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Decorating Rules You Should Rethink

When it comes to decorating, the times are changing. Throw out the old "rules" and let these five ideas reset your thinking to help create a home filled with character and personality.

Rethink It: Bed Placement

Usual thinking: You can't place a bed in front of windows.

Rethink it: Put the bed where it works best for the room. Sometimes that spot, especially in a small room, is on a wall with windows. Choose an airy headboard that lets in natural light (and also that doesn't look obtrusive from the exterior of your home). Then create more "architecture" with window treatments. Curtains, even if they're stationary, can serve as a soft frame and establish the bed as a focal point. Tip: Hang curtains high and wide to make the windows look larger.

Rethink It: Trim

Usual thinking: Painted trim should be white.

Rethink it: White will likely always be the top color pick for baseboards, window trim, and crown molding, but this is still one of those decorating rules you should rethink. Taupe, gray, or even pale grayish green are alternatives to white without overwhelming. Want drama? Try black. It draws attention to a big window or the pretty view out it. Looking for something fun? Keep the molding around a window white, then paint just the lower part of a double-hung window frame a bright color.

Rethink It: Dining Chairs

Usual thinking: Everything has to match.

Rethink it: Mix, don't match. Perfectly matched pieces tend to make a room look formal and can be bit of a yawn. But throw in a few surprises, and your room has character. If you're guilty of snapping up matched sets from furniture stores, this is definitely one habit and one of those decorating rules you should rethink. So break apart a matched dining set, and bring in chairs in a mix of colors and styles. Woven seats unite the tall ladder-back and low-profile Wishbone-style chairs in the dining room (featured in the April 2017 issue of Better Homes & Gardens), above. Another easy change: In a bedroom, swap the boxy nightstand that matches the dresser for a painted accent table, cocktail cart, or slim desk.

Rethink It: Sofa

Usual thinking: Large pieces of furniture, such as a sofa, should be neutral.

Rethink it: Go ahead and live a little—a colorful sofa can bring a living room to life! But this decorating rule you should rethink requires extra thought because a sofa is an an investment. Stick with a color you've always loved and that you know you won't grow tired of. Although a chartreuse sofa turns heads, you don't have to branch out that far. An earthy green sofa would still add color without being too colorful; it can reads almost like a neutral. Before you take the plunge, factor in your decorating personality. If you change things often, you may be better off with a neutral sofa that can handle decorating whims. On the other hand, if you're content to live with things for years, a colorful sofa may be a welcome focal point.

Rethink It: Powder Room

Usual thinking: Bold colors or patterns make a room look small.

Rethink it: Color and pattern make a room interesting. And, because a little goes a long way, small rooms are actually good candidates for some "wow." Interior designers often recommend starting with the smallest room in the house: the powder room. It's tucked away and doesn't have a lot of surface to cover, so it's a good place to test your comfort level for color, pattern, or both. Even if you love neutrals, you may come to see that this isn't just one of those decorating rules you should rethink. It's one definitely worth breaking!

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