Interior Design Rules

March 18, 2019 1:35 am by admin
5 design rules you can and should break
10 interior design rules you need to know
Interior Design Rules

Kelly Wearstler’s creations might challenge traditional design rules, but there’s one thing she always adheres to: symmetry. “There should always be a hierarchy of elements within the space,” she says. “Even the most maximalist rooms should possess a cohesive dialogue with well-balanced, thoughtful dimensions.”

The saying goes that you must first know the rules before you can break them. And though we love the irreverence of tossing the design rule book out the window, there are some guidelines that make the task of decorating a space a little easier and more foolproof. Few know this better than America’s leading interior designers, who are well-versed in using decorating tricks to transform an empty space into an inspiring and unique home. 

Odd-numbered groupings create more visual interest than even numbered groupings. In particular, three seems to be the ideal number for a grouping as opposed to one, five, or even seven because the former might feel too simple while the latter two run the risk of appearing overly cluttered.

Tip: If your stage-stealing piece is a bold colour, try using hints of it elsewhere for a cohesive look, such as the pink flowers in the vase on top of the candy-coloured sideboard in this dining room.

After you have the colors under control, it’s time to look at your accessories. We’ve talked about the importance of purposefully styling surfaces and grouping accent pieces before, but if you take one tip away from this, it should be — when in doubt, follow the rule of three.

There are also clever ways to arrange your decorative objects. By using a pyramid shape to group items. Place the tallest element in the centre, with a layered arrangement of smaller and heavier based objects at the bottom – like the bedside grouping of books. This creates a balanced appearance to each of your visual focal points. 


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The 10-30-60 rule is all about creating the perfect color palette. Image: Lionel Moreau Photography

This story was published on August 15, 2016, and has since been updated.

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Getting ready-made curtains to look high-end or professionally installed is incredibly difficult, but a few hints will ensure they look their best: “When hanging your own curtains, hang your curtain rod six inches wide and 12 inches high past the window frame, says Shelby Girard, head interior designer at Havenly. “This will make your windows feel larger and maximize natural light—especially in the warmer summer months when you want to let all the light into your home.”

These are the three interior design rules that every newbie should know. Image: Alvhem Mäkleri & Interiör

Your hero piece is designed to steal the limelight. It should be the thing you fell in love with the moment you saw it, and that you might be prepared to splurge a little more on. Remember, however, to make sure it has space to breathe.

If you’re big on colour, make sure you include some spots to rest the eye. Aim to include some empty space in a room, or balance your brights out with plenty of neutrals. Here, the owners have used white-washed walls to balance out all the brights.

Whether you’re just starting out in the interior design world or you’ve been here for longer than you can remember, there’s one thing we can all agree on: sometimes it’s good to go back to basics. With that sentiment in mind, today we’ve brought you three interior design rules that will totally transform the way you tackle the rooms in your home.

Back to Basics: The Design Ground Rules You Need to Know (Before Breaking Them)

Before you scoff and say, “Aren’t rules made to be broken?” hear us out. These rules are gold standards for a reason. Read them over before you write them off once and for all. We’re sure if you give them a fair shot you’ll easily see what a difference they can make.

As the name of this rule suggests, your dominant shade will cover about 60% of the room. Since it plays such a large role in your design, you may want this to be your most neutral choice. The dominant shade is a good choice for things like your wall color and floor coverings. Then, your secondary shade can be a bit bolder and is usually fit for furniture. Finally, your accent color is your boldest choice and can be found in accessories.

I’m surprised by how many times a client points to an item in their home and says “Hate that!” We so desperately want our homes to feel finished that we often rush decisions and give in to impulse buys (or sales) that weren’t really right.

If you only follow one rule, Lilly Bunn says it should be this: “The only real rule in decorating is to buy things that you love.” Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if the item really resonates with your sense of style. If the answer is yes, you’ll always have a place for it, regardless of trends. 

There is nothing worse than sitting down somewhere and not being able to fit your legs under the table or having the counter up to your chin, but these measurements often go overlooked in rooms and restaurants everywhere. “Typical seat height for dining room chairs is 18 inches and for dining room tables is 30 inches tall,” says Girard. “When mixing and matching various furniture pieces, be sure to keep these general guidelines top of mind so that everyone is on an equal playing field.” The same goes when choosing a barstool (30 inches) or counter stool (24 inches). Typically, unless you have an elevated bar area to your kitchen counter, don’t buy bar-height stools.

Can’t put your finger on exactly what your room needs? Step back and see the room as a whole. As interior designers know, viewing a room from a distance often makes it easy to see what needs to be replaced, added or removed; whether it’s the empty wall that needs to be filled, the wall that needs colour or the corner that’s crying out for a tall plant.

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Avoid using oversized furniture in a small room, and experiment with variations in size and proportion of your objects. Make sure you allow for natural pathways in your room such as from the door to the closet and try to arrange furniture with those pathways in mind.

Break the rules: If you’ve fallen in love with a rug that doesn’t come in the size you need (or a size you can afford), cheat by layering the rug on top of a less expensive natural woven rug like a jute rug—that way, your rug won’t feel like a postage stamp in the middle of your room.

Break the rules: Buy a couple of extra chairs, and pull them out for larger dinner parties. If you warn your guests ahead, most people don’t mind squeezing in to accommodate larger groups.

McCauley’s concept works like this: if nature were a framed viewpoint, the darkest colors would be found towards the ground. (Think dark grasses, stones, and mud.) Meanwhile, the medium tones of trees and plant life would be in the middle. Lightly-toned skies would round out the top of the frame.

When you’re not sure where to start with a design, sometimes it can help to go all the way back to the fundamentals. With that in mind, we’ve brought you three interior design rules that can help you balance out just about any design. Regardless of which room your working on or your personal sense of style, you may want to consider giving these a try. It never hurts to go back to the basics.

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Those before-and-after shots make decorating look so easy, don’t they? As if someone just came along, waved a magic wand and every room turned out perfectly. Sadly I can’t give you the magic wand, but I can share some basic decorating principles that will help you create your own piece of magic at home. Here’s what you need to know.

As a general rule, the centre of the artwork should be at eye level, which for the average person is 145 centimetres from the floor. Remember, that’s 145 centimetres to the centre of the art, not to the hook. Yep, I’ve made that mistake before.

Follow these interior design rules to help you bring your rooms to the next level. Image: Martha O’Hara Interiors

What do you think of these interior design rules? Do you have any of your own to add? Share them with us in the comments below.

We spoke to 10 top interior designers to find out which rules are worth following for a statement interior. Whether you’re starting a renovation from scratch or are looking to make a couple of small but high-impact changes to your existing home, these expert-approved tips will guide you to get it right every time. Commit these 10 rules to memory for a flawless home inspired by advice from the best in the business. 

A mirror is a great investment and one that will make a huge difference to the look and feel of your space. Now, go create some magic…

Every room needs one hero piece – something that will surprise, delight and make an impact. It might be an oversized piece of furniture in a bold colour, a fabulous rug, a work of art, or a feature wall.

Of course all rules are made to be broken, so when it comes to a feature picture wall, well, anything goes. But a top tip is to centre the first piece – your statement artwork – at eye level and spread smaller pieces outwards from there.

Break the rules: While we would never recommend hanging art higher than eye-level, you can break the rule by leaning art against the wall either on the floor or on a piece of furniture for a relaxed look. 

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Next up: Don’t decorate your home without these 10 must-know rules.

Want to order paint but not sure how many gallons you’ll need? There’s an easy rule for this too: “One gallon of paint will cover approximately 400 square feet,” says Trunck. “Measure your ceiling height and the length and width of each wall. For example, a 10 x 12-foot room with nine-foot ceilings is about 400 square feet of wall space. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need at least two coats, and get a little extra because you always end up somehow needing more than you thought.”

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Take the picture above as an example. Since the fresh, white color carries most of the room, that is clearly the dominant shade. Meanwhile, the mustard yellow found in the chairs and accent pillows is a solid choice for a secondary color. The blue accent wall is undoubtedly the boldest shade.

Mixing different heights in this way will also help create a relaxed vibe in your home.

Rooms with one type of lighting, such as a single overhead pendant, can feel two-dimensional. “Lighting will elevate the mood of any room,” says Consort Design’s Mat Sanders. “Be sure to have light coming from multiple sources, not just overhead. Find creative places for an extra floor lamp, sconce, or empty corner where a small table lamp could reside for added glow.”

Once you’ve decided which colors you’d like to use, it’s time to determine which role they’ll play in your design. That’s where the 10-30-60 rule comes in. With this rule, you’ll end up choosing a dominant shade, a secondary shade, and an accent color.

Do you have low ceilings? Choose low-profile furniture such as sofas and coffee tables to create the illusion of room height. Boost this with tall, slim bookshelves that draw the eye upwards and make walls and windows appear taller.

A beautiful painting or artwork will look far better when hung at the right height. Also, having a consistent centre line throughout your home helps create a sense of harmony.

It’s always tempting to get a smaller rug when it means saving a few hundred dollars, but interior designers know that smaller is definitely not better: “When it comes to sizing out your living room rug, the rug should be large enough to fit under at least the front two feet of your furniture, with the long side of the rug parallel to your sofa,” explains Girard. In an ideal world, you would even want all legs of your furniture to fit on the rug.

Size matters! Be generous with the size of your rug. Remember the on-the-rug rule for your living room: go bigger to ensure that at least two legs of every furniture piece in the living area are sitting on the rug.

Tip: To create an illusion of more space, paint the walls, skirting boards and ceiling in the same colour. This will blur the lines of where the walls end and the ceiling begins.

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When looking at dining room table options, it can be hard to visualize how many guests you’ll be able to fit at your dinner party (or how many chairs you should buy). Havenly designer Kylee Trunck has an easy trick: “Each seat should have a minimum of 24 inches of space at the table (30 inches if you want extra elbow room). For example, a 72-inch-long rectangular table would sit three people on each side with one on each end, or—if you want to leave extra room—two on each side and one on each end. In total, you would need six to eight chairs, depending on how much room you’d like to give your guests. For circular tables, find the circumference of your table and divide by 24 inches to determine how many chairs will fit around it.”

You know when you’re looking at a piece of art in a room and it just looks off? Chances are it’s hung too high: “Art should be hung six to nine inches over a major furniture piece like a sofa or console table, or at gallery height—which is when the center falls at eye-level (57 inches from the ground),” says Trunck. “When choosing your art, consider something at least 36 inches wide for above a sofa. When in doubt, the bigger the better!”

Think of the 3/3 vertical rule as an elegant take on ombre. Image: Blakes London

Photo by Kim Pearson Pty Ltd – Look for living room design inspiration

Photo by Zunica Interior Architecture & Design – Browse bathroom photos

The easiest way to start your colour scheme is to pick out a signature piece that you want to feature. It may be a beautiful fabric, a postcard, a rug or a favourite piece of artwork. Choose an item that embodies the colour scheme of your room and the mood that you are trying to recreate. A mood board is the perfect way to visualize how your room will look. Decide on the mood that you want to create, and then add in your signature object. Choose your room colours from your object, or to coordinate with your object. Add in textures and fabrics as well as accessories (all in proportional scale) and you will start to see how it will all come together. If you are using bold wall colours, use raw timber ad natural textures in your accessories and flooring to balance the room. If you are using cushions to add a pop of colour to your room, then mix a combination of solid and prints with variations in scale to create interest. Above all, make sure that your room reflects your own style and taste. By putting together floor plans and mood boards, you can test your ideas, before you commit to furniture and colour purchases.

The newest addition to the bunch, the 3/3 vertical rule comes to us courtesy of designer Mark McCauley, who outlined the concept in his book, Color Therapy at Home: Real-Life Solutions for Adding Color to Your Life. Like many other current trends, this rule builds on our persistent desire to assimilate the great outdoors with our interior aesthetics.

A rug is the one thing I frequently note is missing from my clients’ homes, which means they’re usually high on my list of items to purchase as part of a restyle. Why? Because rugs help anchor a room, plus they’re a great way to add colour, texture and softness. Need to carve up a large, open-plan space into separate zones? A rug is your number-one tool.

Make sure the rug extends at least 15 to 25 centimetres from either side of the sofa to create a balanced look. And remember, a rug is not wall-to-wall carpet – never lay a rug right up against the wall or window. Aim to leave at least 25 centimetres of visible floor around a rug.

Rugs are also relatively inexpensive for the impact they create.

Photo by Bask Interiors – Look for dining room design inspiration

“Anytime you’ve got brick walls and they’re keeping you from using the color scheme you really want, kick that brackish brownish-red to the curb by painting the brick white,” says Brian Patrick Flynn of Flynnside Out Productions. “A lot of people are against this, and there are some rules to follow. If the surfaces are super historic and the brick has tons of character, maybe keep it as is, but if the brick is just contractor-grade hogwash, and it’s forcing you to live in a marsala-toned nightmare, buh-bye, brown brick.”

A sofa need not be right up against your wall. If you have the space, pull it out a metre or two and put a shelving unit or console on the wall instead. This not only offers up styling opportunities behind the sofa, but it breaks up the room and can make it feel cosier and more inviting.

Adverse to taking risks? Start small, with accessories like a quirky bowl or statement vase, says interior designer Grant K. Gibson. “Don’t be afraid to take some chances to make bold statements, updating classic, timeless elements to make them current and your own,” he tells MyDomaine.

Tip: Don’t forget about your dining table. It’s a great place for a rug too. And if you’re worried about little-people spills, go for a reversible rug for double the lifespan.

Break the rules: Never ever hang your curtains lower than suggested, but you can always go higher. Hang your curtains jut a few inches below the ceiling to really give a sense of height to your room—just make sure they also reach the floor. No one likes curtains that fall short.

Break the rules: Go extra big to really make a statement in a room, or swap your single chandelier for two light fixtures when dealing with an extra-long dining table.

Break the rules: Don’t break this one; it’s annoying for everyone involved. But if you must, buy swivel stools that can extend or retract to the height you need them to be.

So what are those all-important interior design rules that cannot be broken? We asked two designers at Havenly to shed light on the most common decorating conundrums, once and for all. And because we love breaking rules once in a while, we added a few workarounds too. Never visit a furniture store without these rules in mind—and your rooms will always look high-end.

Choosing light fixtures can be a daunting process because once they’re installed by an electrician, it’s a pain to change your mind. Follow these simple guidelines to get it right the first time: “A dining room’s fixture should be one-third to two-thirds the width of the table, explains Trunck. “In a kitchen, divide the length of the kitchen island by four to get the number of recommended pendants. In a living room, consider the size and scale of the room, as well as the height of the ceiling. Larger rooms will need a larger chandelier (or even more than one). A handy equation is to add the width and length of your room in feet. That total would be the recommended width of your chandelier, in inches. For example, five feet plus 12 feet is 27 feet; this means you’d need a 27-inch chandelier. Bedrooms typically run around 150 to 200 square feet. Choose a chandelier between 24 inches and 36 inches to match the scale of the room.”

Use the rule of threes when styling surfaces. Image: 2LG Studio

Most living rooms will have a lot of rectangles and squares – it’s simply the nature of those bigger furniture items such as sofas, sideboards and shelving units. If you notice your space has lots of lines and right angles, think about adding some circles. A round coffee table, a pair of round side tables, a round rug, a round wall hanging – the options are endless.

When selecting items to go in your grouping, you want to ensure that they’re different enough to create visual interest while still having a common thread to tie them together. Take the picture above, for instance. While all the accessories have varying shapes, they have a unifying color.

Have you ever been through a friend’s house, or a display home, where everything just seems to work?

Looking for a surefire way to give a room instant wow factor? “When in doubt, make a dark room darker,” says San Francisco interior designer Scot Meacham Wood. “One should always enhance a space’s natural atmosphere.”

Before you add that dreamy daybed to your cart, be sure to measure your space. “Measure twice, buy once” is the mantra Jennifer Jones of Niche Interiors adheres to. “Scale can make or break your space. Pay close attention to the size of furniture pieces in relation to the room. Always map out the larger items, such as sofas and rugs, before purchasing.”

Most of us have a firm sense of what we like and dislike when decorating a room—we’ve seen enough magazines, TV shows, Pinterest boards, and furniture stores to know our style (or at least what we definitely don’t want in our room). But decorating takes more than just a sense of style to look right—proportions and design rules are equally important. We often hear interior designers talk about scale when referring to good décor. You can buy the most beautiful chandelier in the world, but if the size is wrong for the space, it will look weird—guaranteed.

Pick out a favourite colour or pattern and repeat it through your space to create rhythm. This allows your colour scheme to flow naturally from room to room without appearing to be disconnected. Repeat your colour or pattern at various intervals to keep your eye moving through your room, or make focal points around your room with similar shapes or forms.

Break the rules: Save on paint by painting only the lower half of your wall and leaving the higher half white. Your windowsills are a good guide when choosing how high to paint.

This article was originally published on Houzz.com.au. Read the original article here.

But you can and must love your home and every room in it. That means filling it with things that have meaning and memories attached to them, and replacing those things that frustrate you.

If you can’t understand why your space feels lacking, Charleston, South Carolina–based interior designer Angie Hranowsky recommends adding different textures, via accents like rugs, throws, or accent cushions. “Always mix materials and add texture—metal mixed with wood, or rattan or natural woven fabrics with lacquered furniture or walls, for example,” she says. 

In his view, an elegant interior design will work in much the same way, with the darkest shade on the bottom, a medium shade in the middle, and the lightest shade on top. This can be a helpful place to start for those trying to form a color palette. It can work with both colorful hues and monochromatic shades.

3 Powerful Interior Design Rules That Can Transform Your Home

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Next up: The small apartment decorating tricks that actually work.

Tip: A round mirror is a great way to break up all those straight tile lines in a bathroom. Go as big as you can. Large-scale mirrors make a real statement and can visually enhance the sense of space in a small bathroom too.

Always give the eye a focal point in your room – this could be either a decorative or a functional piece. This may be a fireplace, a bedhead or a central piece of art. Then arrange your pieces around the room to create visual peaks and areas of calm. A regular rhythm can be achieved by keeping the intervals between these objects relatively similar.

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, design powerhouse Nate Berkus wants you to take risks and follow your gut to create a truly unique home. “For me, the best interiors are always the ones where people have not followed any rules. Reach for what you love, not what your best friend or the latest design trend is telling you,” he tells MyDomaine. “That being said, there are rules about scale that will always apply. Once you get that right, though, you can then go ahead and break as many rules as you want.” Copy that. 

You don’t need a wand, you need a mirror! Not only do they add light and depth to a room, but they can reflect views, visually expand a space, be the hero piece of a room… plus, of course, they’re practical too.

This story was originally published on May 12, 2017, and has since been updated.

We’re all for buying a beautiful, sculptural piece of furniture that has instant visual impact, but Los Angeles–based interior designer Jeff Andrews says those with small spaces should always opt for items that offer form and function. “Use every square inch of space in creative ways—especially in a small home where you can’t have a lot of clutter. Include pieces that are as functional as they are sculptural and interesting,” he tells MyDomaine. 

Photo by Kim Pearson Pty Ltd – Look for dining room pictures

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