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Decorating Myths: 5 Decor Rules That Are Meant To Be Broken

decorating myths: 5 decorating rules you don't have to follow

Every once in a while, I get a question from someone who is in the middle of re-decorating a room, has an idea of what she wants, but is afraid to go ahead with it because she thinks she is breaking “the decorating rules”.

I hear statements like “I love that gold framed mirror but my other accessories are silver”, “I found this awesome zebra-print cushion but I already have a patterned fabric in that room” or “I bought a giant stuffed teddy bear from Costco but it’s too big to fit in the bedroom”.

Okay, there’s probably not a lot you can do for that last one 🙂  

But in a lot of cases, it turns out those rules don’t have to be followed. They’re really decorating myths.

I have to say that I’m not big on following a lot of decorating rules to begin with.

However, I know that a lot of people find it easier to decorate if they have some guidelines to follow.

And there’s nothing wrong with doing that…until you start giving up on things you really love solely because you might be breaking a rule.  

At the end of the day, it’s your house. So the only rule that really matters is that you love it!

Keep reading to find out the decorating rules you can absolutely go ahead and break.

As a side note, I do follow some tried and true design principles (which you can read about HERE), but they are more about laying out a room so that it feels right, not about picking the exact colors, patterns and finishes that go into the room.

Note: Some of the images below are from houzz.com and cannot be pinned due to their copyright restrictions.

1 | All Metals Have To Be The Same

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There isn’t anything wrong with using only one type of metal in a room, but if you want to mix things up…go for it!

A lot of people grew up with the idea that silver and gold don’t go together. But that isn’t really the case, and the design world has come to that realization, too.

In the bathroom above, I think the contrast with the silver is what makes the gold around the mirror stand out.

Dining room buffet with gold trim and silver mirror.

If you’re ever in doubt, just look for some inspiration.

 You can find metal colors mixed in furniture, light fixtures and artwork. So find something you like and use it to help guide your selections.

2 | You Can’t Use Multiple Patterns In One Room

Bedroom with lots of patterned fabrics, via us.shopsarahstyle.com
Mixed patterns via us.shopsarahstyle.com

Many people are afraid that it will look too busy if they use more than one or two patterns in a room.  

But when it’s done right, lots of pattern actually adds a lot of interest to the space.

Some very successful designers (like Sarah Richardson) have made their name by using lots of pattern in every room they do. She has 10 different fabric patterns (including the rug) in this bedroom!

If you want to try your hand at pattern matching, but you’re a little nervous that it won’t work out, do what Sarah often does…

Mix and match some cushion covers.  If you don’t like it you can swap them out for something else, and it won’t cost a ton of money.

For more help with how to put your patterns together, click HERE to read our no-fail fabric combination formula.

3 | Dark Paint Makes A Room Look Smaller

Small room with the walls and ceiling painted black

If you have ever taken an art class, they will tell you that in order to make something look like it is receding into the background, paint it a darker color.  

The same principle holds true when you are painting a room.  

Dark colors make the walls (and/or ceiling) look like they are receding.

Painting the whole room a dark color (ceiling and all) makes the corners blend in. Which means your eye can’t tell where the wall ends and the ceiling starts, giving the room the illusion of being bigger.

If you’re thinking of painting a dark color but are still a little afraid, click HERE to see our tips on how to make it work.

4 | Small Rooms Should Have Small Furniture

You might have heard people say that small rooms need small furniture.

But adding too many small pieces into a small room just makes it look cluttered.

Obviously, you don’t want to use furniture that is so large it doesn’t fit in the room (blocking the doors or overpowering the room).

But having one or two larger pieces of furniture will add drama and take your focus away from the size of the room.

Click HERE for more tips on decorating a small room.

5 | Dressers Are Only For Bedrooms

I have heard people say that they have an old dresser which they love, but don’t know what to do with it.

They already have a walk-in closet, don’t need more storage in their bedroom or it doesn’t go with their room style.  

Then it’s time to start thinking outside the bedroom!

Dressers are very versatile pieces of furniture that provide lots of great storage.

So don’t relegate them only to the bedroom.

You can modify them to use as a bathroom vanity (like the picture above).

Or use them as a console table in your entryway.

They can also make a great buffet for the dining room. Even the mirror on this dresser fits in with the dining room decor.

Painting it a bright color really makes a statement.

Hopefully, you have found at least one decorating rule that you can let go of…so let the decorating begin!

Have comments or questions about the decorating rules you don’t have to follow? Tell us in the section below.

This post was originally published on March 17, 2017 but was updated with new content on August 15, 2020.

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  1. Jean Arroyo says:

    I love thinking outside the box but find I am indecisive about which color. I have gotten so many wonderful ideas from Wanda I have big plans for my week off in August. I can’t wait to see how I channel my inner Wanda to make my home special.

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Thanks, Jean! I think that’s the only problem with loving color…sometimes it’s hard to choose. Have fun decorating during your week off 🙂

  2. I personally don’t really feel like dark color makes the room looks smaller. I like dark colored walls and that decoration rule has to be broken. lol

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Thanks for the addition to the list, Blake! I love dark walls, too, so I totally agree with you 🙂

  3. Oops! Sorry, I mean on the left side, it has the Pinterest, Facebook, etc.

  4. Hey Wanda, the side bar on the right can’t be clicked off the page and it covers content….very irritating! Can you please fix it?

    1. Sorry about that Kathy! Thanks for letting me know…I definitely don’t want to make it hard to read the real content 🙂 I’ll see what I can do to move those.