Outdated Decorating Rules

Large open great room with dark walls, light colored furniture, white floors and lots of natural light.

In this blog, I have shared with you many sound decorating principles, but they should guide you, not limit you. Experiment, audition, have fun – you’ll know if something works or not. 

Honestly, there are no hard-fast rules. The decorating police are not on your doorstep with handcuffs ready to take you away. Yet, many of the things that your mother learned are now outdated.  

Feel free to break these old rules: 

Out of date:     Ceilings must be white.
Up to date:      Try a tint lighter than your wall color or even try wallpaper. 

Out of date:     Don’t use dark paint colors in a small room.
Up to date:      As long as there is sufficient light in the room, dark colors can look very sophisticated. Add lots of white in fabrics and artwork for both brightness and contrast or try the dark color above a white wainscoting.

Out of date:     Buy furniture in sets and stick to one furniture style. 
Up to date:      Mix furniture from different sources and eras for an eclectic, curated look.  

Out of date:     Every living room needs a sofa.
Up to date:      Be unique with two love seats or four chairs. 

Out of date:     Always place furniture up against the walls.  
Up to date:      When space allows, pull furniture away from the walls.  Position the furniture (and rug) on an angle to create high design that can make your large room seem cozier or small room seem larger.  

Out of date:     Don’t use oversized furniture in a small room. 
Up to date:      Go ahead and use large scale furniture, just use less of it. 

Out of date:     Don’t choose patterned fabric for your furniture pieces. 
Up to date:      Buy what you like.  Neutrals and solids aren’t for everyone. 

Out of date:     Don’t use too many patterns or prints in one room. 
Up to date:      Choose multiple prints in the same color family. When in doubt, select plaids, polka dots, and stripes to complement other patterns like florals and paisleys.

Out of date:     Never paint woodwork. 
Up to date:      Painted woodwork and cabinets look fresh, can brighten a room, and add the right look (or cost-savings) you are seeking. 

Out of date:     Hang curtain rods on or directly above the trim. 
Up to date:      Hang them high, even close to the ceiling. The room will look taller. 

General Douglas MacArthur once said, “You are remembered for the rules you break.” So, trade in old-fashioned for delightful, even daring and dazzling style (and, if necessary, share this column with mom!) 

Barbara Graceffa owns and operates Secretary of the Interior in Quincy, MA offering creative solutions at reasonable rates. Learn more about her decorating, downsizing, decluttering and home décor sewing services, decorating workshops, and quilt programs and shows at www.sec-interior.com, and enjoy her art quilts on Instagram @secretaryinteriordecorating. You can reach her at 617.921.6033.

By Barbara Graceffa

Barbara Graceffa, CEO of Secretary of the Interior, serves decorating clients; assists with professional organizing, home staging and moving assistance; teaches on these subjects; and delivers quilt lectures and trunk shows.

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