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12 design rules it’s okay to break

Not sure if it's okay to add place a vintage chair next to a modern sofa? Worried painting wood furniture is a big no? Interior designers shine a light on what rules to toss out the window when it comes to home decor.


11 design rules you should break

Rules were made to be broken, especially in home decorating. The trick is knowing which ones to follow and which to ignore. Interior designers are dishing on the design do’s and don’ts you can throw right out the window.

Rule to break: Follow trends.

“Here's the thing: I don’t believe in design trends," confessed Nate Berkus, an author and interior designer with a home collection at Target. "I think they make people feel bad about what they didn’t buy last season. Yes, there are rules about things like scale, but the truth is, if you love it, you can find a way to live with it.”


Rule to break: Paint color is just for the walls.

“Go bold on your ceiling, doors and moldings. Let the color scream from the crown molding or the doors to a room," said Cortney Novogratz, interior designer, co-host of HGTV’s “Home by Novogratz” and designer of home collections for CB2 and Macy’s. "Take risks. Mix it up. That is what it's all about.”

Rule to break: Wood and metals must match.

"I love to mix wood finishes or metal finishes in a room, or to combine two completely different design styles. I just remember to always let one look be dominant,” said Tobi Fairley, interior designer and creator of the Tobi Fairley Home Collection.

“For example, you can absolutely use both light and dark woods in a room, but one should be used more like an accent to the other."

Rule to break: Don't have too many TVs.

“It's okay to have a TV in every room — over the fireplace is fine,” said interior designer Lilly Bunn. "Home is where the television is.”

Rule to break: Small spaces should only have small furniture.

“When you fill a small room with small furniture it just feels like a dollhouse and not a comfortable environment,” said Kyle Schuneman, interior designer, designer/founder of Live Well Designs and creator of a furniture collection for Apt2B.

“You should play with scale and have a couple of oversized pieces to make the room feel comfortable, collected and lived in.”

Rule to break: Don't paint wood cabinets or furniture.

“Why not? If they’re dated and you prefer a clean, painted look, you should paint them,” said Christopher Grubb, president/founder of Arch-Interiors Design Group, LLC. “Furniture, especially painted in a bold color, can become a focal point in the room and bring much more enjoyment to you.”

Rule to break: Match artwork to the room.

"Art should feel personal and collected over time and evoke a feeling and mood of its own. In my clients’ homes, the room provides a quiet story,” said interior designer Shannon Ggem. “The artwork might shout something at you as you walk by or whisper a little encouragement, but it ain't no holla back girl!"

Michael Kelley

Rule to break: Don't mix patterns in the kitchen.

“Choose a limited palette such as black and white to provide a common theme, and play around with scale and geometry,” suggests Alison Victoria, chief designer of DesignMine.

“Try three patterns in a range of scales, such as a thin stripe, a medium geometric and a bold floral. Include solids on cabinets and counters to ground the design.”

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Rule to break: The furniture style must match the architecture of the house.

“I love the look of modern furniture in a traditional home, or antiques in a modern home,” said interior designer Tracey Stephens. “The best look is an eclectic one that confidently mixes styles and periods.”

Wing Wong

Rule to break: Stick to one era, style or look.

"I think you can blend multiple pieces from all kinds of eras,” said Jennifer Maxcy. “The key is to stick to one common thread for continuity, such as color, pattern, texture or scale. It helps to create a curated look as opposed to a decorated space."

Rule to break: Everything should match.

“Traditional wisdom is to try to match all your colors, paint, rugs, furnishings and accessories. But following this rule will make your décor predictable,” said Dee Dee Eustace, architect, designer and author of “Dee Dee’s Rules.”

“Go rogue, and choose colors that blend, or are so opposing they work. It layers your environment and if you like the way it looks, then rules don’t matter anyway.”