TODAY   |  September 14, 2010

Decorating myths debunked

From hanging artwork to matching upholstery, Elaine Griffin, of Better Homes and Gardens, lays down the laws of interior design and reveals where and when you can bend the rules.

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ANN CURRY, anchor: This morning on TODAY'S HOME , decorating myth busters . From hanging artwork to matchy-matchy furniture, there are a lot of rules to be followed and some to be tossed out when it comes to interior design . So here with some tips we've got interior designer and contributing editor for Better Homes Gardens Elaine Griffin . Good morning, Elaine .

Ms. ELAINE GRIFFIN (Contributing Editor, Better Homes Gardens): Good morning.

CURRY: So a lot of people have a real struggle when they look at a room, I'm one of them, to sort of know what to do. And what is your sort of rule of thumb when it comes to the rules ?

Ms. GRIFFIN: You know what? Once you know what some of the rules are you can break them because then it's an educated rule breaking.

CURRY: One of the rules is that furniture, when it comes to furniture layout, the sofa should be basically parallel to one another.

Ms. GRIFFIN: That's actually one of the -- one of the myths. In reality, the only time that you ever look directly across from someone is like right now. We're having a formal interview. So you're either looking for a job or you're asking for money or for both. But in real life people tend to turn to their sides to look at people and have conversations. So you want to put your sofas parallel to each other. If you -- you want to put them at right angles. If you do...

CURRY: Not parallel, right angles.

Ms. GRIFFIN: Correct. If you do put them parallel, close that short end off with a pair of arm chairs. Here's the right angle set-up, which looks great. And then you station your arm chairs across.

CURRY: Of course, a lot of this depends on the room design as well.

Ms. GRIFFIN: And how much size you have.

CURRY: Right, exactly. Also, another idea is that the sofa and the rugs should match.

Ms. GRIFFIN: That's actually a myth. You want them to contrast.

CURRY: Hm.

Ms. GRIFFIN: Because otherwise it's all just floating together. It's an island of texture and nothing's anchoring it down. So what -- in reality, this is the don't. And as you can see, it's tons of beige together. And once you put a darker sofa on a lighter rug it anchors it, and vice versa. You can layer it if you want to, which always looks great. Even if you're dealing with the whites and the creams and the beiges...

CURRY: That's pretty.

Ms. GRIFFIN: ...you still have a little contrast.

CURRY: Mm-hmm. It's interesting how the color was worked in, you know, having it in the bowl of fruit as well as in the -- in the little piece up on the mantel, as well as in the pillows. That's very pretty.

Ms. GRIFFIN: And that gives you some pop, which we always need.

CURRY: Mm-hmm. Also, the idea that the lamps are just an afterthought, that basically a lamp is a lamp. That is a?

Ms. GRIFFIN: And you -- that's a myth.

CURRY: Hm.

Ms. GRIFFIN: And so often we really do think about lamps as an afterthought, when they're just as important as the furniture that they sit next to. This is "honey, who shrunk the lamps?" Lamps that sit next to the sofa should always be big, bold statements. Now one of the biggest trends is actually a decorated lampshade.

CURRY: Hm.

Ms. GRIFFIN: So we have some color. The vanilla lampshade is over. And also, even if you're putting them on a desk, you know, don't get those little dinky desk lamps that you see. Go for a bigger lamp just like a side table.

CURRY: You know, I just bought a really heavy lamp for my son's room and it just felt -- it just feels -- it gives it kind of an anchoring feeling.

Ms. GRIFFIN: Doesn't it feel good?

CURRY: So I think you can actually really think about this in a different way. Also, desk chairs. Now, usually we have them with wheels. And -- but you're laughing. Again, she's laughing at me. I don't know what I did. But what -- why are you laughing?

Ms. GRIFFIN: You know, every man in America 's going to get upset with me. But the rule really is if your desk is in a living room , which your home -- many people have home offices in their living rooms today, it needs -- the desk chair needs to be a pretty one. You want a dining chair, not a desk chair on wheels.

CURRY: OK.

Ms. GRIFFIN: And look, this is a feminine version, which I think looks really great. If you need that little glide, just put little gliders on your legs from the hardware store and you can still scoot across the room.

CURRY: And you can protect the floor with that?

Ms. GRIFFIN: Mm-hmm.

CURRY: I mean, that would be the worry? It won't hurt the floor?

Ms. GRIFFIN: It won't mark the floor.

CURRY: All right. Now, small art can stand alone on a wall.

Ms. GRIFFIN: Small art looks lonely. It's the loneliest thing on the wall in the world. So if you have a lot of vertical space, stack the art. Don't -- even if it's a Picasso , you don't want it to be the lone thing on the wall. You...

CURRY: Oh. You're going to put something else with the Picasso ?

Ms. GRIFFIN: Oh, you're going to put your Monet with the Picasso .

CURRY: Elaine Griffin , thank you so much for believing we've got the money for all of this . But listen, actually it's a lot of great ideas this morning. Thank you. Pleasure. And coming up next, how to wear the hottest fashion trends no matter your shape or size. That's a pretty little number. But first, this is TODAY on NBC .