Break the Rules

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re there rules to break in decorating? Yes and no. Following design rules may get the job done but it doesn’t create particularly inspiring rooms. The typical layout of a sofa, two chairs, a rug, matching end tables and lamps is so over. Create your own personal vision when you decorate. Don’t be afraid to add color, pattern, artwork or treasures that mean something to you. Forget about the “in” color palette of the moment but do use more current shades of your favorite colors.

To keep rooms personal, unique but updated, choose your color combinations carefully. You want your rooms to still feel fresh and not stale or like you are walking into a time warp.

Mix both traditional and modern pieces throughout your home. Walking into an individually themed room in each room of your house creates a disjointed feeling.  Mix a modern table with traditional chairs or try a classic Chesterfield sofa and mix in more modern armchairs. A European look that breaks the rules juxtaposes modern artwork with traditional furniture. The tension created is timeless and your rooms will feel less static and more interesting.

Wallpaper is not just for walls. Wallpaper the ceiling instead of the walls. Using wallpaper on the ceiling gives your room a fresh spin. A subtle pattern looks wonderful or go bold and really create some energy in the room. Another great way of using wallpaper is to take interesting panels or fragments of wallpaper and frame them — instant artwork. 

Another rule to break is one involving rugs, specifically that your furniture should be all on or all off the rug. Many times I like pieces of furniture half on and half off the rug. If you have a small beautiful rug but it’s clearly too small for the room try layering it on a larger sisal or jute rug. The larger rug will ground the rest of the room but you will still get to use your small beautiful rug. The smaller unusual rug will go far in giving your room that special personal look.

I find the often touted recipe of using only three colors in each room too confining. I prefer layered variations of colors. Sometimes I select them from artwork, a rug or a client’s favorite color, but I almost never use only three colors in a room. I often use many shades of one color or several colors mixed together. I don’t love the feeling of walking into a one-color room.  An example would be a room of all gray. These one-color rooms tend to look dated quickly.

Lighting can create personality in a room. A mix of lamps in a room creates visual interest. Use different lamps in the same room. I do, however, like pairs of lamps often using them on end tables that don’t match but are the same height.

Don’t mix different metals in the same room is another rule to break. Use antique silver pieces on top of a white lacquered Parsons table or gilt frames on modern paintings to create a chic look. I also love creating gallery walls using all the same frames or all different ones mixed in — silver and gold leaf or lacquered black. 

Books belong on bookshelves: Break this rule. Books should be read and looked at. Keep art books stacked on a coffee table or keep a few stacked under a chair.  Make them part of the décor of a room and within easy reach, not just left to collect dust on a shelf. Once you have read them and no longer want them then share them with friends or donate them so that someone else can enjoy them.  The feeling of having a physical object to look at and read from cannot be stressed enough.

Hide your televisions — another outdated rule. Televisions and technology related objects are a part of our lives. I don’t find the need to hide the TV behind closed doors or armoires. It’s fine to have it visible in our homes. Today, TV stands keep televisions visible. I do object, though, to TVs in every room. I also object to having television on all day every day. Take a break, get off your sofa and enjoy interacting with people.

Entertaining today is more informal. Formal entertaining was an important part of designing and decorating homes. Storage for china, silverware and crystal were important things to consider. Now homes are more fluid with open-concept living and more casual entertaining. Although it‘s always nice to have a formal dinner party, don’t wait until you have enough space, china, crystal and silverware.  Have more casual parties. Buffets are a great way to entertain if you are tight on space or have to work the next day.

That’s one rule you’ll want to keep.

Written for: WAG Magazine

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