To an extent, decorating a room is similar to putting together the perfect outfit. The colors need to mix well, the materials need to hang right, and most importantly, the scale needs to make everything look proportionate. And while the perfect street style shot is sometimes heavily edited, there is still an art to pulling together the perfect outfit.
Similarly, glossy interiors from the pages of magazines always seem unnatainable—and to a certain extent, they are. The precise photography skills and post-editing that goes into a space to make it look flawless can’t easily be replicated into an IRL room. But there is a certain set of design rules and principles that ensure your space will look put together and extra chic—a pro interior photographer swears by these tips. When it comes to creating a cohesive look at home, these certain decorating “rules” can take a space from flat to fantastic.
From nailing your art in the right spot to hanging your dining room lights at the appropriate height, the below nine tricks of the trade should all be added to your decorating arsenal to guarantee a stylish space every time.
A classic mistake in the dining room is chandeliers hung too high. Dining room pendants should be hung 30 to 34 inches above the tabletop based on eight-foot ceiling height. For each additional foot of ceiling height, add an additional three inches for the most visually pleasing placement.
Orange-peel walls are never a desirable thing. If you have an older home that has less-than-perfectly-smooth walls or ceilings, opt for a flat paint finish (meaning very little or no sheen) to disguise imperfections. This is particularly important in homes with curved and sloped walls and ceilings. The higher the gloss level in a paint finish, the less forgiving it is of imperfections.
If you’re hanging a single art piece over a sofa, aim to hang the artwork so the bottom of the piece hits six to nine inches above the top of the sofa. If you're hanging a piece on a wall without furniture, the center of the artwork should be placed at roughly eye level. Hung too high, it will look like the art is missing a piece of furniture beneath it, and hung too low, it will just look misplaced.
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In small rooms with limited square footage, save space by installing sconces in lieu of using precious table space for lamps. You’ll be able to utilize a smaller table without having to forgo accent lighting due to lack of a suitable surface. Plug-in sconces make installation super easy, especially for renters who don’t want to shell out for an electrician.
Draw the eye up by hanging art vertically and hanging chandeliers low to fill a space with high ceilings. Though you may be inclined to hang art or a mirror horizontally over a buffet, mantel, or sofa, you’ll visually raise the ceilings by hanging it vertically. The idea is to have something to focus on at every height so the wall doesn’t look empty.
When arranging living or family room furniture, opt for an H-shaped plan or U-shaped configuration to encourage conversation and maintain flow. In an H-shaped plan, two lounge chairs face the sofa with a coffee table in between. In a U-shaped plan, two chairs face each other with the sofa in the middle.
If you’re having trouble pulling a space together or coming up with a coherent color scheme, keep the space neutral or play with only using tones in the same color family for a foolproof design that always looks polished. Play with natural textures instead of color to layer the space.
Make your windows seem taller and wider than they actually are by hanging drapery as wide on the window and close to the ceiling as possible. The additional length will give the impression that your ceilings are higher, while wider hanging drapery will make your window look larger and allow more light to enter.
If you want to bring in an accent chair to fill a lonely corner, keep it from looking like an afterthought by also adding a small side table or floor lamp. The additional items will make the space feel purposefully designed and more useful than a single item on its own.
This post was originally published by Liz Lynch on August 12, 2016, and has since been updated by Sacha Strebe.