30 Home Decor Rules That Were Made To Be Broken

Leah Bourne

Over the years, home design experts have come up with a coterie of rules—ceilings have to be white, furniture looks best against the wall, the list goes on—and on. But if you take a look at some of the most beautiful interior spaces, what’s immediately apparent is that many—if not all—of these so-called decor rules are made to be broken

MORE: 35 Bright Home Decor Ideas to Copy From Instagram

With that in mind, here are 30 decorating rules you absolutely should be breaking. Remember, your home should be a reflection of your personal style, not what someone else thinks it should be.

1. Don’t mix prints.

Just like with what you wear, don’t be afraid to go print crazy at home. Mixing and matching is a surefire way to add a fun bohemian touch to a room. Ikat, leopard, florals—don’t be afraid to have fun.

2. Put small furniture into small rooms.

The logic goes that if you’re decorating a small space, it’ll appear bigger if you decorate using small furniture. Well, it’s simply doesn’t hold up. Don’t be afraid to play with big proportions in small spaces including using a couch that may take up an entire living room, or an oversized painting on the wall in a small room.

3. All chair legs must be entirely on a rug, or entirely off. 

Consider this the “don’t wear white after Labor Day” rule of home decor. Simply ignore it, and do what is best for the individual room that you’re decorating.

4. You need to have a couch in your living room.

This classic rule for decorating has led to most living rooms out there looking essentially the same. Throw it out the window and consider creating a living space using all chairs instead of a couch, or a settee and several armchairs.

5. Art should be only hung on the wall. 

There are actually quite a few places to put art that isn’t on a wall—prop a painting against a wall, on a mantelpiece, on a wall behind your desk, or inside a bookshelf instead of hanging it—the options are really limitless.

clutter theselby 30 Home Decor Rules That Were Made To Be Broken

Photo: The Selby

6. Clutter is bad.

You’ve heard it 101 times, and from a bazillion home experts—clutter is bad. But some of the chicest living spaces are chock full of stuff. Yes, some might call it clutter, but if having a lot of interesting things to look at in a room is clutter, sign us up.

7. Every room needs overhead lighting.

What a huge decor myth this is. Sometimes the best lighting is a combination of floor lamps and table lamps instead of a single, glaring, overhead lighting.

8. Don’t mix black and brown.

Like the dumb fashion rule that’s made to be broken, black and brown match beautifully in the home. Think of a black lacquer dresser against a brown wall—perfection.

9. Every room needs a pop of color.

We’re all for creating spaces that pop, but that doesn’t have to include using “pops” of color. Many of the chicest spaces ever have been created using a neutral palette.

10. Pick one style of furniture and stick to it.

Like print mixing, mixing various styles of furniture—French-country, post-modern, mod—can oftentimes only make a room that much more fun to look at.

11. All your dining chairs have to match.

Looking to add a fun bohemian vibe to your dining room? Throw out the notion that all your dining chairs have to match, and mix various styles (they can even be various colors) to give your dining room the perfect eclectic touch.

12. Never place a single chair on its own.

This is a home decor rule that’s a holdover from our grandparents era. Trust us when we say that there are plenty of scenarios when a single chair will look great on its own.

13. All windows need a treatment.

Have gorgeous oversized windows? Don’t subscribe to the rule that they have to be covered with window treatments. Particularly true in modern homes, window treatments may actually subtract from your space.

14. Avoid monochrome decorating.

Similar to the thinking that dictates that every room needs a pop of color, many people espouse the rule that decorating in a monochrome palette is a no-no. But take a minute to think of the possibilities. How striking would a room be decorated entirely in red, or how calming would a space feel in all nude tones?

15. Your nightstands need to match.

In a similar vein to mixing up your dining room chairs, we love the idea of mixing it up when it comes to the two nightstands in your bedroom.

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Photo: The Selby

16. Furniture looks best lining your walls.

This is a classic home decor rule that seems to have been spouted for generations. Throw it out the window, and play with the proportion of your space by placing your furniture off of the walls.

17. Every room needs a rug.

An old-fashioned rule just calling to be broken, don’t listen to those that say that every room in your home needs a rug. In fact, looking for inexpensive way to lighten your home decor in the warmer months? Simply take up that living room rug, and put it away in storage for a few months.

18. Only decorate using one kind of wood.

People exhaust a lot of effort painstakingly trying to match all of the wood finishes in their interior spaces. It is simply not worth the effort, and mixing and matching woods can add a dimensionality to your space.

19. Avoid multiple metallics.

The same is true of the rule of avoiding decorating with multiple metallics. Silver, gold, bronze—it all matches!

20. Decorating with personal photos is cheesy.

Your home should feel like your home, so don’t listen to the silly rule that you can’t decorate using personal photos. We love the idea of creating a gallery wall of family photos, or blowing up a particularly great family shot in black and white, and having it be the centerpiece of a room.

modern antiqe theselby 30 Home Decor Rules That Were Made To Be Broken

Photo: The Selby

21. Old and new furniture doesn’t work together.

Feeling particularly brave? We love rooms that expertly mix and match antiques with really modern furniture (say an old-fashioned dining room table paired with modern Ghost chairs).

22. Ceilings should be white.

Don’t ignore the space above your head, and leave all of your ceilings white. Oftentimes it looks best to have a ceiling be the same color as your walls. Or, really go to town, and paint your ceiling a different color from your walls altogether.

23. Leave the walls white in a small room.

The theory goes that white walls will make small rooms look bigger. It simply isn’t true. Small rooms can turn out to be just as dramatic as larger ones, and color is a great way to make that happen.

24. Use light colors in small rooms.

The same logic goes for using light colors. We say embrace the opposite theory, and create a dramatic small space using color, like a guest bedroom decorated with all bordeaux-colored furniture or a tiny bathroom painted Tiffany blue.

25. Get the phrase out of your head: “Will I still like it in 10 years?”

Plenty of decorators advise their clients to think about furniture purchases by asking themselves the question, “Will I still like it in 10 years?” Get that out of your mind, you have to love your home decor now! Don’t like something in 10 years, there are plenty of options to update your space down the line.


Photo: Elle Decor

26. Artwork should be eye-level.

Your home is not intended to be a museum. Place artwork where it is most aesthetically pleasing, end of story.

27. Your TV should be hidden.

Most people spend an inordinate amount of time watching TV, but then also decorate in order to hide it. Have a room that you watch TV in a lot? Embrace that, and decorate around the tube.

28. Outdoor furniture is only for outside.

Get creative with how you decorate and think about incorporating furniture initially intended to be placed outside, inside—think a picnic table as a dinner table or a wicker chair as a side chair.

29. Only decorate using an odd number of pillows.

While this decor rule was intended to prevent people from getting too matchy-matchy when decorating, it is still calling to be broken. If you think a couch would look best with four pillows, not three, just go for it!

30. An all-white room is boring.

Whether or not a room will end up feeling “boring” has more to do with your furniture selection than your color choice.

MORE: How To Decorate With Pastels