Of course, it’s easy enough to find specific information on decorating a bathroom or a foyer. But what we’d like to focus on this time are the basic points of decorating, regardless of what room or what you’re trying to do with it. You can see these as benchmark rules, a standard to meet before you decide to improve a room further.
#1: Size matters the most.
The size of the room and the size of the furniture you’re putting into it needs to agree. You can make any room awkward and crowded by giving it furniture that’s too big for the space, and can also make any room feel like a sucking void by giving it tiny furniture that’s too small for the room. The same goes for rugs, paintings, and other trimmings. The next time you see a good room, stand back and consider the relative size of everything – notice how it’s all in the right proportions?
#2: The best thing you can do for a room is give it enough light.
Either clear those windows and let the light spill into the space, or get enough light fixtures to compensate. Light is tricky. It has a hundred different attitudes. Whenever anything’s wrong with the light, the problem is usually that you just need more.
#3: Not all things have to match, but more things have to match than not match.
A room with all-matching everything is too monochrome. A room with hodge-podge everything is too chaotic. A room with more things matching and a pillow or vase sounding a dignified accent is just right.
#4: Feng shui actually works… sort of.
Feng shui is a mystical Chinese art of harmonizing space. You needn’t get into metaphysical concepts of chi flow to understand the part that feng shui happens to get right: keeping ample walking distance around everything, making sure the door doesn’t open into the back of the couch, and moving the rugs where the corners won’t fly up and trip you.
#5: Light colors big; dark colors small.
If you have a room that’s too big and you want it to feel smaller, use darker, more saturated colors, preferably warm. If you have a small room you want to feel bigger, use light colors, pastels, and lots of white, preferably in a cool color palette
#6: Keep your focus.
When laying out a new room, walk around and decide on a focal point, then stay with it. Put your strongest accented item there. Have the furniture face the focal point. It makes rooms say something.
#7: Pick your furniture and fixtures first, then the colors.
It’s easier to find a paint to go with a couch than it is to reupholster the couch to go with the paint.
#8: Make your furniture multi-task.
You multi-task, why shouldn’t your furniture? A loveseat is rigid, it demands two people sit facing one way. An ottoman is more flexible; it can seat two, or one, or be a footstool, or face any way…#9: Don’t time-travel.
Matching furniture, room architecture, decorations, and fixtures by general time period does a lot to make a room more composed. You don’t have to agonize over every specific era for each fixture, as that green desk lamp will fit into any den from the ’50s onward. But when you’re mixing Ming dynasty with Edwardian period, that’s when it gets weird.
#10: That will be enough throw pillows.
Throw pillows have become the crocs of interior decorating. They’re OK in small doses, but too many people have taken to drizzling throw pillows all over everything like ketchup.
#11: Don’t overthink a small space.
There’s a reason that half-bath is challenging to do anything with. It’s because most times you’ll be in there for less than ten minutes. Save the strongest decorating statements for the rooms that get the most use.
#12: Toys are fun.
Rooms are happier with toys. Stuffed animals in the bedroom, figurines in the china cupboard, a mobile danging from the ceiling on the porch, and a big exercise ball rolling around the living room. Whenever a room looks too forbidding, put a toy in it.
#13: Black and white makes a room into a tomb.
Avoid the formal-looking black and white, colorless rooms you see in too many decorating shows and magazines. Those look nice, but they’re miserable to live in. They’re particularly too snobby when they’re accented by too much chrome, mirrors, and straight lines. This is a house, not the space shuttle.
#14: When it looks wrong, remove something.
Most decorating mistakes happen because people cram too much stuff everywhere. Leave some room for the place to breath too.
#15: When in doubt, break the rules.
Your common sense and home-maker’s instinct really does top most of those snobby interior design experts. Of course, you should know the rules and practice them first, and only then will you know when to break them.