3 Easy Decorating Rules Are All You Need to Create a Comfortable Home

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.  

But our home environment plays a huge role in our mental and emotional health, so we want to get it "right."  How can we do that when styles change every year (or even more often) and decorating mistakes can be expensive and frustrating?

You don't need to follow the trends to create a home that is peaceful and inspiring.  Three guidelines can help you create a space that leaves you feeling grounded and energized.

cozy nature-inspired bedroom

3 guidelines that 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.

  • Sell or donate furniture that is never used, especially if it only supplies a surface where clutter accumulates.
  • Clear surfaces such as tables, counters, seats, and beds so you can actually use them.
  • Sort through packed boxes or bins that are never opened, and donate, trash, or store items 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.
  • Allow walls to be at least partially visible instead of covering them with an overabundance of patterned wallpaper, artwork, or photos.  The effect will be more restful, with less for your brain to catalog and process.  In fact, one large piece of art will be more striking than a group of smaller frames.
  • Pare accessories and collections 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.

Half Dome, Yosemite
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 Viva Magenta, even if it is the Pantone color of the year.  Instead, paint a door or a wooden chair.  Buy some toss pillows.  Fill a bowl with crimson apples or pomegranates, or a vase with pinkish-red roses or tulips.

And you always have the option of ignoring trends altogether!

It's possible to overdo 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, geodes, and a beautifully illustrated book about trees* on the coffee table.  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.

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

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'll 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 love my book, Comfortable Minimalism: Create a Home with Plenty of Style and a Lot Less Stuff, available on Amazon.

With Comfortable Minimalism, you can start making your home more beautiful and welcoming right now, even if you have no money to spend.  Experience more open space, more natural light, and easier home care.  Choose and display the items that bring you the most joy.  Make small changes for a big impact.

Learn how to do a home tune-up, how to undecorate, how to make the most of fewer collections, how to fix your areas of biggest complaint, and how to start with a clean slate.  Discover the colors, details, and signature touches that matter to you.  From slight tweaks to a completely new look, Comfortable Minimalism is packed with ideas and projects that will make your home the stylish haven of your dreams.


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