Breaking Interior Design Rules the Right Way

Written by Kelsey

Planning your home can seem like science—exact measurements, voltages and more add up to a rigid experience with little room for error. Many interior designers would have you believe that choosing your home’s décor is a science, too. But we beg to differ. While some design rules are useful and in the spirit of creating a beautiful, functional space, some rules are just made to be broken. Here are a few:

The rule: Don’t mix your metals.

The verdict: Become a mixologist!

Mixing metals might once have seemed nothing short of ridiculous: a little girl donning all her mother’s costume jewelry to play a fortune teller at Halloween. But done right, an assemblage of metallic hues look vibrant, chic—dare I say, elegant?

Check out these offerings from one of my favorite metalheads, Tom Dixon. You might not want to rush headlong into a space-age metallic theme, but bear in mind why these examples work: All the metals here are roughly the same tonal value. The Melt Pendant‘s copper option is a rich, orangey-pink and the brass is 24-karat warm. On the other hand, the Etch Tea Light holders are all in the same vein of muted color, right down to the not-so-shiny silver luster.

Here, a Tom Dixon Copper Pendant fits right in alongside cool-toned polished nickel, clear glass and white in a clean, modern scheme. The neutral base allows the metals to become the palette.

The rule: All woods must match.

The verdict: Nope! 
Using myriad different stains, types and treatments of wood is not only possible, it is a desirable way to enliven a space and create a warm, lived-in effect. This kitchen really went for broke, with just about every wood finish imaginable living together in rustic harmony.

If farmhouse-chic isn’t your thing, here’s another approach. Two very different woods are accented with stainless steel and pure white, creating a warm vs. cool scheme that looks totally modern.

The rule: Choose just one style.

The verdict: And then add another…and another!
Combining styles can be tricky, but it’s doable with a deliberate eye. The objects which bring you joy can coexist with visual compatibility, to the delight of those of us who love design but have a sentimental streak (and just can’t bear to part with Great-Aunt Gertie’s armoire).

The idea here is to “give each object a friend” (aww!) so that nothing stands out as weird in a combined space. The polycarbonate Kartell lamp and chairs are mod and mid-century, while the farmhouse table almost matches the buffet—even the wire chairs find buddies in the objets d’art and bold black picture frame. A thoughtful approach means each element feels like it belongs, creating a comfortable space.

The rule: Never paint over wood.

The verdict: Never say never.

There is a nugget of wisdom in this rule, in that wood should not be painted over as a matter of course. It’s certainly not the only way to update wood: refinishing with a fresh stain, stripping off an ugly varnish and sometimes just a little bit of sandpaper and some elbow grease can reveal a pretty grain and lustrous warmth that is worth preserving. However, if you think a coat of paint is really the way to go, then go! Inexpensive woods may not hold up to refinishing, and beat-up old cabinets can definitely look new with just a fresh coat. If you plan to leave some wood exposed in the room, bear in mind the color temperature of that wood when choosing your paint color so your result is cohesive.

The rule: One room, one rug.

The verdict: Love your layers.

It doesn’t matter if your home has hardwood, tile or shag wall-to-wall, the right rug can go right on top of whatever substrate you’re working with. This is not only good news for renters (hello, customization options!) but for anyone who wants a quick style upgrade without a huge commitment. Rugs can be changed out seasonally or as trends come and go, transforming your living space simply by virtue of how many square feet they cover. This example has not one, but two area rugs layered atop a hard surface to create warmth, define the space and add texture and personality. And would you peep those mixed metals….

About the author



When she’s not polishing up promotions as a web content specialist for Lumens, Kelsey is practicing how to properly pronounce Danish, if only to be able to say “home is where the ‘hygge’ is.” Aside from Scandinavian design, she spends a lot of time thinking about organic gardening, mini farms, honey bees and England.

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