7 Home Design Rules to Break

Forget the rules and embrace the details that will give your home a personal touch.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |April 4, 2018, at 9:26 a.m.

7 Home Design Rules to Break

Slideshow

Go ahead, think outside the box.

Modern interior of living room with sofa, armchairs, scandinavian style

(Getty Images)

When it comes to interior design for your home, some rules are made to be broken. Whether it’s mixing fabrics or introducing an oversized piece of furniture, it’s possible to achieve a good look when you’re not following all the classic rules of interior design. Thinking outside the box is becoming even more accepted in home design: “Overall, I think there’s just less rules,” says Lee Crowder, design gallery and model branding manager for Darling Homes, a subsidiary of homebuilder Taylor Morrison Inc., based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Here are seven home design rules you can feel empowered to break.

Furniture has a specific place in each room.

Furniture has a specific place in each room.

White luxury bedroom interior

(Getty Images)

Traditional design and the rules of feng shui may tell you to create a U-shape with living room seating or place your bed on a wall opposite the door, but not every space makes following the rules so easy. "Don’t be afraid to break tradition in order to make the most out of what you have,” says Lauren Makk, home editor for Yelp. “Measure the length and height of each wall, and take note of windows, plugs, air ducts and any unusual architectural feature so these features accentuate the furniture you have and vice versa.”

Keep the room looking uniform.

Keep the room looking uniform.

Contemporary  lounge / living room with sofa and ornaments in front of large window with curtains

(Getty Images)

There are those who dislike mixing furniture styles from different decades, but an entire room of midcentury modern can also make it look like you’ve transported back to the 1960s. Don’t be afraid to put a more modern side table next to a traditional armchair, especially if you’re showcasing unique pieces. An antique chair or a coffee table made by a local carpenter may not fit with a uniform design aesthetic, but these pieces offer variety and invite conversation. A survey commissioned by high-end goods online marketplace 1stdibs, released in January, asked 630 interior designers about trends and expectations for 2018. Forty-six percent of respondents said they plan to buy more furniture from artisan craftsmen rather than big-name furniture designers.

Every home needs a dining room.

Every home needs a dining room.

Apartment with white brick wall, sofa, table and pattern rug

(Getty Images)

Even in the age of the open floor plan, many people assume they need to make room for all the traditional spaces on the main floor of a home: living room, dining room and kitchen. But Crowder says in new home construction, builders are encouraging homebuyers to choose a layout based on their preferences and needs. If you never entertain and typically eat in the kitchen, why waste space with a dining table for eight? Instead, that space can fit your interests and needs, whether that’s a home office or study area, a reading nook or spillover seating when you have people over for casual get-togethers.

Keep most walls neutral, but add an accent wall for a splash of color.

Keep most walls neutral, but add an accent wall for a splash of color.

modern living room interior design. 3D rendering concept

(Getty Images)

Longstanding practices often tell homeowners to stick to a neutral wall color, then introduce a fun pop of color on just one wall. While neutral walls may be best for a house on the market, it’s not something you have to stick to while you’re happily living there. “Painting is the quickest and most affordable thing you can do to change your space, but it takes guts to commit to an exciting new shade,” Makk says. “I say take the leap and commit to painting all [four] walls of your space.”

Fixtures and finishes should match.

Fixtures and finishes should match.

Monochrome kitchen detail of black gooseneck tap set in a white marble counter top

(Getty Images)

The trends for metallic lighting fixtures and plumbing hardware throughout the home change every few years, just like preferred color palettes. One year brass is out of style and the next it’s in, but you can’t reasonably be expected to change out all your fixtures to keep up with the times. Instead, embrace the mixed-metal look. “People can step out and do a few more eclectic things than they felt comfortable doing before,” Crowder says. Black or nickel plumbing combined with chrome lighting fixtures work well together, she says.

Don't mix patterns.

Don't mix patterns.

White interior of living room with colorful pillows

(Getty Images)

A decades-old rule that can still be hard to break today is mixing patterns, which some people think looks too busy, particularly when textiles are mixed. But when paired with complementary colors or similar styles, multiple patterns can actually result in a more dynamic look. Mismatched pillows of different patterns that go together can be a simple way to incorporate more than one print into a space, or you can make a bigger statement with printed fabric on a chair or couch, rugs or wall art.

Keep current with trends.

Keep current with trends.

sofa of tissue in a modern living room. 3d rendering

(Getty Images)

While you may be in love with the current design trends you see on HGTV, embracing a style that's uniquely yours will have more longevity with your home design. Designers who responded to the 1stdibs survey reported that clients too often try to follow trends and would be better off diverting from whatever rules are currently en vogue. Makk agrees, noting that “good design is about curating a timeless space that transcends trends and truly reflects your personal aesthetic.”

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Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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