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A Guide To Breaking the Rules in Interior Design

Cozy winter interior design

Rules are made to be broken as long as you know how to break them. Here are some tips for creative and constructive transgression of design norms.

Aesthetics are governed by rules. But once you’ve learned those rules, you can learn how to constructively break them. By taking risks, challenging conventions, and trying new things, you can make your rooms and the parties you host in them truly stand out. Throw out the rulebook with this guide to breaking the rules in interior design.

Vary Your Wood Shades

Modern style interior design 3D rendering
Modern style interior design 3D rendering

Some designers advise against clashing wood tones. But a room with only one shade of wood everywhere is a sauna. Unless you plan on heating your den to 120 degrees, don’t be afraid to mix soft blondes with hardwoods and rich dark stains. You can still achieve a rustic and earthy look with a variety of woods without falling into monotony.

Say No To Symmetry

The human eye loves symmetry—up to a point. If you took half of a person’s face and reversed it, creating a mirror image of one side, the perfect facial symmetry would be deeply unnerving. So, it goes for interior design as well. Everything need not be perfectly symmetrical in a room. Some constructive asymmetry can give the space a more organic feel.

Mix and Match Your Tableware

Table setting with white plate, linen napkin, olive brunch Trendy rustic table setting.
Table setting with white plate, linen napkin, olive brunch Trendy rustic table setting.

Who says everyone at the table has to eat from identical plates? You can achieve an eye-catching table setting with thoughtfully random combinations of colors and patterns. Plates don’t have to be either white or off-white—you can assemble an entire rainbow of colors at the table if you’d like. With disposable tableware options, you can try all sorts of new permutations and experiment with mixing and matching until you find an assortment you love—and then love another.

Try Furniture in Unfamiliar Places

By placing conventional furniture in unconventional locations, you can do some creative destruction of the design rulebook. While the dining room is no place for a kitchen sink, you have more freedom than you might think. For storage and decorative purposes alike, you don’t need to restrict a dresser or chest to the bedroom or its adjoining closet. A dresser in your living room can provide valuable surface space for displays as well as room to stow away entertainment media, blankets, and other non-essentials, all while acting as a bit of a conversation piece. A well-upcycled dresser can provide even more character and accent to your room.

Embrace Accent Walls

Loft style interior design 3D rendering
Loft style interior design 3D rendering

Convention dictates that we use one color for all the walls in a room. However, selecting a bold and bright color for one wall can really pop against the neutral colors we typically embrace for living and family rooms alike. A slate blue wall in an otherwise pale-yellow room brings life and dimension to the space.

Embrace Color!

When it comes to breaking the rules of interior design, shedding those neutrals altogether is one of the boldest ways you can do that. Whether it’s paint or furniture, bold colors can make your home inviting and unique.


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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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