Survey Says: Here’s What People Really Think of Decorating “Rules”

published Sep 3, 2017
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

A recent poll by asked people from all walks of life how they really feel about so-called design rules. Their mission? “To find out if the principles we read about in design magazines mirror the preferences of the average American.”

The methodology: “We compiled a collection of the most frequently written about rules, created photo options in which the only difference was the rule in question, and put them to the test by asking 1,000 people to choose their most and least preferred decor designs.” –

Let’s check out a few of the most interesting categories—art hanging, bedroom colors, countertops, rug types, and light heights—and see how the most and least liked options function in real homes from our House Tours. Spoiler alert: They all look great. (Click through each category heading to see all the voting data, or check out the entire survey here.)

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Survey says: The light hanging rule of thumb is 30″ above the table, so it’s no surprise that that’s the height that 66% of respondents preferred. The least-liked option was a pendant hung just a foot from the ceiling.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Survey says: 69% of respondents liked curtains that are hung from above the top of the window and that end just at the floor. The least popular option was curtains that just cover a window, hung from within recessed window frames, and the next least popular option was curtains hung from above the window that drape on the floor.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Survey says: The most-liked style of rug was “contemporary,” garnering 27% of the thumbs up. (there were 12 options, dividing the vote.) “Contemporary” is frustratingly vague, especially coming from a rug company, but the example they gave is abstract, distressed, and somewhat striped, in orange and gray. The most-disliked rug was the ubiquitous cowhide, getting 30% of the thumbs down vote.

(Image credit: Lana Kenney)

Survey says: Only two options were given for countertops: all granite (54% of the upvotes) and a granite-wood combo (53% of the downvotes). Granite has been at the top of the countertop game for a long time, and mix-and-match countertops have been a trend lately, so it’s not surprising that these are about equally liked. They both have their advantages, and they both look great!

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Survey says: As it pertains to how to display art, 84% of respondents preferred framed artwork to be hung, and 83% definitely didn’t like artwork to be leaned, so at least people are fairly consistent. Hanging art has its advantages—keeps horizontal spaces clear for other uses, keeps them safe, and creates a feeling of airiness.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Survey says: There were 10 bedroom paint color options given, preventing a clear consensus on any one color. Dark gray proved most popular with 22% of the positive vote, and it’s no surprise, as this color is glamorous, sexy, neutral, and conducive to sleep all at once. The least-liked option was pink, earning 28% of the downvotes.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Survey says: There are plenty of rules around how high to hang art on a bare wall, but when it comes to hanging it around furniture, 66% of respondents preferred a single work of art hung on the “middle of the wall” (which I took to mean equidistant from the top of the sofa and the ceiling, as opposed to the middle of the entire wall). The least preferred height for art was “low on the wall,” with the lower edge of a piece placed just above the top of the sofa back. It makes sense that people would not love that height, as it might often lead to people brushing or bumping the art with their heads, potentially damaging both.

Check out all 19 decor voting categories here, and feel free to chime in with your own opinions in the comments below!