11 Design Rules You Should Never Break

Updated: Apr. 09, 2024

If you're looking to transform the look of a room or your entire home, it can be difficult to get started. Some people are born with an eye for design while many of us struggle. Here are 11 design rules and techniques that will come in handy.

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Give Bold a Try

When it comes to choosing a paint color, it’s OK to break the rules. Making a room darker is a guaranteed way to give it instant “wow factor.” Try using a bold dark hue in the bedroom or a bright, sunny yellow in the living room.

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modern living room

Follow the 10-30-60 Rule

Once you have your color scheme decided, you’ll need to decide how they will work together. This is where the 10-30-60 rule comes into play. Choose a dominant color which you’ll use for 60 percent of the space, a secondary shade (30 percent) and an accent color (10 percent). Dominant colors are often applied on walls and floor coverings. Secondary colors work well on furniture and the accent color is reserved for accessories such as throw pillows, a flower vase or a lamp shade. Try using copper in your decor as an accent.

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living room
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Form and Function

When choosing furniture, consider both form and function. Choose a piece for the entryway that is not only visually appealing, but has drawers to store your car keys and the dog leash. If you don’t like clutter in the living room, look for tables where you can store remotes, magazines and odds and ends.

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Buy Things You Love

Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if it’s a piece you’ll love years from now. If you answer “yes,” go ahead and buy it, whether it’s a bold blue couch, a lamp or a new rug. Regardless of trends or rules, don’t be afraid to invest in pieces you love.

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living room
Zastolskiy Victor/Shutterstock

Choose the Right Rug

Rugs can be expensive, so it’s important to choose the right size for your space. It can be tempting to purchase a rug in a design you love even though the rug is too small—but don’t! Make sure at least part of your rug can be placed under some of your furniture or it will make the room look uneven.

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living room
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Mix Textures

Don’t be afraid to mix textures in a room. Try adding a wicker chair to the living room along with some metal fixtures. Or add a brass lamp along with some plants to add a pop of green.

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Know the Right Way to Hang Artwork

Before you start putting nails in the wall to hang your artwork, do a little prep work. Most art looks best hung at eye level (between 57 and 60 inches). Once you find the correct level, sketch out a grid on paper before you start pounding in nails.

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Stick to the Rule of Threes

The rule of threes is a classic design concept that says odd-numbered groupings create more visual interest than even numbers. Try adding three throw pillows or group a set of three vases in varying sizes.

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Get Quirky with Accessories

Even the most conservative designer should get quirky every now and then. Make a statement with an unusual vase or a decorative bowl in a bold design or color.

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Add Layers of Light

A single, overhead light can make a room look flat. Instead, layer light sources. Try adding sconces or put a fun lamp in the corner to add a soft glow.

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Don’t Forget to Measure

Before you purchase that new couch or bookcase, make sure you measure. If your furniture is too big or too small, it can make your space look uneven. Before you buy furniture, map out where you’ll place large items so there aren’t any surprises.