Interior Decorating Basics – 5 Rules for a Successful Decor Project
Have you ever embarked on a home decor project and gotten in over your head? Or have you ever finished a project and thought, “Wow, that turned out uglier than (fill in the blank)….”. And you tear it out and never try it again. Ever.
Let me give you four pieces of advice:
- Preparation, however painful a process, must not be hurried or skipped. Read this line again until you lock it in.
- Not all greens go well together. Some hues just don’t belong in anyone’s house, I don’t care who you are.
- Wallpaper looks entirely different on a roll, in the store (sample squares) and on YOUR wall. Your wall is much bigger and patterns can become annoying when spread out.
- There are decorating and design rules – YES, REALLY! So you will never have to worry about #2 and #3 if you know the rules. And if you learn some interior decorating basics, the rules will follow.
Harmonize with Color
Think of your home decor project like your favorite rock song, performed by your favorite band. It would sound like utter chaos if the drums were hammering away, the bass boinging arbitrarily, the guitar plucking some noisy riff, and the singer belting out a Frank Sinatra tune.
If your home is like that – Oh, mercy! But it should be like a song in harmony. So the best way to accomplish this is through the use of color; a unified color palette throughout will link the spaces together.
Not everything has to be white, gray or beige to be unified…color schemes exist that can really enhance a space, depending on the mood, theme or style you choose. And believe it or not, there are rules to color selection, too…but that’s another blog post.
Balance: Feathers and Elephants
So you put a feather on one side of the room and an elephant on the other and call it done. Not quite, right? What we’re really dealing with is visual weight rather than physical weight…distributed so that the viewer doesn’t feel the room is tipping in favor of the elephant.
Traditional rooms use symmetry – equal on both sides, like two identical chairs facing one another with a table in between – because for most this is more agreeable.
If you’d prefer a more casual feel, asymmetry is best, and more interesting. Think of a scale: one heavier object on one side, and three different, lighter objects on the other…but in balance. There’s a lot more to this, but size, footprint, proportion and scale are factors to consider. This concept applies to furniture, artwork and accessories as well.
Rhythm: Ensnaring the Eye
Right back to that song analogy…and that drummer hammering away. It drives you, keeps you in motion and holds your interest. This is what repetition of pattern, color, texture or element can do for a room. Almost like a game of Concentration…it captures the eye and leads it to other similar items.
When the eye is doing this, perhaps it finds other items that are similar, but not identical…like a series of figurines or books on display that grow progressively larger or smaller, or pillows that are varying tints of the same purple. This is a concept called progression. Now, you’re thinking that these eyeballs are jerking around the room, giving the viewer a big headache, right?
Wrong…not if proper transition techniques are considered. Transition eases the view, through gradual movement, grouping and flow; curved lines are a common element used here. It might be as subtle as the curve of an artwork display, or the direction of a rug through an open doorway that guides the view.
Detail and Contrast (and Whimsy)
These are actually two different concepts, but they can relate well together…and when used deliberately, create more intrigue and curiosity, personality, and even whimsy (yes, whimsy, for you amusing types).
Contrast juxtaposes two opposing items together for excitement, like smooth and rough textiles, black and white tiles, feathers and elephants. Too much contrast? Be careful…it could upset the apple cart and reintroduce that disorder you worked so hard to correct.
Details hold or recapture the interest of the viewer, and allow for focus and inspection. Now, I’m not talking about the dust bunny that rolls out from under the couch like a tumbleweed (although that could capture attention).
An interesting piece of art, carving on the chair or table legs, spines of tattered books…or an article that injects part of you into the space, like the pinch-pot ashtray your child made in second grade, or your grandpa’s old spectacles. Whimsy, yes. There it is.
Emphasis: Something To Focus On!
Commonly called a “focal point”, the emphasis in your decor could be a natural design feature, like a fireplace, or a piece of furniture or artwork. Even the focal point has to follow all the other rules we’ve talked about and not take over just because it’s crowned queen of the room.
It would not be, say…your lazy dalmatian on the couch, or your toddler’s pack ‘n play. I know you’re disappointed, but I don’t make the rules, I’m just learning them like you are!
Is the Decorating Mystery Solved?
Was it all a mystery until now? Didn’t you always wonder how some spaces work, and some do not? I always thought it had something to do with “like” or “dislike”, or perhaps I wasn’t a fan of the colors or style…but it runs a little deeper than that, doesn’t it?
Perhaps you felt a bit unsettled because the colors weren’t harmonized. Or the furniture was too heavy for the small space. Maybe the scale of the furniture was perfect, but there were too many pieces on one side of the room. Or too much contrast, or too much detail…or too many patterns. Now, don’t justify these decisions by calling your style “eclectic”. I did that for years. It’s not eclectic, it’s a hot mess, and it can be fixed if you admit you have a problem. 🙂
Now…begin by looking at your space, and consider these elements when you do. I guarantee you will see it differently than you did before…and if you follow the interior design basics, and learn the rules, you can proceed with confidence, knowing your space will never again be “ugly as (fill in the blank)”.
What decorating rules have YOU broken? Oh, come on…admit it. Please share your comments below!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”