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Interior Design Myths May Cause Bad Design

Updated on July 27, 2015

There are few myths about how to decorate that will make your home appear boring, blah, discombobulated, and uninviting. These myths have sprung from poorly edited do-it-yourself design shows, badly written design books, and simple misconceptions handed down through the generations.Dispelling some of these myths may help you create a more beautiful, dynamic interior for you and your family.

Lighter Colors Make a Room Look Bigger

This is not true. A small room painted white with a beige carpet or floor and pale colored furnishings does not appear larger. White, off-white, and beige do not induce the eye to travel, to explore. You see the whole room is one swoop and you're done. How does that relate to the appearance of a larger space?

Color and texture are the workhorses of design. To create the feeling of space in a small room, choose a color from the mid-range tones, such as Behr's Aqua Smoke or Sonata. Both of these colors are quiet enough to satisfy the need for serenity, but have enough depth to entertain the eye.

Compliment your color choice with contrasting yellows or reds, and that small room will appear far more interesting, and that creates a sense of spaciousness, because the eye has something to do.

Neutral Colors Make it Easy to Decorate

Like many myths, this one has a core of truth to it. Elements such as flooring, moldings, and built-ins are not easily swapped out or replaced. Choosing neutral tones for these elements does make it easier to change out décor without having to renovate.

But this concept can easily turn into laziness. If you paint your walls taupe, and buy taupe colored furniture, and match your tables to your cabinets and your accessories to your walls, you just end up with a big brown box.

Think of neutrals as your background. For your furnishings, accessories and wall colors, create a color scheme that contrasts with the neutrals. For example, if you have cherry cabinets in your kitchen and a darker wood floor, play up the red in the cabinets by painting the walls a whispery cocoa color such as Behr's Chenille or Pottery Clay, both red toned neutrals. Add contrast with soft yellows and gold in your linens and window treatments.

Using neutrals does not mean using just one shade of brown or gray or white. It means using neutral colors to provide a foundation to the space, and building on the tonal ranges found in the neutral colors.

Traditional Means it's Old

The word traditional implies the style is older, or old world, or the kind of stuff that's found in Granny's attic. Not true. Traditional styling is not attached to one specific time period; traditional means a borrowing from a classic style popularized in the past. For example, Tuscan style is characterized by gold and olive greens, orange and red, plaster walls, fruit motifs, black wrought iron, etc. To create a Tuscan style is to implement the characteristics traditional to that style.

But your Tuscan kitchen doesn't have to look like it belongs in a 19th century Italian farmhouse. You can use the same color scheme, motifs, and elements but with modern lines and materials. It will still be a traditional style, just done with contemporary elements.

Shying away from anything that seems older, though, can make your spaces seem overly contrived, or impersonal. In a modern or contemporary design, one or two traditional pieces will add visual contrast and create a sense of timelessness.

Modern and Contemporary are the Same

Modern is not confined to tables with glass tops and metal legs, and black plastic chairs, though certainly that sort of décor would be labeled as modern. The characteristics, though, include clean lines, smooth surfaces, neutral grays and blues, with black and white in bold relief. Accessories are kept to a minimum, and allowing for unused space is a part of the overall scheme.

Contemporary is a softer, more diversified style. Patterned and textural fabrics are used quite freely, and spaces are filled with art pieces and accents. Colors are warm, bold, and broad spectrums of tonal ranges are used throughout the scheme.

Thinking these two are interchangeable often leads to black leather sofas being bombarded with fringed throw pillows, white tiled floors being smothered in patterned area rugs, and metal mini blinds being paired with brocade drapery. Any of that is just plain wrong.

Eclectic Means a Mix of Anything You Feel Like

Eclectic does not mean you can just toss together whatever catches your fancy on any given day. Eclectic is a careful blending of elements drawn from two or three distinct styles.

For example, the Arts and Crafts style draws from Asian influences. Mix Arts and Crafts furnishings with a few modern elements and you have an eclectic decorating scheme. This would work because the clean lines of the modern style blend well with the Asian influence and contrast nicely with the warm colors and patterns of the Arts and Crafts style.

What you don't want to do is mix highly ornate baroque furniture, with its curves and elaborate carvings, with pop art area rugs and chrome legged tables with leather seats. There is no commonality; the elements don't have anything to say to one another. Do this, and your house looks like a thrift shop.

These are just a few of the more common decorating myths spread throughout society. Once you realize one or more of these myths are what's making your room look boring or uninviting, you can set it to rights. Don't be afraid to paint with bold colors, or try new textures, or set aside a few accessories. It's the only way to break through the myth and into the land of good design.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hey, no offense, but I think you're wrong about light colours not making a space feel larger.. it does.

    • PhitablelAmp profile image


      8 years ago

      I always think of 'contemporary' being described as what you call 'modern'--and then vise versa. They will always be used interchangeably because very few people see them as two different fact, most people call 'transitional' -> 'contemporary' because 'traditional' is so easily distinguishable that "if it isn't traditional, it must be contemporary!"

    • C_Pinto profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Good advise. I like the point you make about being eclectic

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      10 years ago from Sydney

      I'd love to see some photo capsules to illustrate what you're saying - it would make a good Hub great! Thanks for the info!

    • jormins profile image


      11 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Great hub. I used to think the decor of my condo did not matter, until I tried a few things and got a lot of praise for them (especially from females). Its definitely worth the little extra work to make a room look great to impress guests.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I love this hub. I try to decorate, but my house never looks anything but furnished to me. I am eclectic, but have trouble tying styles together. I've been watching a lot of HGTV decorating shows, and looking through a lot of books, to see if I can come up with a style that really works for me.

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      11 years ago from Sydney

      This is great hub, I hope you keep it up in the year of the best 2008


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