The Golden Rules of Interior Design

The Golden Rules of Interior Design


Expert Jackie Hoyte reveals how to crack the design code to help take your scheme to the next level…

Top image: Decorbuddi interior designer Ann Jackman, KT1 Photography

The number one rule of interior design is that rules exist to be broken. In the words of Billy Baldwin, the self-proclaimed Dean of Interior Decorators: “Be faithful to your own taste, because nothing you really like is ever out of style.” That said, there are several tips and tricks that interior designers use, from tricking the eye with paint through to the rule of three, that will help you create a harmonious scheme.

Trick the eye with paint.

This rule, one of the most fun to follow, creates maximum impact. The secret is to apply the same colour to walls, skirting boards and even the ceiling to produce a seamless flow. The eye does not have a natural place to stop and so the space will appear larger and more impressive. It works whatever colour you choose, from deep inky blues to quiet, inspiring neutrals. A clever way to disguise protruding walls, smooth out awkward shapes, and lift sloping ceilings, it is the perfect solution to just about any undesired feature.

Unless you are lucky enough to have beautiful column radiators, always paint them the same colour as the walls so that those white rectangles disappear. Once you have created your perfect colour layer, use carefully positioned lights to draw attention to the loveliest decorative aspects.

Left image: Decorbuddi. Interior Designer Debbie Hannah. KT1 Photography. Right image: Fenwick & Tilbrook in Burnham Overy
Colour in proportion.

Colour balance is a much-neglected rule. We put all our energy into thinking about which colours work best together, and rarely stop to think about how much we should use. Ask an interior designer and they will tell you that the proportion of colours you use is just as important as the hues. The simple rule of thumb to follow is the 60:30:10 equation. This might be 60% of one colour on the walls and skirting, 30% of a second in the rug and upholstery, with a final 10% in your accent details such as art and cushions.

Whilst you are experimenting with what works best for you, paint your samples on a role of lining paper and never on the wall. “This allows you to paint on a larger scale and move the sample around the room to see how the colour changes depending on the time of day” says Wimbledon interior designer Sophie Wells.

Less is more.

Embrace space. Unless you are going for a maximalist, overflowing theme, fight the desire to fill every wall, shelf, and corner. Leaving an element of airy emptiness is the key to avoiding a busy, cluttered feeling. It also means when you do spot something that makes yours heart sing you have the perfect place ready and waiting.

Left image: Annie Sloan – Fabric, linen Union in Antibes Green. Right image: Laura Ashley Isaac Pendant Ceiling Light, Dar Lighting
Accessorise with odd numbers.

Defining the best layout for a room is all about balance and symmetry, but once the stage is set the rule of three comes into play. When adding and styling accessories, odd is always best. You may need five or even seven, depending on the space, but grouping cushions, candles, plants, and vases in uneven numbers creates a more interesting composition.

Never underestimate the importance of accessories in creating a desired mood. Always add something that means a lot to you to bring joy to your home.

Left image: Drinks trolley, Audenza. Right image: Cream Cornwall, Game Trio Trelonk Lampshade
Be prepared.

As much as you can research and purchase most of what you need immediately, there are specific pieces which take more time. You might have a fireplace mantle calling out for the perfect antique mirror or a corner of the room you are longing to furnish with a quirky cocktail trolley.

Follow the simple rule of keeping the vital dimensions for these items, and the space they will live in, noted in your phone. This way you will avoid the disappointment of losing out when you find your dream piece, where you were least expecting it, as invariably happens.