The stream of so-called experts who give us decorating do’s and don’t’s sometimes seems endless.
Real estate agents say keep your home neutral and impersonal. Designers say give your interiors punch and make your home about you.
No wonder so many do-it-yourself home decorators are stuck at their thresholds, afraid to make a move. If they do conjure the courage, they make design choices so wimpy even their pets will yawn.
I didn’t realize how strongly I felt about this until last week, when a refreshing message arrived in my inbox, from the folks at Lou Hammond & Associates, a leading maker of window-coverings.
A welcome departure from the heavy-handed preaching, this pitch listed design rules that are best ignored. Here’s a sample:
• Never mix florals and plaids. Nonsense. Mixed patterns are fun. They create a playground for the eyes. The trick to pulling off a good mix is to vary pattern scale and mix straight lines with curves. For instance, combine a small floral with a large plaid, or a large floral with a small stripe. Mix chevrons with botanicals. The secret to success is to have one pattern contain all the colors in the room.
• Don’t hang drapes around a picture window, or you’ll detract from the view. Au contraire. Lovely drapes can enhance a picture windows the way a frame sets off a painting.
• Don’t paint a small room a bold color. Rubbish. Bold colors define spaces like an embrace. They feel cozy and sexy. Strong colors also make artwork seem more dramatic than when it hangs on an off-white wall. While homes should have a palette of unifying colors, you can still have flow and use bold colors in defined spaces.
• Keep your ceilings white. This homeowner trap is misguided, uninspired and lazy. If a room is painted in a rich tone, white ceilings can diminish the look. If you don’t want to paint the ceiling the same shade as the walls, soften the contrast by painting it a lighter shade by mixing a little wall color into white.
• Furniture should go against the wall to maximize floor space. No, no, no, no, no. The point of a room is not to maximize floor space, it is to maximize interaction, as in conversation. You can’t do that when the furniture is blasted against the wall. Sofas, chairs, console tables, even beds, can float. Pull it together, people.
• Art should always be hung at eye level. Too many people are beholden to this rule. Repeat after me: Art should be hung in relation to that which it is hanging near. Sure, in a museum, where people are walking by, art should be hung at eye level, which, of course, varies. Otherwise, hang art where it looks good. In a sitting area, it’s nice to have the art at eye level from a chair. Over a table or headboard, hang art so the bottom of the frame is about 8 inches above.
• Baseboards should always be white. Highlighting your baseboards by painting them white is a good idea if you have awesome baseboards. But if your baseboards are underwhelming, say less 4 inches, don’t call them out. Paint them to blend. If the room has low ceilings, the racing stripe effect will make the room appear shorter.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.