Design Rules You Should Never Break

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall
Credit: Shutterstock / Toyakisphoto

When you’re designing your home, you should absolutely have fun doing it. Your house should reflect your style and your personality, and it’s great to try new things. Interior designers bring their own unique ideas and tricks of the trade to the table, but most agree that there are a few design rules you should never break.

Choosing the wrong rug and curtains, designing without a plan, ignoring function, and cramming too much furniture into a room are major design mistakes. Not being intentional with your colors, textures, lighting, and overall design plan is also a big misstep. But don’t play things too safe and only follow the latest design trends.

Good design is a balancing act between form and function and between trends and personal style. Include things you love, omit things you don’t, but always make sure to be wary of these design mistakes.

1. Rugs That Are Too Small

Picking the wrong rug size can instantly make a space look incomplete. It has an unsophisticated look and also throws off the overall balance in the room. More specifically, choosing a rug that’s too small doesn’t look like it belongs in the space.

When choosing a rug, select a size that’s large enough to fill the majority of the area. The front legs of all the furniture should touch the rug. If you desire a grander look, especially in an expansive space, go with a larger rug that the furniture can fit on entirely.

2. Choosing The Wrong Curtains

Many designers suggest going with curtains that go from ceiling to floor to extend the height of the room. Long curtains certainly give a more elegant look to a room, but only if you choose the right style.

For example, color block curtains that feature a strip of color along the bottom tend to stunt a room. They do this because as your eye travels down the curtain, it stops where the new color starts instead of continuing smoothly to the bottom.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you should never choose short curtains. But it does mean being intentional with your curtain choices and considering the length and style in relation to the size of the room.

3. Ignoring Function In A Space

If you design your home only thinking about how things look, you risk your house not functioning well. For example, don’t choose a sofa that looks incredible but is so uncomfortable that no one wants to sit on it. You want your home to look beautiful, but you also want it to feel good, too.

Pay attention to how things work in your space, test out furniture before you buy it, and think about how you use each room. Make choices in your design that make your life easier, not harder. Before finalizing any aspects, always ask yourself if your decision supports your home’s form and function.

4. Using Too Much Furniture And Decor

Do you get super excited when you start designing a room in your home? Sometimes, excitement builds up so much that you can’t wait to start seeing results. Therefore, you start buying anything and everything that looks good.

For example, you decide you want to create a plush, cozy living room with a retro vibe. The next thing you know, you’re buying every overstuffed pillow and throw blanket you find in your local vintage boutique.

But if you put too much stuff in a space, it gets to be overwhelming, both physically and visually. It’s hard to move around the room, but it’s also visually crowded. Step back and edit the space as you bring things in. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your design is to take something away from it.

5. Hanging Artwork Too High Or Low

Artwork that hangs too high or low on the wall throws off the scale of a room. Hang it too low and it shortens the overall height in the space. Hang it too high and it forces people to look up, which is uncomfortable on the neck. But forcing their eyes upward also hinders how they perceive the rest of the room.

The general rule of thumb regarding where to hang artwork is at eye level. But that means hanging the art at the eye level of an average person. If you’re 6 feet tall, your artwork will end up too high. Instead of contemplating how tall the average person is, simply aim to hang the center of your art approximately 57 inches from the ground.

6. Only Following Interior Design Trends

It’s great to let current interior design trends inspire you. Scroll through Instagram to your heart’s content and binge-watch your favorite designers on TikTok. But don’t let what’s on-trend dictate all of your design decisions. (Sometimes, the most popular design trends aren’t practical anyway.)

If you force yourself to only make choices based on what’s trending, it’s likely your home won’t fully represent you. Stay aware of what’s current, but put your own spin on it, too.

7. Minimizing The Importance Of Lighting

Glossing over lighting when you design a space is a big mistake. Lighting plays a major role in how a room looks and feels. All of your other choices can be positively stunning, but if the lighting is poor, it ruins the whole room.

Mix in different light sources, like overhead ambient lighting, wall sconces, task lighting, lamps, under-cabinet lighting, etc. Choose a color temperature you prefer, for example, daylight white or warm yellow. However, whatever tone you choose, make sure to use it in all of your lighting to avoid creating an off-balanced look.

8. Not Having A Color Scheme

Work with a color scheme when you design a space before you make any choices. A color wheel is an excellent tool if you need help choosing colors that work well together. Select a scheme (monochromatic, analogous, etc.) then decide on which colors you want to use.

When deciding how to distribute the colors in a space, a popular rule many designers use is the 60-30-10 rule. This rule suggests using your dominant color in 60% of the space, a secondary color in 30%, and an accent color in 10% of the room.

9. Avoiding Texture

Texture adds so much warmth, interest, and sophistication to a space. Play around with different materials and finishes and try to use several different textures throughout the room.

Examples of how to incorporate multiple textures are with a plush rug, a leather couch, linen pillows, wicker baskets and furniture, and metal finishes. You can also bring texture in less conventional ways, like three-dimensional artwork and even lighting.

10. Designing Without A Plan

You won’t find a professional interior designer anywhere who starts working on a space without a finished plan. Create a vision for your space, make sketches, or use a planning tool on your computer.

Find inspiration in magazines, online, and other sources to help you curate various ideas. Take careful measurements and gather samples of fabrics, paint, and other materials.

11. Keeping Designing Choices Too Safe

Great design happens when you dare to be bold. If you have an idea that you love, go for it. Let your personality shine through your choices that tell people something about you. Good design tells a story, and when it’s in your home, that story should feature you as the main character.

Design Rules You’re Better Off Following

Sometimes, good design requires that you break a few rules to achieve the desired look. Be creative, try new things, and don’t be afraid to go against the trends and choose something you love.

But pay attention to the basics of good design, like balancing form and function and working with a plan. If you avoid making design mistakes, you’ll be more likely to create a space that makes you love your home.

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Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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