5 DESIGN RULES TO BREAK
If there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s that design is an art, not a science. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for every home, yet most of us have picked up a few common misconceptions somewhere along the way.
While I’ll admit there are general dos and don'ts worth following, especially related to window treatments and rug sizing, there are also a lot of outdated myths around mixing metals, matching furniture, and the like. Today, I’m on a mission to debunk five “rules” we’ve all heard before, plus I’m giving you permission to think outside the box.
As they say, some rules are meant to be broken.
DESIGN MYTH #1: “NEVER MIX METALS”
I find that clients are sometimes hesitant to incorporate more than one metal finish out of fear that things won’t perfectly match. But I’m here to tell you to always, always mix those metals in design! Thoughtfully mixing your metals helps add visual interest to a space, and gives rooms a more custom look and feel. My general rule of thumb is to include at least two metals, and just for the record, matte black counts too! I prefer to keep the plumbing fixtures all in one metal and then mix things up with the hardware and lighting accents.
DESIGN MYTH #2: “STICK TO ONE WOOD TONE”
There’s the thing: selecting the right wood tones is admittedly tricky territory. I know that it can be super hard to envision what the finished space will look like in your head, and it’s natural to worry everything won’t come together in the end. But trust me on this—working with more than one wood tone is not only ok, it’s preferable! In fact, I’ve found that using just one wood tone all throughout a space can wind up looking pretty dull.
Generally, I try to avoid mixing wood tones that are too similar, and I like to work with 2-3 wood tones per space. Don’t be afraid to mix oak, maple, walnut, or whatever the space calls for. Bottom line: just go for it!
DESIGN MYTH #3: “ALWAYS BUY THE MATCHING SET”
Perhaps the most common design “rule” I hear time and time again is the idea of purchasing the matching set. Whether it's a bedroom dresser and nightstand situation, or a dining room table and chair combination, I know that it is hard to avoid the temptation to buy the whole set for the sake of convenience. But as a designer, this is one rule that’s definitely meant to be broken.
The key to this: don't buy everything all at once, from the same store. Buying pieces from different retailers will ultimately give your home a much more layered, collected, and well-designed vibe than any matching set. No one wants their home to feel straight out of a cookie-cutter catalog, so opt for individual pieces that still work together as a whole.
DESIGN MYTH #4: “STAY WITHIN ONE STYLE”
Honing in your home’s overall style is great, but that doesn’t mean you can never go outside that specific category. Much like mixing metals and wood tones, I’m a big advocate for blending design styles whenever it’s appropriate. Unless your home is very historic or period-specific (think mid-century modern or classic farmhouse), designing outside the style genres is the best way to go.
If you don’t know where to start, try mixing up your accessories. One of my favorite tips for beginners is to pair modern accessories featuring clean lines next to more traditional furniture pieces within a space. It’s an easy, low-commitment way to try your hand at mixing styles that still leaves a big impact.
DESIGN MYTH #5: “FOLLOW ALL THE RULES”
We’ve gone over some of the most common design myths, but I’ve saved the best for last. It’s the idea that you must follow all the trends, choose particular layouts, or follow any rules at all. But I’m officially giving you permission to break all the rules. It’s your home, after all!
My best advice? Go with your gut, opt for quality over quantity, and create a space that feels like home. If you love it, that’s the only rule you need.