For those of us with a passion for interior design, conquering interior spaces is a joy. When we first picked up a book or a magazine, or when we first hired a decorator or took a design class, we didn’t know how to make a room feel bigger or smaller, brighter or darker, more productive, or more comfortable. But now we do: we solve interior design problems with confidence and zeal, and we create spaces that look like the ones you’d see in a magazine spread.
In fact, we may create spaces that look too much like the ones in magazines. While the designs we see on Instagram, interior design blogs, and in magazines are certainly beautiful, they’re not always that interesting. They blend together: they are anonymous spaces that don’t truly look lived-in. You need to create unique spaces that distinctly represent you — here’s how.
Know which rules to break
When we first get started with interior design, we learn the basics. We learn how to hang art at the right height and how to arrange our furniture. We learn which colors to match and which colors to keep separate. We learn how to make furniture go together without being matchy-matchy, and we learn how to make spaces feel roomy and how to direct the flow of foot traffic.
All of this amounts to learning a whole lot of rules, and that’s good! When a room breaks interior design rules and bends interior design principles without thought or purpose, that room looks ridiculous and feels uncomfortable. But when a room follows every single interior design rule perfectly, that room can feel soulless.
You have to know the rules before you break them, but now that you do know them, it’s time to get creative. Be selective, and only break one or two rules at a time in a room. But you should make bold decisions like hanging art at creative heights or pairing seemingly contrasting colors in clever ways. It will make your room stand out and make your choices look deliberate.
Get personal and get daring with wall hangings
What makes a room feel generic? A lot of things, including all of that rule-following that we talked about. But if you want a quick way to check if a room is soulless and bland, look at what’s hanging on the walls. You’ll know right away: there’s a certain type of harmless, kitschy art that shows up again and again in over-designed and under-thought places.
Who likes this stuff? That’s precisely the problem: when we see really generic pieces of wall art, we sense that the space has been designed for a hypothetical or abstract audience, for gawkers on Instagram rather than the people who actually live in the home. Don’t let this happen to your space. Invest in unique and personalized art.
Swap generic landscapes and photos for pop art canvases. Or turn to a custom printing service and get a personal photograph elevated to the status of art. Frame things besides art, like ticket stubs or vintage brochures. Use shadow boxes to display knick-knacks, or hang three-dimensional objects directly on the wall.
Use your space
Your space is there for you to use. So do that, and take notes while you do. Rather than organizing and designing your space and then adapting how you use it, use it first and think about ways your design goals could be more useful.
Maybe you’ll realize that you need the TV remote close at hand, or decide that you might read more if there were books near the couch. From there, you can think of creative interior design solutions to address these problems and goals. With your habits informing your design instead of the other way around, your final room will feel more lived-in and specific to you. It will be as unique as you are.