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Publication Date: 2015-12-16

Design Insights

5 Design Rules to Break

Do you dare take on some of the sacred cows of the design world? Looking for a change from your standard decorating formula? There is plenty of received wisdom on the subject of paintings, proportions and colours, but who wants to always play things safe? We’ve torn up the rule book with 5 design rules we think you really should break – and the results range from the outlandish to the subtly seductive. Go on, be brave.


1. Stick to white for the ceiling. We spend hours scrutinising paint charts and buying tester pots, trying out what will go with what to ensure a perfectly matched scheme. And then we go and slap some Brilliant White on the ceiling. It’s easy to overlook this area of a room, and yet playing around with a ceiling colour can add atmosphere and alter the proportions of a room. In the image above the ceiling doesn’t draw your eye – in fact you may not even have noticed that it’s not white. but the soft pink plaster colour adds warmth and depth to the room, where otherwise the black and orange would have been overpowering and a bit stark. Above: Charlotte's Locks paint by Farrow & Ball

2. Use One Colour Per Wall. Why be restricted by just one hue on each surface? Reinvigorate your space by breaking up the natural lines of the walls by combining two or more colours. Create a crisp line between two shades with masking tape, or go free-form with an ombre-effect – or even leave blatant brush strokes visible as in the first picture on our list. The effect will be irresistibly modern, free and fun. Above: Photo via House & Garden

3. Pick Pattern or Plain. Says who? The ‘feature wall’ idea of including pattern in a room, keeping it neatly cordoned off and contained has had its day. Freezes around the top of a room, wall decals sending tendrils and flowers up walls from the skirting board, even free-hand pattern painting if you’re feeling artistic – all these ideas are emerging in schemes by interior designers. Never one to be bound by convention, designer Nicky Haslam created the room above to be an informal sitting room, and the pattern above the doorways lifts the space from calm and bland to surprising and quirky.

4. Paint Small Spaces a Light Colour. If you think painting your box room gleaming white is going to fool anyone into thinking it’s a master suite, you’re mistaken. Much better to make a virtue out of a small or awkward space by emphasising its size and creating a cosy, enveloping den. The surprise element of walking from a light hallway into an enclosed, jewel-like space will be an ongoing delight and is a great opportunity to make the most of the ‘dark colours’ trend without committing to the look across your whole home. A small bathroom or cloakroom is a perfect place to try this out.

5. Keep It Neat. Chuck out that spirit level and bin the masking tape. The cardinal sin of decorating that is ‘paint inside the lines’ reminds us of school. Time to break out and do a bit of free-hand free expression. The image above is from the home of Rhonda Drakeford, co-owner of super-hip interiors store Darkroom, and we love the energy and confidence these hand-painted stripes display. The idea that you can just paint your walls without days of careful prep and meticulous brush strokes is so liberating, and makes more traditional, neat schemes look immediately dated!


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