A look at five traditional decorating rules that no longer apply. Learn how to break the rules and create a style that you truly love!

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 thinking…what other rules do I break?

When my husband first got married, I tried to follow the conventional wisdom I had heard over the years regarding decorating: 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!

industrial coffee table in front of linen wingback chairs with antique wine tasting table in between

Let’s talk about what “rules” you can ditch to help you create a space that feels like you!

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.

If you’re ready to mix things up, check out the guide below!

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. 

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 oftentimes, 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?

spring family room with slipcovered sectional and french coffee table holding white flowers

If you’re ready to try your hand at painting furniture, here are some tutorials that might help.

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.

Entryway with blue trumeau mirror and demilune table decorated for Spring

You can do it! Here are some guidelines for mixing metal finishes in your home.

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.  Or 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!

bathroom with dresser as a vanity wainscotting and wallpaper

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 into 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.

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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  1. Seems like those rules have been left behind ages ago and even then, good designers have been breaking them left and right.

  2. I love this post because this is how I find myself decorating. I love to use colors I would wear in my clothing because those colors compliment my skin tones. When I feel good my home feels like my little “Peace” in the world!

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      What a wonderful way to decorate!

  3. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns! Or textures.
    Don’t be afraid to set your master bedroom up for the cats with cat scaffolding & sling beds… Oh, that’s different, isn’t it. :)

    Don’t be afraid to try. If you fail? You’ll try again!

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Lol! I love it!!!

  4. Great post…and I’m happy to say I break all of those rules!

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Thank you, Marty! Have a great day!

  5. Kim, Thanks for including my office as an example. Love this list of rules to break!

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Emily – Your office is fantastic and a great use of space! :)

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