3 Easy Decorating Rules

cozy nature-inspired bedroom

Feeling settled at home is extremely important, especially during busy and stressful times.  Our environment plays a huge role in our mental and emotional health.  Clutter, unfinished projects, and impersonal spaces can lead to uneasiness and frustration, while simple, bright, meaningful spaces leave us feeling grounded and energized.

Famous designers have shown us again and again that decorating "rules" are made to be broken.  After all, each of us is unique, and we all have our own tastes and styles.  If your design choices make you happy and comfortable in your home, then you're doing it "right."  You don't need to follow the trends to create a peaceful and inspiring space.

However there are three guidelines that seem to work in any home.

1.  Keep it simple.

Homes that are overcrowded, with blocked traffic zones, too much clutter, and no open spaces where the eye can rest never feel right.  They're chaotic and heavy, and seem as if there's really no room for the people who live there.

The key is to keep some white space, or margin, in your home.  When you keep things simple with a bit of space around them, the items you cherish stand out.  Each item becomes more meaningful, and your personality is more evident, in rooms that are not so full.

  • Furniture that is never used (especially if it only supplies a surface where clutter accumulates) should be sold or donated.
  • Surfaces such as tables, counters, seats, and beds should be cleared so that you can actually use them.
  • Packed boxes or bins that are never opened should be sorted through, with items either trashed, donated, or stored in spots where they can be accessed, used, and put away again.
  • Keep all corners clean and clutter-free to make your rooms look more spacious.
  • Walls should be at least partially visible instead of being covered with an overabundance of patterned wallpaper, artwork, or photos.  With less for your brain to make sense of, the effect will be more restful.  In fact, one large piece of art will be more striking than a group of smaller frames.
  • Accessories and collections should be pared down to your absolute favorites so the items can stand out, rather than blending into a noisy background.

2.  Don't overdo trends or themes.

As fashions change, we may be tempted to throw out everything we own in order to remake our homes in the current popular image.  We're influenced by decorating shows on Home and Garden Television, where even perfectly livable homes are gutted and completely redone.

But this is your home, not a show house where no one actually lives.  The key to updating your space while remaining true to your personal style is to mix a few new elements with what you already have.

For example, don't cover all the walls in your house with salvaged barn wood, even though the style is currently popular.  Create an accent wall or build a kitchen island.  Don't upholster all your furniture in Illuminating (a sunny yellow), even if it is the Pantone 2021 color of the year.  Instead, paint a door, buy some toss pillows, or simply fill a bowl with lemons or a vase with yellow roses.

The same goes for any decorating theme.  If you love hiking and camping, you could paint your walls a soothing green, feature a painting or photo of Yosemite Valley (or another favorite destination), hang a hand-crafted eucalyptus wreath, and group some white candles, mineral specimens, and vintage birding books on the mantel.  But don't buy a bunch of twig and tree stump furniture, forest themed dishes, or start collecting antlers and owl figurines.  You don't need to buy a leather couch, locate a bearskin rug, or redo your fireplace wall to incorporate natural stone.  If you go overboard, your house will start to feel like a stage set or an Enchanted Forest theme park, rather than the cozy home of people who love the outdoors.

3.  Make it personal.

A beautiful home tells the story of the people who live there.  When you walk into your home, it should feel welcoming and familiar, a place where you can relax and recharge.  This is accomplished by decorating with things that are meaningful to you, not with a bunch of items that you saw on the pages of a magazine or in a big box store.


  • Keep your grandmother's rocking chair and use it (if you love it).
  • Hang artwork created by you or your kids, or that you found in a gallery while you were on vacation in a special place.

  • Display your three most-treasured books, your musical instrument, a photo of you with that huge rainbow trout you caught, or something else that highlights a favorite hobby.
  • Use your "good" dishes and glassware, rather than just keeping them in a cupboard for special occasions.
  • If possible, do it yourself.  Crochet a lap blanket, sew cloth napkins or cushion covers, refurbish an old dresser, rewire an antique lamp, fill vases with flowers grown in your garden.

Follow these rules when decorating your home, and you will find it satisfying and affordable.  Your home sweet home will be a place to renew your energy and strengthen your relationships.

If you liked this post, you'll like my book, Comfortable Minimalism: Create a Home with Plenty of Style and a Lot Less Stuff, available on Amazon.*

*This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.


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