Interior Design Advice That’ll Make You Look Like A Pro
You don’t need to be an interior designer to pull off some seriously gorgeous decor, but you’ll miss the mark if you completely ignore these guidelines.
Okay, truth be told, design rules are not hard and fast, set in stone, never ever ever made to be broken types of rules, they are guidelines. Most of the time, there are really good reasons why we closely follow these guidelines and endeavor not to break from tried and true interior design advice.
It’s not because we don’t want to be put in designer jail, it’s because our job is to skillfully implement the principles and elements of interior design and create spaces that are beautiful and not awkward.
Once you understand some of the rules, it’s much easier to figure out where you can bend them a teensy bit (or a lot!) from time to time.
Hang Artwork at the Right Height
Ima be perfectly honest here: artwork that is hung too high or too low is one of my biggest décor pet peeves. Sure, people vary in height, and if you and your entire Amazonian family is 6’5”+, then go ahead and tweak this one a bit, but if you are average, here’s the rule:
- Artwork should be hung at a height of approximately 55-58” off the floor to the center of the art piece.
- This is the average sight line for the average human and is a very comfortable way to view a piece of art on the wall.
Are there exceptions to this? You betcha, a million exceptions, i.e., gallery walls, double height spaces, over a fireplace, picture ledges, etcetera etcetera etcetera. But, by and large, especially when in doubt, hang your pieces at the suggested height of 55-58” off the floor to the center of the piece. Can’t go wrong with that one.
Avoid Decorating in “Themes”
Theme room decorating is another peeve of mine and a rule I would be very hard pressed to break. What do I mean by “theme room”? It’s an over-the-top décor style where everything fits into one theme.
For example, someone who is a Francophile, with a love of all things French, may want their living room to look like a quaint bistro out of Paris.
That’s cool, just please, please, PLEASE, avoid Eiffel Tower everything (tchotchkes, pillows, sculptures, artwork) and go for the essence of France rather than have your room look like a cheap souvenir store.
One particular décor theme that can be completely hot or completely not is beach. There is so much to love about the beach: the water, the sand, the seashells… the color palette alone is swoon-worthy.
But you can do this tastefully without draping your room in fishing net and crabs, so please use some restraint on this one, okay?
Same goes for nautical themes, Tuscan themes, Moroccan themes, Disney themes, and so on: use the theme as an inspiration for a color palette or have a handful of tasteful items reminiscent of the style, but avoid a floor to ceiling treatment.
Have The Correct Area Rug Size
Let’s face it – interior designers, including me, love area rugs. They can define a space, coordinate decor colors, provide a soft landing for your feet, and so on.
What we don’t love is when area rugs are an afterthought – too small, wrong shape, or clashing colors can make an otherwise beautiful area rug a major buzzkill.
- Area rugs should comfortably fit either all the way under furniture or at least under the front feet.
- For a bedroom, make sure your area rug is either large enough to extend 12-24” beyond each side of the bed (your cold tootsies will thank you for it) or put smaller rugs on each side of the bed.
- For a dining room, rugs should extend at least 24-36” beyond the table so that chairs will remain on top of it when occupied or pulled out.
An easy rule of thumb regarding area rugs is that they should either match the shape of the room or the shape of the main piece of furniture in the room. If you like round rugs, use one with a round dining table, for example.
Get Your Clearances Right!
In design school we had to learn about clearances, or the distances between pieces of furniture that allow for comfortable movement around a room.
When placing furniture, it’s important to keep human scale and dimension in mind so that furnishings are neither too far nor too close:
- If your coffee table is too far from the sofa, you cannot comfortably reach it to set down your drink.
- Too close and you’ll have limited leg room and will need to squeeze in and out to get to your seat.
When seating is set too far apart, it’s difficult to have a conversation with a companion who is on the other side of a large room:
- If a 70” television is only four feet from a sofa, you can forget about comfortable viewing.
- There are plenty of measurements that are standard, and clearances will naturally increase when wheelchairs or mobility issues are taken into consideration.
Double check that your movement is not restricted by poorly placed furniture.
Break Up The Furniture Sets
Interior design aficionados are not fans of matchy matchy, and nothing screams “I literally put no effort into this” quite like furniture sets.
Big box stores and inexpensive furniture stores love to sell suites of furniture and they market all of the pieces together in a super low-priced package.
The worst offenders are living room sets where the sofa, loveseat, recliner, coffee table, end tables, and even lamps, are all sold as a perfectly matching room o’ furniture. YAWN. And also: blech.
Avoid the temptation to buy everything from the same corner of the same store, unless you’re planning to space your purchases out over several months or years:
- You’ll get a much more collected look if you shop around and buy pieces from different vendors.
- Get adventurous with colors, mix up upholstery fabrics, throw a leather chair in with a velvet sofa, or buy different captain’s chairs for an otherwise matching dining set.
- Let your personality shine through by mixing things up.
It bears repeating that there are always exceptions to the rules – ahem – guidelines, but if you still feel like you’re in over your head in the decorating realm, I’m available to provide assistance with these and other design dilemmas! Leave me a note here!
Fifty Shades of Green: From Using Cloth Napkins all the way to Living Off the Land
Get my guide to the small (or large!) things you can do to have a huge impact on the environment.
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Jen| 27 June 2019
Amen for taking it easy on the Disney decor!! Great tips!
Summer Sterling| 11 July 2019
Thanks, Jen! Themes can get cray cray!