, and a lived-in ambiance.

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