9 Cliché Decorating Rules We Should All Start Breaking

published Jan 16, 2019
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(Image credit: Carina Romano)

While some decorating rules of thumb are definitely worth paying attention to—think: “Decorate rooms one at a time” or “Always design rooms around furniture”—others are made to be broken. To prove our point, we asked a few of our favorite designers which old-school decorating clichés they believe should be ignored, and their responses didn’t disappoint. Read ahead for nine decorating clichés our experts say you should avoid following.

1. The Rule of Threes

(Image credit: Lana Kenney)

“There’s this very cliché rumor that if you do a pop of color in a room it should appear in three different places, which is just such a funny thing to suggest! I never think a room should be that contrived. Accents are great when they are unique.” —Alyssa Kapito, Alyssa Kapito Interiors

2. There’s No Room for Experimentation

(Image credit: Samara Vise)

“It’s not necessary to match every single item in one room. In fact, we always mix it up. Many people fall into the habit of matching the artwork with the couch and the rug and even an accent piece such as a throw pillow. Experiment by incorporating different patterns and colors that go well together in order to add character. We like to mix vintage with new and love texture.” —Caroline Grant and Dolores Suarez, Dekar Design

3. All White Walls are Boring

(Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)

“I think that people tend to think that white walls are boring, but personally, I love white walls. There are many shades of white, one for every taste. White paint brightens and expands spaces visually, and it’s a blank canvas that can inspire you to engage and play with more daring colors in your accessories (which are easier to change).” —Anjie Cho

4. Dark Colors Make a Space Feel Smaller

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

“The universal belief that ‘painting a small space a dark color makes the room feel smaller’ is a belief that needs to be erased from everyone’s minds. Applying a dark paint color or wall covering in a small room adds depth and can actually create the illusion of more space.” —Kristen Ekeland, Studio Gild

5. You Can’t Mix Styles

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

“The idea that you need to stick to one style or finish in a room is super limiting. Combining different textures like wood and metal finishes adds variety, depth, and personality to a home.” —Shannon Wollack, STUDIO LIFE.STYLE

6. Everything Has to Match

(Image credit: Viv Yapp)

“A big cliché is that everything needs to ‘match’! Adding a piece with different lines or coloration adds personality and keeps a space interesting.” —Julie Massucco Keliner, Massucco Warner Miller

7. Windows Must Have Window Treatments

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

“For privacy—yes, one should have an operational window covering; however, for a rarely used room or one with a spectacular view, going naked allows for the outside to be the main attraction.” —Emily Westerfield, Apartment Jeanie

8. Hardware and Finishes Must be the Same

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

“Hardware and accessories are like jewelry for the room. Mix-and-match finishes to add interest. Have fun with accessories, they reflect your personality and make your space feel like home.” —Deborah Lempert, Deborah Lempert Interiors

9. That There are Decorating Rules at All

(Image credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion)

“I think rules and being told what should be done is cliché in itself. Everyone should do what they like and what makes them happy. Form and function and scale might be important, but at the end of the day you want to live in a space that works for you and makes you feel good.” —Gary Brown, Gary Brown Interiors