Design Rules to Live By

Design Rules to Live By

Author: Jillian Dinnie, Design & Merchandising

Trends will come and go, and certain styles will remain classic forever.  But, no matter how you define your aesthetic or design preferences, there are universal ways to ensure a good design.  These design concept work in any home style, from a mid-century bungalow to a modern farmhouse.

Furniture placement.  Furniture placement is the key element to a good design. It is a common mistake to move furniture closer to or against the walls to make the room feel bigger.  Still, the goal is to create a cozy conversational area where homebuyers can imagine spending time with family and friends. Having pieces closer together makes them look more purposeful and shows the function instead of filling space.

Proportional Furnishings. Staging pieces with dueling scales will quickly throw off the composition and cohesiveness of a room, like a low-profile sofa with large, oversized chairs and a high coffee table.  The sofa should be the statement piece and more impactful than the chairs. Always double-check the height and measurements of your pieces to ensure they are on the same scale.

Proper rug placement.  A proper-sized area rug is a vital foundation piece and can pull an entire room together. The easiest way to start designing in any room is with foundational pieces like a sofa, bed, or rug.  Using a rug that is too small is a sure way to throw the entire room off balance.  An area rug should be large enough to have the front legs of all furniture pieces on it.

Less is more. The goal of staging is to show the homebuyer the best way to utilize a room and give it a good flow.  Do not feel as though every wall or corner needs furnishings.  Leaving some negative space will make the room look better and feel more open.

Have some character.  Avoid using matching furniture sets, especially in living rooms.  Your stage will feel less like a showroom and more like a thoughtfully curated design.  Look for two different chairs that complement the sofa and give the room lots of personality.  Rent a coffee table and side table in unique shapes and colors that are cohesive.

Good lighting. Having layers of light, some lower/accent lighting mixed with higher lighting from a floor lamp or chandelier that elevates light offers dimension to the space. Lighting is one of the easiest design tricks to make your listing feel professionally designed.

Good placement of wall art.  When it comes to choosing art, bigger is usually better.  Choosing art that is too small is a common mistake as well as hanging it improperly. 

For example, a common rule for artwork above the sofa should be approximately 2/3 the sofa’s width or larger.  The artwork should hang 6-8 inches above the sofa or any foundation piece as a common rule. If you create a gallery wall with a cluster of several small pieces, it is good to follow the same guidelines.

When choosing your light bulbs, remember they will interplay with the sheen and color of your paint too! LED and fluorescent light will give off a cool, bluish tone.  Incandescent and halogen bulbs will reflect yellow and golden tones.  Depending on the warming or cooling effect you are to trying create, keep those options in mind.

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