The Law of Design: 8 Rules for Home Decor

Make decorating your home simple and fun by following these helpful rules.

I may not be an interior decorator or professionally licensed to give advice on the laws of home design. BUT, I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two over the years living in and decorating three different homes, as well as having a mother who is a total natural at it!

Growing up, our home always looked like a castle inside. My parents were fortunate enough to afford sizable properties and even built their dream home when I was in college. A 20,000 square foot custom French Chateau on five acres of land.

Talk about inspiration, guys!

And while living in these beautiful custom homes, my mom never once invited a decorator over for advice. She never felt the need to consult with someone who did not truly understand her vision and style. Instead, she trusted her own design instincts and did it all herself.

Every square inch. From every door handle to curtain rod. And it was stunning! And the key is, she watched every penny. She spent money on quality items but didn’t splurge unnecessarily.

And even though our styles are somewhat different, we can both appreciate quality and elegance. Classic looks that never loose their wow factor. I consider her the person who taught me everything I know and love about home decorating.

So the question is, how do you learn to decorate a home? Is it actually something that can be taught or is it just a creative gift – like painting or cooking? Maybe some people have “it” and some people just…don’t – right?

I like to think it’s a little bit of both!

In the end, it does take a certain level of creativity. But for those that may lack those artistic juices there are rules of thumb that can be applied as guides for interior styling. So don’t loose hope if the idea of hanging window valences or rearranging accessories in the foyer make you want to hurl.

For example, using an odd number of accessories (3, 5) when decorating a shelf – among other easy to follow rules – is a simple rule that can be easily applied.

The bottom line is, use these tips as a way to organize your thoughts and plans for decorating. But don’t stray from your own personal style. Your house is your home and your home should reflect YOU.

8 Rules for Home Decor

1. Mix Patterns, Don’t Overuse Them

Don’t be afraid to mix animal print with stripes or floral upholstering with checkers. The trick is to not overdue it and to make sure it is done in similar color schemes so the looks compliment rather than compete with one another.

I like to use no more than three different patterns in a room. You can get away with more if the room is large open concept and you have several different seating/entertaining areas.

For example, in a living room you may have a floral print on your throw pillows, a complimentary pattern on curtains, and animal print on a fur blanket. It all works without being overworked.

2. Invest in Quality Pieces

When you’re first starting out, you won’t have a huge decorating budget (since you’ve likely just sunk a big nut into buying the home itself!) So spending money wisely is especially important. Don’t do what my husband and I did in our very first home!

We took whatever money we had and went bargain shopping on literally everything in the home. At first it seemed like a good idea to buy discount furniture and decor. But in less than one year, those same pieces started showing their wear or breaking completely. The stuff we went cheap on but used everyday, like our bedroom set, just didn’t hold up.

Think of furniture as an investment and decor as extras. You need a kitchen table, but don’t necessarily NEED that distressed milk jar holder (does ANYone actually need something like that?!) Spend the most money on those important staple pieces you hope to have for years to come – kitchen set, living room couch and coffee table set, dining room table and chairs, bedroom furniture set.

And use the extra money for…the extras! Wall art, greenery, baskets, throws, rugs. No one needs to spend $40 on a throw pillow when there are plenty of affordable options on sites like Wayfair, Target, Home Goods. Knowing you aren’t sinking a ton of dough into accessories will allow you to also have more fun with pieces and even change some items out during seasons.

3. Avoid Decor That Looks Crafty

I love a good DIY project and these days, with inspiration on Pinterest and thousands of tutorials on YouTube, anything is possible! But if you find yourself running to the craft shop every week to stock up on spray paint and Modge Podge, you could be on your way to a very crafty looking home.

A handmade wreath or a knitted blanket are lovely pieces to add into any room and help create warmth. They also add character and become nice conversation items. But when you start entering the painted mason jar and burlap curtain category, you could be compromising style.

4. Use Greenery Carefully

Artificial or real greenery can add a vibrant feeling to any home. And these days, faux floral looks so authentic you almost need to touch it to make sure.

Shopping online for greenery can be very tricky since photos are deceiving. Try to find the product in-person at a local store or at least read the reviews online if purchasing from sites like Wayfair. Waxy looking, shiny plant leaves scream FAKE and often look tacky. Instead go for full and natural looking.

And be selective with the amount of plants you place around your home. If you get too carried away, your place could start to look like the Amazon Rainforest!

Ideally, no more than two pieces of greenery in a small to medium sized room and three in a larger space. Feel free to use a variety as well:

  • Artificial ficus trees in basket planters are very popular in home offices or living rooms.
  • Table top boxwood topiaries are some of my favorites for coffee tables and kitchen islands.
  • Ginger jars in a variety of designs serve as fantastic floral vases and go well in kitchens and foyers.

5. One Statement Piece Per Room

What exactly is a statement piece? It’s something unique and special. It stands out as the star of the room and be the main focal point.

According to Bowbird Home, “Statement pieces come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes. A common misconception is that it should be bright, colorful, oversized and extravagant and this is not necessarily the case.” 

Items of furniture that you absolutely love, that draw your eye straight away, that are unique and perfectly bold for you… this is what makes a statement piece!

And that’s why there should only be one in any room. Otherwise the pieces will compete with one another and inevitably clash.

6. Create Optical Illusions with Decor

Is there a room in your house you just aren’t in love with? Maybe it’s dark and lacks natural light. Maybe the ceilings are so low your taller guests bump their heads. Or is it just plain dated and you aren’t sure where to start…

Try not to worry too much. We all don’t have the luxury of Chip Gaines at our fingertips to knock down walls and move support beams haha! Some simple decor items can really create optical illusions and enhance the space. Plus it’s way less messy!

  • Mirrors for example are great ways to make any room look larger when positioned on the wall furthest away from the door.
  • Bright paint colors and even adding some chair rail molding with shadow boxing can really open up a darker space.
  • Layering light sources will add dimension to a room. Floor lamps, ceiling lights, wall sconces, and table lamps all work well to create different moods.
  • Adding floor to ceiling curtains will always make ceilings appear higher and windows look larger. Short curtains shrink a room and also look dated.

7. Try Not to Over Accessorize

This one can be tough for me. I just LOVE accessories and can always find something when browsing through stores like Home Goods, Hobby Lobby and Target. My favorite decor accessories? Definitely pillows and candle pillars!

The difficult part about this is over-accessorizing and cluttering your spaces. Ever walk into a decor store and feel just overwhelmed by all the “stuff”? Don’t make people feel the same way when they visit your home.

So what’s the right amount of decor?

  • On a kitchen or dining table, outside of each place setting, should be a centerpiece and no more than three additional decor items such as candle sticks, beaded garland, serving tray.
  • On a book shelf or coffee table, no more than three to five items is best (there’s that rule of odds I mentioned!). This will depend of course on the size of said shelves/coffee table. Books, decorative balls, baskets, and art objects all work well here.
  • On a bathroom vanity, less is definitely more! Most guest bathrooms or powder rooms aren’t very big to begin with. So cluttering them with too much decor won’t work well. Limit the accessories to hand towels, soap dispenser, candle and perhaps some small greenery.

8. Use Color and Use it Wisely

Pinterest is an incredible tool for inspiration and has given me loads of design ideas. But in the wrong hands, Pinterest can also lead you down a dark decor road. The images are meant to look appealing. Which means a style or color that you love on Pinterest just may not be the right fit for your particular home.

I always use this rule of thumb. Choose neutral colors (whites, grays, browns, blacks) for walls, cabinets, flooring – the majors. And then incorporate the color of your choice with decor and accessories such as pillows, candles, throws, etc.

Why? Because if you love cobalt blue on Tuesday but hate it by Saturday, it won’t take a ton of time and money to change.