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5 Decorating Rules to Ditch

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I was recently sitting in my dining room when I started looking at all of the different furniture styles and finishes that I had mixed together.  I love the “collected” look but there was a time when it was considered luxurious to have everything in matching sets and one would never consider a mix-and-match style.  That got me to thinking…what other rules do I break?

When my husband moved into our first apartment, I tried to follow the conventional wisdom I had heard over time: small rooms need small-scale furnishings, never use a dark color in a small space, always use matching furniture sets, never paint antique furniture, etc.  What I ended up with was a room that didn’t quite feel like “me.”  Over time, I’ve definitely become more comfortable making my own rules and following my instincts to create a space that reflects my style.  As such, there are a few traditional decorating rules that I almost always ditch!


Old Rule: Always use matching furniture pieces.

Long gone are the days of matching furniture sets and along with them, the days of using one wood tone in a space.  Nowadays, it’s okay to mix and match furniture styles and colors to create a visually interesting space.  For a more bold look, contrast light- and dark-colored wood.  More subtle decorating schemes can include variations of a single color.  Either way, ensure the mix of wood tones is used throughout the space to give the room a balanced look and feel.

Mixed Wood Living Room
{via Wendi Young Design}

Old Rule: Never paint wooden furniture.

There are some beautifully made, solid wood pieces of furniture that aren’t getting the love or appreciation they deserve because in their current state, they don’t fit with contemporary decorating trends.  And while it might have been taboo at one time to paint over a beautiful piece of wood furniture, it’s quite popular today.  I feel you should love the items in your home and often times, with antique furniture that has been handed down, we love the sentimental value but not the decorative look.  In this case, why not paint it if painting it will make you love and use the piece?

Painted Antique Furniture
{via Miss Mustard Seed}

Old Rule: Use only one metal finish in a room.

I suppose this is similar to the days when your belt and shoes had to match, but just as that fashion rule went out of style, so has the rule about using only one metal finish in a space.  Mixed metals add interest and character to a space.  Similar to using varying wood finishes, make sure you balance out your use of metal finishes so that the look is intentional, not accidental.  Also, pay attention to the sheen of the various metal finishes, as metals with similar sheens will mix the easiest.  Personally, my favorite mixed metal combinations are a mix of warm and cool tones, like weathered gold and tarnished silver.

Mixed Metals
{via Toronto Interior Design Group}

Old Rule: Small spaces require small furnishings.

While small spaces can be a bit tricky and many furniture pieces can look too large if you don’t keep proportion in mind, I don’t agree that small-scale furniture is the answer.  A small room filled with small furniture can actually make a room seem smaller than it is.  Like you’re the incredible shrinking woman!  {Is anyone old enough to get that movie reference?!}  Instead, look for one or two large pieces to anchor the space and then use other, space-saving furniture in the remainder of the room.  For example, in a small dining room, use a large dining table but maybe opt for bench seating on one side.  Skip a buffet or china cabinet and consider using a wall-mounted console or open display shelving.  A grand piece of furniture can help make even a small space feel grand, too!

Small Bedroom
{via Pabla en casa}

Old Rule: Use a room as it was intended.

Just because an architect and a builder got together and gave a name to the space in your home, doesn’t mean you have to use it that way!  Many homes have formal dining rooms that often go unused except for a couple of times a year.  Instead, consider converting the dining room to a home office!  Or maybe a wet bar could be converted to a computer station for the family.  My family uses our master bedroom like a family room, so when we remodeled, we took into account that we’d all be piling in for our family movie/dinner nights and planned accordingly!

Above all, a home should be comfortable, so get the most out of every square inch of your home by making it work the way your family lives.

Dining Room Office
{via Emily A. Clark}

These are the five traditional rules I most often break, but in reality, I don’t think there are any “rules” when it comes to decorating…they are more like guidelines or suggestions.  Creativity has no boundaries and your home is a creative reflection of you and your family, so give yourself the freedom to create a home that is uniquely you.

Do you break the rules, too?

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