7 Basic Rules for Decorating

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By: Heather Boag
Published: June 4, 2015
Last Update: February 20, 2023

Decorating an entire room can seem like a daunting task.  An entire house?  Forget about it!  If you’ve found yourself anxious over picking pieces for your home decor, maybe it’s time to review the basics.  Styling your home can be a fun, creative process, provided that you’re armed with a little interior design knowledge.  Before you decide to update a room in your home, read these 7 basic rules for decorating.

1. Go Slow

The best way to understand what will work in a space is to actually live in that space for a while.  Don’t go out and expect to buy everything for one room in an afternoon.  Not only will you probably be unhappy with most of your decisions, you’ll also be hurting your bank account.  Furniture and home accessories can be expensive, so it’s important to invest in pieces that you’ll be happy to have around for the long haul.  How can you be sure a piece is a good fit?  Ask yourself if you absolutely love it, and if it’s functional.


2. Avoid Buying Sets

Never go into a store and buy every single piece of a furniture set.  It’s too matchy-matchy and will make your room look like you bought everything in one afternoon.  And let’s face it, if you’re purchasing a furniture set, you probably did.  Remember rule number one? Take it slow!   It takes time to find furniture that really works.  Of course, a set takes the thought out of finding furniture that goes together visually - and that’s important - however, the best designed rooms tend to be made up of blended, organic compositions of furniture.  Forget the set.  That perfect piece is worth waiting for if you’re hoping to make a style statement.


3. Work Outside to Inside

When designing a space, one good idea is to start with the outer spaces - the ceilings and walls for example - and work your way to the interior with the furniture and accessories.  Working from the outer spaces, and considering what’s attached to those spaces first, like the light fixtures and trim, help to set the tone for the room.  As you work towards the inside of the room, choosing things like end tables, couches, or bedding, you’ll be building a well thought out space that really works well together.


4. Keep Furniture Away from Walls

Especially if you have a small space, it can be tempting to push your furniture up against the wall.  However, instead of making the room look big, it turns what could be a cozy space into one that’s disjointed.  That’s right, designers agree that pulling your seating in towards the center of the room - even just a few inches - can help to warm up a space and create flow.  This simple design tip is one that anyone can do in their home.  You’d be surprised at how much this small change can impact any space.


5. Hang Curtain Rods Two Inches from the Ceiling

Want to make your room look bigger?  Hang your curtain rods about two inches from the ceiling.  This one simple trick instantly makes the space look taller (and windows look larger).  Your curtains should hang no more than one inch onto the floor.  And, while we’re on the subject, it generally looks best to extend your curtain rod about four inches beyond the outside of the window casing.


6. Accessorize in Threes (or Odd Numbers)

Whether you’re adding candles to a shelf, bar stools to a breakfast nook, or canvas prints to a wall, designers agree that groups of three (or odd numbers) look the best.  Why you ask?  Well, it all comes down to symmetry.  That’s right, groups of three have a center, and two sides, which helps to achieve balance, keep your eye moving, and generally offer a nice scale when it comes to your decor.  All of that adds up to some major visual appeal!  Of course, you need just one of something that’s a big statement piece, or you can use five of something if you have larger, longer pieces.  The odd-numbered possibilities are endless!


7. Ignore the Trends

When it’s all said and done, you’re the one who has to actually live in your home.  Therefore what matters most is whether or not you’re happy with your design choices.  If you totally don’t get all of that chevron love (you’re not alone, trust me!) then don’t use it.  This is your official invitation to ignore what’s popular on Pinterest and do what really works in your home.  Choose colors, patterns and prints that make you happy.  By focusing on things that you like, rather than what’s popular, you’ll have a better chance of creating a room that works for the long term.