When someone asks me about the rules of design, my answer is usually “rules shmules!” I’m not much of a rule follower. Frankly, they’re overrated! I had to learn the interior design rules just so I could break them. Just like I broke the ‘don’t wear white after Labor Day’ rule and the ‘wait an hour to swim after eating’ rule. Seriously? Did anybody ever follow that one? Your home is your little corner of the world. If you love it that’s all that really matters. End of story, right?
Not so fast. While I am not one to conform, there are a few rules (let’s refer to them as guidelines) I do follow, and I think you should too.
I’m often asked, what the biggest design faux paus are that I see in my client’s homes. So, let’s break down the top 5. Not to worry, I will also offer solutions for those of you who happen to find your décor on my naughty list!
#1 drum roll please . . . Art Interference. Just for the sake of my sanity, (which, I think we can all agree is questionable on a good day) when I refer to “art” I mean picture, mirror, shelf etc. Most often I am referring to art hung way too high. This is a biggie! There is a common misconception that hanging art and wall décor higher will draw the eye up and create height in your space. Not so. When art and decor is hung too high it creates a disconnect between the art and your furniture. Here are the guidelines:
- For art or galleries that are hanging on a bare wall (not above furniture) the center should be 56”-60” off the floor. This is true regardless of how high your ceilings are or how tall your husband and his ‘eye-level’ are!
- For art that is hanging above a piece of furniture (sofa, buffet, headboard etc.) it should only be about 4”-10” above. It hangs in relation to the furniture it is over. They need to feel connected.
- When hanging a series of photos together, they should only be 2”-3” apart. Treat them as one. Again, they need to feel connected.
#2 on my list, is Window Mistreatment or not hanging curtains, what I refer to as, “high and wide.”
- Your curtains should hang at least 12” above your window frame instead of hanging your rod directly on top of the window. This draws the eye up and gives the illusion of higher ceilings. This means that if you have 8’ ceilings, you will need 96” curtains, not 84”. The higher your ceilings, the longer the curtain.
- They also need to be no less than 8”-10” beyond the window frame on each side to maximize the width of your window. This tricks the eye into believing that the window is larger and when open and gathered, the curtains don’t hang ‘in’ the window frame. This allows maximum natural light to enter the room.
- Last, but not least, for the love of God, please make sure your curtains touch the floor!
#3 is Area Rug Rescue. Most often homeowners go too small. Don’t do it. The rules are pretty simple.
- An area rug needs to meet the feet of all the furniture on both sides of the space. If you go too small, this will draw the eye in, making the room feel smaller and disrupting the flow.
- I’ve rarely seen a living room that doesn’t at least need a rug that is 8 x 10, if not a 9×12. A rugs job is to ground and define the whole seating area, creating a conversation nook.
- In a perfect world your rug should be centered on 2 things (i.e. couch and fireplace) in the room. At the very least, centered on one item.
An area rug is an essential part of any design plan. They’re used to define a space and make it feel cozy. Don’t skimp!
4th on my list is faulty furniture “sets.” Please, no matter how desperate you are, don’t purchase your furniture in a set!
I’d rather see you sitting on the sofa from your husband’s bachelor pad or sleeping on an air mattress! Nothing says, “I am so tired of shopping, just please take my credit card and charge my retirement if you have to. Let me be done with this freakin’ nightmare”, like a furniture set.
Your home should feel like it has evolved over time, not like you walked into a big box store, looked at a furniture arrangement and then told Timmy the sales-kid, to “wrap it up!” This will leave your room with about as much personality as that teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you remember, “Bueller . . . Bueller . . . ”
I realize that this may sound exhausting, but really, it’s not that hard.
- Buy two end tables that match and then get a different coffee table.
- Purchase a beautiful sofa for your living room and then resist the temptation to buy the matching chairs. Get some cool club chairs in a coordinating fabric.
- If all else fails, contact me to handle these details for you. You deserve a grown-up home.
Last, but not least #5 furniture “under arrest.” What in the world am I referring to, you ask? This is when all your furniture is pushed up against the walls. It’s “under arrest”, back against the wall and hands up! (Btw-my father was a police officer for 20 years)
- Simply rethink how your room’s furniture is arranged. Move it around to make it part of the room and part of the conversation. It’s okay to walk around a piece of furniture.
- Pulling furniture off the walls can change the entire look and function of the room. It’s okay not to have a walkway right in the center.
- If you want your room to look bigger, pushing all the furniture up against the walls isn’t the way to do it. Pulling the furniture away, will make conversation areas more intimate and will create a better sense of balance.
Well, my friends, there you have it. The top 5 decorating mistakes. Why? Because I said so! Ha ha. Lots of smart, creative design people say so too. The solutions are easy and will have a huge impact on your home. Your family may be so impressed that they wonder, when you hired a designer. Shhh!! It’s our little secret.