5 Design Rules That Sometimes Need To Be Broken

Mosaics Lab
5 min readAug 17, 2023

There are some fundamental elements of interior design you just shouldn’t temper with. Rules concerning proportions, furniture size, and free space are there to be followed almost religiously, as they determine how functional the room will be. The rest of the rules, however, are there to be bent, broken, and sometimes even made fun of.

Some design rules are just made to be broken. Designer: Jeff Andrews, Photo by Gray Crawford, Image source: Link

Design rules, just like everything else, can be subjected to cancel culture. Certain rules can even discreetly “break the room”. Just ask Kathleen Kennedy, she broke Star Wars without noticing it. These things happen more often than you know, All of the rules exist for a reason, but the following ones are prone to “cancelation” in various cases.

From hero pieces to mixing metals, design rules can be bent if the result is this gorgeous. Designer: Ken Fulk, Image source: Link

1. A STATEMENT PIECE RULE

This particular rule is probably one of the most often applied ones. It means that every room should have a single statement piece, also known as a hero piece. That particular piece is designed to steal the limelight and make a statement. The rest of the room decor is basically there just to revolve around it. However, if the room is large enough, and if your overall interior style leans into maximalism, this rule can be rendered useless. In fact, in that case, I’d say — go crazy! Place strong pieces wherever you like and feel free to revel in the fact that your visitors will be overwhelmed with bravery and beauty as soon as they enter the room.

A single hero piece done right. Image source: Link
Multiple strong pieces throughout the space. Photo by: Patricia Gallego, Image source: Link

2. SMALL SPACES SHOULD BE PAINTED IN LIGHT COLORS

This rule is largely based on the LRV or light reflective value. LRV measures the amount of light a paint color reflects into the rest of the space. LRV is measured on a scale of 0% to 100%, with 0 being the darkest black that doesn’t reflect any light, and 100 being the lightest white that reflects all the light. So if a room is small you would usually want to make it bigger and light, reflective surfaces are great for that. If you opt to color your walls dark, then your already little room might end up looking like a cave. However, white is reflective, but it is also pretty cold, and that is exactly how it “opens” a space. On that note, if you want that cozy, tucked-up, cushioned feeling, take this rule, write it down, and flush it down the toilet, because it’s worthless. In that case just go for dark, matte walls. You do you. It’s not like the Interior Design Rule SWAT team is gonna come and arrest you. Go for it!

Small living room with white walls and lots of reflective surfaces. Image: Anna W Page, Image source: Link
Small, cozy living room with dark green walls. Image source: Link

3. CREATE LAYERS

This is one of the oldest rules in a book. It basically means that you should be mindful when combining patterns, textures, colors, and fabrics in a manner that will bring some warmth and character to the room. It is truly a great rule, BUT… What if you are dealing with a small space prone to cluttering, and you are trying to go for that minimalistic, clean vibe? Then simply throw out everything that requires layering. Layers are great if you are looking to snug up your space, but if you are feeling a bit claustrophobic and smothered, then just forget about them. It’s your space, and if you want to live with just your futon on a laminated floor, that is what you should do.

Layers upon layers, textures upon textures. Image source: Link
Minimal layering for clean and simple effect. Image source: Link

4. DON’T MIX METALS

If you go for just one metal finish you will create that cohesive look everyone is talking about much easier. Going for just one metal finish throughout your space will give it a polished and thoughtful appearance. The simple repetition of it here and there will be discreet and appealing to the eye. However, not all of us are that big on being prudent and inconspicuous. Mixing metals will create a unique look, break the monotony and make your room look playful and even more vibrant. That is the main reason why I love breaking this particular rule whenever I get the chance.

Matching metal finishes for a cohesive look. Photo: Pablo Sarabia, Image source: Link
Mixing metals for a unique look. Image Credit: Douglas Friedman, Image source: Link

5. DEFINE YOUR COLOR PALLET

Creating your color pallet before you start decorating is a great rule. if you start designing your room without any particular set of colors in mind you will probably end up with questionable results. That is why this rule is really a great and often used one. That is also why it can be so thrilling when you break it. Nothing like sudden pop of fuchsia pink or lime green to make the space look fun and enticing. Try breaking your pastel living room with a sudden burst of blood-red roses. the change won’t be permanent, but you’ll get a hint of whether you would love breaking this rule or not.

Pretty pastel pallet. Image source: Link
A burst of Fuschia and yellow in an otherwise uneventful space. Via: Arch Daily, Photo by Ema Peters, Image source: Link

There you go! We hope we helped make you into a design criminal. Who knew breaking the law could be so fun? Toodles!

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