6 Interior Design Rules to Break
May 02, 2012
Interior design is neither an art nor a science. It falls somewhere in between, mixing the expressive nature of art with some proven guidelines that encourage function, practicality, and pleasing appearance. However, a few rigid rules seem to persist for no good reason. We've heard them from our mothers, from design magazines, and even from some decorators and designers.
Here are 6 persistent interior decorating "rules" that ought to be broken.
RULE TO BREAK #1: A living room requires a sofa.
Often when I visit a home for a room redesign or consultation, there's a big problem in the living room: a sofa that has no comfortable place. Sometimes it's just the wrong sofa for the room (too long, too deep, too high), but other times the room really shouldn't have a sofa at all due to multiple entrances, fireplace and/or TV placement, or odd proportions. Especially in smaller living rooms used mainly for entertaining, reading, and conversation, a couch is not the ideal seating choice. A grouping of chairs is more flexible and makes better use of the space. Setting an arrangement of four chairs diagonally to a focal point like this park view makes the space inviting and keeps entrances accessible.
Photo: Window Works via Houzz.com
RULE TO BREAK #2: Light colors are best for dark rooms.
Some rooms are just dark. Trying to make them lighter with a light paint color usually results in a dreary space that's still dark, with a wall color that looks dingy. Lighting, of course, is important to improve the function and mood of the room, but as far as color goes, it's often best to go with the darkness. Play up the cozy feel with a deep, saturated color. The dark value will shift emphasis from the lack of light and instead make the room feel inviting and restful. A saturated hue can add life and personality; a neutral like this deep, blue-based black looks elegant and refined.
Photo: New England Home via Content in a Cottage
RULE TO BREAK #3: Beige goes with everything.
If only every builder of spec homes would understand this rule. Beige is not a color. It's a complex family of colors that represent every shade of the rainbow. If you don't believe it, go to the paint store and collect all the beige paint chips you can find. Lay them out against a white background. You'll see a range of muted pinks, yellows, greens, and purples. These are the undertones of the color, and they're tricky to handle. Apprehensive homeowners who tend to choose beige for everything are actually setting up a very complicated color problem for themselves. Mix the wrong shades of beige and the result is not only boring, but also clashy and ugly. If you want neutral walls, start with the room's fixed elements which might be tile, stone, flooring, or furniture. Then hire a pro to find the right shade. Really, it takes a keen eye for color to choose a really successful shade of beige or taupe. The same goes for beige furniture. This bedroom by designer Jim Hawes effectively uses multiple shades of beige and other neutrals for an effect that's harmonious and interesting.
Photo: Better Homes & Gardens
RULE TO BREAK #4: Windows require draperies.
Draperies are best when they improve both aesthetics and function in a room. There are rooms that are best without any type of window treatments, though. Where architecture is beautiful, and privacy or bright light are not concerns, bare windows are best. This happens more often than you might think. Additionally, the wrong draperies can ruin a good window, or even a good room. Hung incorrectly, they can make windows appear small and rooms dark. And when they're dated or cheap-looking, they drag down the entire room. Here's a gorgeous example of perfectly naked windows by Jessica Helgerson. Draperies would be all wrong in this space.
RULE TO BREAK #5: Metal hardware should match throughout the house.
It's fine to match metal, but not necessary. The key to making it look good is deft use of color and consistency of style. Will an ornate brass chandelier work in the same room as a sleek, brushed chrome sconce? No. But a sparkle of chrome on a lamp in an otherwise dark, earthy space with oiled bronze hardware can be a beautiful surprise. The contrasting metal works like an accent color works in a good color palette. Another way to mix metals is to create a very intentional balance. Example. When designing my master bath, I found a ridiculous close-out price on a very pricey polished chrome tub filler ($550 marked down to $125!). Most of the hardware in the house is brushed nickel. To create an intentional transition I chose polished chrome sink faucets, brushed nickel sconces, and towel hardware that mixed the two finishes. Below is a bold example of mixing metal finishes by architect Bill Ingram, from House Beautiful.
RULE TO BREAK #6: Granite is the best countertop choice for resale.
If you watch HGTV, you might believe that this is the number-one upgrade you should consider when selling your house. It's so wrong! Granite is so expensive that you won't get a full return on the investment. Putting smaller amounts of money into more areas of the house is a smarter strategy. A $3,000 granite countertop is worthless to a buyer who thinks it's ugly or boring. And cheaping out with granite tile is pointless. Choose a laminate that works well with the kitchen (but stay away from white and beige), then put money into hardware upgrades, lighting, paint, and storage. This kitchen was sensibly updated with dark laminate countertops and painted cabinets. Using luxurious materials like the marble tile in small quantities makes a big impact for a manageable price.
Need a little confidence when breaking the rules in your own house? I can help. Just email me. —Diane Kolak
TAGS: breaking design rules myths interior design traverse city leelanau northern michigan
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