8 Interior Design Myths that just aren't true!
After an inspiring week at London Design Festival I am even more intrigued about the ways in which colour and creativity are at the heart of interior design and that understanding how these concepts work is key in creating spaces for ourselves that we love, resonate with and that can bring us well-being. Of course things like paint colours, art and patterns are all highly subjective but there are still design principles that work across all preferences and styles. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now because through conversations with friends and clients I realised that there are a lot of interior design myths floating around out there and while some have a little truth in them, others are just completely not true! And the problem is that believing these myths can stifle our creativity and decision-making so that the design process comes to a complete halt. So in the spirit of trying to enable and equip you to create and design your own rooms here are eight things that might surprise you as misconceptions in interior design.
Disclaimer: Apologies in advance for my tone of voice in this post. I feel strongly about these issues that could be blocking your creativity in your home.
1. White paint will make a room look bigger
No no no no no! Anyone who knows me well will know about my own personal feelings about using pure white on my walls (you can read all about it in a previous blog post here) but trust me, using white as a default colour is most definitely not the answer to all your decorating and interior woes. White may make a room feel brighter as it bounces all the light around like crazy but it won’t necessarily make it look bigger as it will exaggerate shadows and define the edges of a room never mind doing nothing to make it feel cosy. If you do go for white (after discounting other options) then try an off white of which there are hundreds of shades to get the right feel for the space. It’s amazing how nuances of colour affect how we feel in a room. The aforementioned blog post will explain why and how to start going about choosing such a shade. But why does why not make a room look bigger?….
2. Dark colours make a room appear smaller
This is probably the most common thing that people to say me and I’m sorry to say its a complete misconception. Dark colours actually blur the edges of a room and mean that you can’t see the dimensions and height of walls as clearly so in fact the opposite is actually true! “Small rooms must be painted in a light colour!" Says who? It’s all personal opinion and there are some interesting theories about how our minds perceive darker colours. Apparently dark and intense colours make our minds imagine things so as a dark space becomes mysterious it tricks our mind into thinking that it’s growing and we are unsure where the boundaries of a space begin and end. So in fact it can be good to embrace the features of a room and even if it’s small room, go dark to increase the perception of size.
When people say that dark colours shrink a space I think what they mean is that dark colours don’t have a positive cocooning effect on them and make them feel like the room is closing in on them, making them feel oppressed. If you don’t like this effect in a large room then you won’t enjoy it in a small one either, hence where this myth originates from. If you’re not really sure how you feel about dark hues, I always advise people to try and experience how a dramatic dark room makes them feel, say in a bar or restaurant before ignoring these possibilities in our own homes. Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised by trying something completely different and I have so many success stories of this happening working with people in their homes with Room Service where people have gone a little darker in small or dimly lit rooms to great effect.
For me personally dark spaces bring me joy, rest and peace and I love how a dark background elevates the colours put in from of them whether artwork or objects curated on a shelf. This is the power of colour! It’s our personal and association with particular shades that give each hue a positive or negative association. Colours only exist in our own mind because light is being reflected off something towards our eye and then they are processed near the emotional part of the brain. So dark rooms will work in any size of room if that’s your vibe!
3. Wallpaper works best on a feature wall
We all know that wallpaper is massively making a comeback and with more options to choose from, it’s a great way of personalising your home and making it unique. But where should it go? Well a few years ago we were all going crazy with the feature wall but no more. The new maximalist trend emerging is that you should wallpaper everywhere. If you really love a pattern then you will love being surrounded by it. A client I was working with wasn’t sure how much William Morris to add to her living room. She put more than she initially intended and was blown away with the result and how it added to the cosiness and maturity of her lounge. Sometimes you really have to go for something to make it work. Also if it’s a small room then definitely put it everywhere to add some drama. Just see the small toilet room below from Miranda and Julian’s home. (You can check out the rest of their gorgeous place here). Nothing else needs to be said!
4. Skirting boards/coving/architrave should be white!
I've written a whole blog post about this and it’s my most popular post ever getting tons of hits every day - Why are your skirting boards white? You cannot underestimate the impact of how the details of a room contribute to the overall feel and atmosphere. White skirtings is a mid-century invention and it’s not that it’s a bad idea at all but it’s worth considering other options that might work better for your room. You can paint the woodwork the same colour as the walls or even a contrasting or darker colour. So much creativity to be had. More ideas on my blog post here.
5. Blue and Green should never be seen
Apart from the dispute about the actual colours in this old adage, I definitely have heard this one before. And I think the reason is that blue and green lie so close to each other in the colour spectrum. The colour wheel devised by Sir Isaac Newton is sometimes used to create colour combination in rooms and the idea is that you choose polar opposites on the circle (or 3 corners of a triangle) because contrasting colours are meant to combine and compliment each other well. Although there is some uses for this it’s a little too restrictive and exact for me (I’m a bit of a rebel at heart!) and the joy of using colours is the surprising combinations that we can discover in our creativity to come up with something truly unique! This was definitely a theme of London Design Fair and why I think colour and creativity are at the heart of interior design. The chromatic relationship between colours is important but rules are made to be broken aren they?!
Going back to blue and green, there are so many examples of when this works brilliantly together. Whoever designed the sky and the trees didn't have any issue putting them together so why should we?! These are personally my favourite colours on the spectrum and below is just one example of how shades of blue and green should most definitely be seen. The key point here is that it whether YOU think colours sit well together and discovering this for ourselves and finding colours that really make our hearts sing is the true joy of decorating.
6. Boy’s bedrooms should be blue and Girl’s should be pink
I’m sure there’s no one reading this that actually believes this to be true these days but sometimes we can gravitate towards this stereotype without even realising it. Now there is nothing wrong with these colours at all for kids bedrooms and as a mum I totally get that our little darlings may suggest these colours on their bedroom walls BUT before doing that explore other ideas and shades out there. There are some more grown up colours, wallpapers and concepts that really work and some fun ideas that can really get your creative juices flowing. And if it still comes backs to pink and blue, explore different shades as there are more muted or darker tones that could give a more sophisticated feel. With my own kids it always amazes me how they grow out of the baby stage so quickly so really explore and try to choose something that will stand the the test of time when considering a nursery. And have fun - this is the place to really get creative and try ideas out. See my Kool Kids Pinterest Board below for more inspiration or my blog all about my top tips for kids bedrooms. They really are the most fun rooms to design!
7. Less is more
This is only part myth but go with me on this one. When I work with clients we start with a visual activity which asks people to choose the image they are most drawn to and one of them is preferences of accessorising and whether they are minimalist, curated or maximalist. Of course these are extremes of the spectrum and most of us gravitate towards curated but what can really make a room feel flat after decorating is that there isn’t enough stuff in the room or pictures on the wall to make it feel lived in. Don’t get me wrong, this is a delicate balance to reach and I’m not advocating buying more stuff or not decluttering (remember only have things that are beautiful, useful or meaningful!) but too empty a space means can stop the room scheme hanging well together. In curating objects and art choose things that are meaningful to you and take your time. Even the top stylists admit that they are constantly rearranging their homes until they get it just right. As I already said maximalism is becoming more popular than the Scandi minimalism of the 90s and even nordic style is embracing the richness of bold colours as it moves away from white and grey. As they say the only thing you can be certain of is change and that’s definitely true for interiors trends and my main tip here is don’t be frightened to layer and keep adding so that a space has enough things in it to tell your personal narrative.
8. Play it safe!
I disagree with this whole heartedly and have unfortunately learnt this the hard way. Firstly, I don’t advise painting your walls the brightest colour you can bear, that’s not what I mean here at all! As you probably know by now I completely advocate discovering your own personal style and being true to that but in every project just push yourself a little beyond your comfort zone. Maybe you will paint the skirting boards a different colour than you have before, or go a shade darker than you expected or try a gallery wall! When I’ve done this personally or when clients have pushed the boundaries, they have always been so glad they did. In some rooms in my home I have gone too neutral and felt disappointed by the lack of colour so I added lots of fluorescent prints to make up for it. When I see really good design, they always have a surprising element, sometimes in a subtle way and other times in a more bold sense but it’s definitely by pushing the boat out a bit that you can surprise yourself and achieve something you never thought you could.
Apparently it was Eleanor Roosevelt that coined the phrase, “Do one thing every day that scares you!” and in my own experience, only good things have happened when I have. So feel the fear and do it anyway! What’s the worst that can happen?
Well I feel much better after all that. Do you? Hope these points were helpful. I’d love to hear if these ideas have helped changed your mindset to make a clearer decision on a room you’re working on or if any of the 8 interior design myths really resonated with you. Maybe you have a myth to add to the list! Or even if you disagree with some points - I’d love to hear in the comments below! And if you’re not decorating at the minute you can pin this for later on your Pinterest Boards by clicking the little red symbol on any of the images so you can reach for it when your having a moment of indecision on your next room project.
Yours in colour and creativity,
Disclaimer: All photography by me except where credit is given.