5 Design Rules Worth Breaking

As an interior designer, you learn about “design rules” early on and they almost become second nature. Through the years the way you see the rules begins to change as your design style evolves. This is why I always say there is no real “rule book” when it comes to interior design, but rather standard industry best practices to get you started. Then you create your own rules- after all the point is to trust your own instinct and design eye! Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with following the rules, but I have found myself really enjoying projects allowing me to release my inner rule-breaker and push the envelope by creating a unique design with a classically current twists.

Everyone knows the number one design rule I love to break is the need to keep up with the latest trends, but there are a few more I have broken over the years. Continue reading to see five more design “rules” I believe are worth breaking.

pink sofa

Rule to break: Only use dressers in bedrooms

Some people believe dressers are only to be used in bedrooms. I, on the other hand, respectfully disagree. I love to use dressers and chests of drawers all around the house – after all, they add extra storage! As you can see in the photo below, we chose two fabulous white chests to sit on either side of this monumental fireplace. They add a sense of heft, comfort and practicality to the space.

Rustin glam living room

Rule to break: Everything must match

One of the biggest rules worth breaking is the misconception everything must match within a space. I believe style contrast is what makes an interior design rich and unique – think of it as our individual signature.

In the living space below we paired a plush salmon sofa, fashion-forward art and clear acrylic side tables with a stunning large-scale teak root cocktail table on top of an animal print rug with bird base lamps. Whew – that may seem like A LOT but it creates the perfect masculine and feminine mix for a one-of-a-kind design.

pink sofa

Rule to break: Don’t mix metals

Over the years my love for mixing metals has grown more and more. Some people believe if there is a silver light fixture or a gold faucet then the rest of the metals throughout the room should be the same. I am thrilled to report that’s just not the case. In the photo below, I am willing to bet you didn’t immediately notice the use of different metals within the light fixtures, console tables, and cowhide ottomans.

One trick is to incorporate accent items that help tie the metals together. For instance, we added a gorgeous and colorful Hunt Slonum painting above the fireplace and a large scale area rug to complement our mix. While the art includes warm yellow hues, both the art and the rug offer soft shades of cooler blue and gray, creating one cohesive design with mixed metals.

Contemporary living room

Rule to break: Arrange all furniture around the fireplace

This may seem like a random rule to break, but I find myself breaking it often these days. I am not saying I completely ignore fireplaces, because they are beautiful, literally add warmth to a room, and can be important architectural features. But if treated as decorative pieces rather than focal points of a design, a wonderful richly layered effect can be achieved. Check this out in the photo below.

Fireplace style

Rule to break: Small spaces require teeny tiny furniture

Although I believe it’s good to keep room scale and proportions in mind when creating a design, I don’t think they need to completely dictate it. When you fill a small space with ONLY small furniture it can make the room feel even smaller. Generously scaled furniture in a small space has the potential of creating cozy and enlarging effects on a room. Try playing around with scale by adding in a few full-sized pieces instead of filling the space with an assortment of smaller furniture. In the image below, we took a third-floor space with lower ceilings (because of the roof line above) and made it a fantastic space for a teenage girl. Notice the nightstand on the left overlaps a door to attic space. We don’t need that door every day so we centered the bed on the wall and covered it up. Voila!

small bedroom style

There is no interior designer “rule book” that has to be followed to the letter. This is an art! Keeping industry standard practice in mind is the right thing to do when starting out but, in the end, rules are meant to be broken. Remember, the name of the game is to trust your own eye. Focus on that and you will always create beautiful, personalized, and remarkable spaces. For more design inspiration follow us on Pinterest and Instagram!

  • XO, LU
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Comments (1)

  1. Couldn’t agree more on the image with the salmon sofa, root table and acrylic tables. I love everything about this room, though people might feel this decoration to be uncoordinated. The rug, table and chairs give a planted look around the less weighted pieces. I appreciate the black and white wall art with the rug. Very nice.

    Posted on March 24, 2017 by mike d