When it comes to designing our space, we often follow the formulas established by experts who live and breathe home design. We make sure everything is symmetrical, stick to neutrals when in doubt, and steer clear of crazy patterns. While obeying the tried and tested rules of interior design is the key to creating a perfect, showroom-worthy space, going by the book may also cause your home to look flat and lifeless.
Rules are meant to be broken – and even interior designers break conventions to make space stand out from the rest.
To create a home bursting with aesthetic appeal and personality, here are 10 traditional interior design rules you may confidently break.
1. “Every living room needs a couch”
Who made this rule anyway? The golden rule is to design a comfortable home where all your needs are met – so assess your lifestyle.
If you’re someone who lives alone, why take up precious square footage in your small apartment with a four-seater couch when you only need a comfy armchair or two, a bench, or a daybed? The extra space could be used for other things you might need, like a piano, a cabinet for your toy collections, and other items that matter.
2. “Make your dining space look formal”
Here’s how a formal dining space looks like: It has a 4-8-seater table, complete with table runners, napkin, utensils, and a centerpiece. All of the chairs match. There’s one classic overhead lighting atop the table.
Well, this setting doesn’t work for all people. What if you’re a bachelor who doesn’t accommodate guests often? Or you have no room for a large table?
You can have a café-style two-seater table AND create a space that feels like home. You may also ditch the dining table requirement and use the kitchen bar stools for dining.
3. “Dining chairs must match”
Have you ever fallen in love with one great chair for your dining table but you didn’t buy it because it had no pair? Maybe it’s time to break the matching dining chairs rule.
Mismatched dining chairs look chic and eclectic, bringing the character into your dining area. The trick: make it look intentional.
To avoid looking messy, have a unifying factor. You could have 6 chairs of various styles, silhouettes, materials, and colors but they should be of the same seat height. You may also try to choose chairs in pair if this idea bothers you a little.
4. “When in doubt, use a monochromatic color scheme”
An incredibly precise palette is only fit for showrooms – not for a real living space. It’ll look forced, making it difficult to decorate with the pieces you love. It’s such a bummer to admire an artsy yellow figurine that just doesn’t belong to an all-neutral interior you created, don’t you think?
Break this rule and have a broad, flexible palette that gives you the freedom to display pieces that speak for your character.
5. “Ditch faux plants”
Some decorators cringe at the thought of using fake plants. But hey – they’re not that bad. They’ve come a long way. Faux plants have improved in looks and quality. Look for silk flowers or fiddle leaf figs with believable leaves. Dust them too.
6. “Symmetry is always the key”
Visual balance is satisfying. But if the constant struggle to create symmetry limits you from fully customizing your space, then your home may appear as boring as a staged showroom.
Go for the unexpected. Group items in odd numbers. Incorporate different styles. Display pieces in various sizes.
7. “Don’t mix old and new”
One surefire way to create a boring room: stick to a single period or style. You don’t want that, do you? The most inspiring homes combine new and old pieces in various styles, giving them a natural sense of having been curated over time.
If you live in a classic 50s home with antique furniture, make it look more current by adding contemporary rugs, lighting, and accessories. If you’re in a modern apartment, incorporate a few antiques and vintage pieces into the mix.
8. “Wood tones and metal finishes should always match”
Want to pull off a rustic style without ending up with a log cabin look? It’s suggested to use a variety of wood tones in one space to create a layered look – mix dark and light, warm and cool, and rough and soft.
Likewise, matchy-matchy metals are a dated directive. Subtly mix in a few different finishes to your space, like pairing a chromed-base table with chairs with gold legs or placing a modern copper vase next to brass antiques.
9. “Small space? Never use dark paint colors”
Traditional design rule states that light hues make space look larger while dark hues do the opposite. That’s right – but it’s also true that a navy blue wall has way more personality than a beige one.
Darker hues never fail to make your space look elegant. Think about navy blue, deep burgundy, charcoal, hunter green, and chocolate brown.
10. “Strive for authenticity at all costs”
We can’t deny: Genuine art, animal-based fabrics, building materials, decor, and other pieces never fail to give a sense of elegance and personality to a home. But in some cases, keeping it really isn’t the best way to go.
Just think about faux taxidermy, faux fur throws, and faux hide rugs that don’t harm a single soul. The same goes for plants. If you’re someone who could kill a cactus, better stick to artificial ones that add life and vibrancy to your home without requiring daily upkeep.