It is fun for me to share some very basic decorating tips with you this month. After providing painting tips last month, I heard of a couple of ladies getting some much-needed painting done. One lady had never really attempted painting before, so I was encouraged. I also got some rooms painted. The change is always worth the effort.
Have you ever remodeled or updated a room and after putting the finishing touches on, it still didn’t seem quite right? You feel like “something is off,” but you cannot put your finger on it. Generally, it is not the color choice, although that certainly CAN be the issue. Often, after putting everything together, something is still “out of balance,” and it seems like you can actually “feel” it. See if these rules help.
A decorating principle that is helpful in this area is the 60-30-10 rule. It really helps make sense of colors that are chosen for walls, furniture and flooring. Sixty percent of an appropriate room should be your dominant color. This usually applies to walls, and often the larger pieces of furniture. Thirty percent would be your second color choice, and could include your ceiling, cabinets, floors or smaller furniture pieces. The remaining ten percent of color(s) are accent colors- for pillows, perhaps area rugs or other accessories. This little rule has helped me out tremendously over the years.
There’s another general rule related to hanging pictures correctly. No matter what size the picture is, generally you want to hang it 57-60 inches from the floor, centered on the wall. The reason for this is that the human eye generally looks about that height. So often pictures are hung too high, and what you see is “off balance!” Of course, there are times you hang a picture under a lamp or another place that is generally viewed from sitting (In such cases, the 60-inch rule would not be applicable), but pictures almost always looks best hung at this level.
There is a rule for placing area rugs, too! For the proper size rug, subtract 12-18 inches from the room’s overall width and length. You will then end up with a perimeter around the room, of 12-18 inches that the rug does not cover. Unless your area rug is a pop of color under one chair (think furry white or zebra), you will generally want most of your furniture’s front feet ON the rug. If not, the rug tends to look too small for the area, and can actually look like the rug is “floating!” When the front feet of each furniture piece are placed ON the rug, it grounds the room. You are better off having a rug that is too big than one that is too small. Area rug size is OFTEN the problem in a room where everything else works!
Placing furniture for conversation is important. The ideal conversation area is seating placed so that the distance between adjacent furniture pieces is no less than 42 inches and no more than 120 inches. It’s also nice, sometimes, to have a couple chairs near each other (perhaps separated by a small end table) for a “cozy” conversational area. A room that is so spread out that it feels like the chairs merely line the walls, is not set up for conversation. There is also a rule for passageways around furniture. Generally 24-36 inches should be allowed around furniture. Makes it easier for guests to find seating and get up and sit down, without the feeling they might bump into someone or something.
The rule of “odds.” There is something about using the number 3 or 5 or 7 when putting items on a mantle, or pictures on a wall, or even number of pieces of furniture in a room. An odd number tends to make the vignette “balanced.” Working with an assortment of taller, shorter, chunkier, etc. items helps with this also. I find I have to “play around” for awhile, and adding, subtracting, and moving around pieces, before I feel it is “right.” Even- numbered amounts of accent items can feel too uniform and stiff.
The coffee table/end table rules. For maximum usefulness and accessibility, the coffee table should be half to two-thirds the overall length of the sofa that it is placed in front of. Generally, it is a few inches shorter than the sofa height. To avoid awkwardness, an end table should be no lower than two inches below the arm of the seat of the sofa and no higher than 4 inches above it.
The rules for mixing patterns. Patterns can easily be mixed if two pillows, for example, have the same colors. The rule is that one pillow should have a larger pattern than the other one. When two patterns are different and the same size, the brain has a hard time making them “coherent.” When you have a large, bold print (example-checks) and a subtle, smaller scale print (perhaps polka dots), they will blend and give you a look that is pleasing to the eye.
The rule on drapery. For the past ten years or so, we’ve see drapery panels hung higher than the window casing. When hung somewhere between the window casing and the ceiling, they give the impression that your space is much loftier. Some people like the drapery to “puddle” on the floor, but for all practical purposes, when the drapes just skim the floor, they look great and you don’t become dust catchers or people trippers!
The rule for lamps. Sometimes a too large or too small table lamp can ruin a tabletop vignette and create an out-of-balance area. One needs to think, “form follows function.” Get the function correct and the size will be correct. According to Alice Lane Home Rules of Scale, look for these things when selecting a lamp:
A good rule of thumb for lamp height is to find a table lamp that is approximately 30 inches tall from the bottom of the base to the top of the shade. The top of the lamp/finial should be between 58-64 inches from the floor. If most end tables and bed side tables are 28 inches tall that gives you a good 30 inches to work with. Measure the height of your table and go from there. If the lamp is the correct height, the lampshade will sit at about eye level. This will protect your eye from the glaring light of the bulb, but will also allow the light to perfectly illuminate below.
At certain times, a big, “statement” lamp is fun. (On a corner table, for instance.) But even at that, measure the width of your table; the lampshade should be no more than half that width. You obviously do not want a lamp that is too narrow (tends to look ghastly), but neither do you want the lampshade hanging over the edge of the table! Again, remember form and function.
I hope these simple rules can help you with your decorating. Some people just have an innate sense of “balance” in decorating, but I think most of us can use a rule or two! You might be thinking, “What does it really matter if my area rug is too small or if my room doesn’t look balanced or if my pictures are hung too high?” Well, in the most serious sense, it maybe doesn’t really matter. It isn’t the MOST serious challenge in your life, BUT most husbands and family members appreciate a neat, clean, well-kept house, and that includes how we decorate and make a house A HOME! Don’t sell this short. Concerning the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, verse 27 states, “She looketh well to the ways of her household…” Perhaps this is just ONE of the ways that she does that. There is something welcoming, comforting, and warm about a visually pleasant space that we call “home.” It is worth it to do our best in this area.