5 Design Rules Worth Following

If you know me, either in person or through this blog, you probably know that I’m not much of a rules person. I think rules are worth knowing, mostly because you need to understand them in order to break them. The same disregard for rules applies to how I design…I mostly do my own thing and that’s worked well for me and my clients. However, there are a couple of guidelines that are totally worth keeping.  These five design rules are pretty much the exception to my “no rules” belief system because I’ve rarely found a scenario where I haven’t followed them.

5 Design Rules Worth Following



When hanging art independent of furniture, the center should be at around 5 feet from the floor.

5 Decorating Rules Worth Following- How how to hang art work

This might be my favorite rule ever. Why? I’m about 5′ 3″ tall on a good day. That means 60 inches is eye level for me. True story. My art is always at the “right” level because I center it to my own view. It’s the only time being short has worked for me. Because that time I dated a guy that was 6’5″ tall was just ridiculous. And we argued about such things as how high to hang art and mirrors. Let’s just say that the last mirror he hung for me made me want my 80s hair back…at least then I’d be able to see something of myself.

When you’re hanging art over the sofa, there should be between 6-8 inches between the top of the sofa and the bottom of the artwork.

5 Decorating Rules Worth Following- and a bonus tip



5 Design Rules Worth Following- Always use white towels and linens

I can’t remember the first time I heard this bit of advice but I never forgot it. When I work with clients, and they ask about towel colors and sheets, I tell them to stick with white. Sometimes they’re sad when I pop that piece of advice out there because towels and sheets come in hundreds of pretty colors. Sorry. Not sorry. In the end they’ll thank me when they realize how actually simple it is to keep the linens white. #bleachbaby

white towels

There are only two occasions when I deviate from this rule. I have black and dark grey hand towels for washing my face with. Mascara stains resist bleaching and white kind of loses its elegance when it’s covered with black stains. That message was brought to you by Captain Obvious.

5 Decorating Rules Worth Following- White Sheets and Linens
One Kings Lane

The second is when I have kids in the home that don’t need constant bathroom supervision. Sometimes I assign them their own colors just to keep things from getting gross and so I can tell who’s dropping their towels on the floor. #notme.

Which leads me to….


I’m not talking clothing color…remember those days? When ladies would announce they had their colors done and they’re a fall or a summer? Good times. But not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to your family and your lifestyle. I love pink furniture, white bedrooms, and soft pretty colored everything. But I have these guys.

5 Design Rules Worth Following- Don't fight your season

And Daisy.


She licks the furniture and insists on sleeping on the throw pillows. She demands we lay them flat for her. Every. Single. One. And then when she wakes from her nap, she licks them. Every throw pillow in our house smells like dog slobber. I know…gross, right? That’s why we refer to Daisy as our delicate flower of the south. Sarcasm. We spread that stuff on everything.

And even if I didn’t have these creatures living in my space, I eat all my meals on the sofa and balance my tea mug on the arm. That’s why we have a grey sofa instead of the pink one I dream about. Because my pretty powder blue sofa stayed pretty for about 3 months until Liam was born and barfed all over it. All day, every day for almost a year. I also dropped a meatball on it. And wine. Can’t blame everything on the boys.

Don’t fight the season of your life. You don’t need to love all of it but it’s important to take an honest look at who lives with you and how you roll. For us that means sturdy furniture, darker fabrics and lots of storage because I hate looking at the boys toys lying everywhere. Which is why I’m currently working on a new media center with even more storage than the last one.

5 Decorating Rules Worth Following- Be real about your season



Collections and multiples of anything look best when displayed in odd numbers. I don’t know why this is, but it’s true. My sister makes fun of my OCD decorating issues when I talk about this rule or rearrange all her collections and everyone elses. But it’s true.

5 Decorating Rules Worth Keeping- Group collections in odd numbers

5 Design Rules Worth Following- Group collections in odd numbers



I could probably write an entire post about paint mistakes but I’m going to keep this one simple. Unless you’re going with neutral walls that go with everything, pick your paint color towards the end of the room makeover. Because if you pick the paint first, you’re stuck trying to match big pieces to a wall color. That makes everything more difficult than it needs to be. When I designed Liam’s big boy room, I knew I wanted a grey blue on the walls but I didn’t commit to paint color until I had my other pieces on hand. I had the fabric, the wall art, and the bedding before I considered paint.

5 Design Rules Worth Following- Choose your paint colors last

And don’t just match the paint to a fabric color because it rarely works out the way you think it will. The wall color usually comes out way too intense.

Speaking of paint….

Just grab a bunch of testers and start sampling. Right on the wall. It’s okay, you get to paint the winning color right over top. It took 6 testers to find the color I used in Liam’s room. I did the same thing with our living room. If you’ve been following the blog for awhile, you might recall that it took 9 samples before I found the perfect neutral grey paint. #bangheadhere. Still loving that Light French Grey from Sherwin Williams. (Excuse the unpainted media stand. I’m procrastinating. And, also, I kind of like it unpainted right now.)

5 Design Rules Worth Following- Choose your paint last

The exception to this rule is using when you’re using a neutral but even then, most neutrals run warm or cool and don’t work with everything. White paint is usually pretty safe, too, unless you’re me. Because Handy Man Tom will tell you that I have totally uttered the words “This white isn’t working for me”. Like I wanted white but not that white. As an aside…the only white that I’ve been satisfied with 99.9% of the time is Benjamin Moore’s Snowfall White. I paint everything with that white….trailer, furniture, bedrooms, my nails. Okay….just seeing if you’re still with me.

Yes, doing samples is time consuming and you feel a bit crazy but it’s totally worth it. Re-painting because you made a mistake is even more time consuming. Living with your mistake is just wrong. Don’t do that. Ever.

It costs a few dollars per tester so get your samples made up over at Home Depot because that’s the cheapest place I’ve found. They’ll even match testers from other paint stores. See the sample colors at different times of the day. This way you get a feel for how the colors going to actually look in your room. Those paint chips aren’t gonna help you with that.

Are there any design rules that you follow religiously?

5 Design Rules Worth Following

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  1. You can paint your nails with house paint?????? Sorry. I did get more out of your post than that, but that’s the one that grabbed my attention 😉 I’ve been away and missed your gentle (!) wit and use of the words slobber and wine in the same sentence. Great post as always Jenna, and yes I’m with you on Seasons. I still have holes in my hallway wall from when my disabled son moved out of home with his wheelchair, his hi-lo bed and flat screen TV on the back of a friends ute (that’s a car here in Australia that has a tray back and everyone wants a friend with one when they move house). I refuse to patch them because they’re part of the history of our home. And the fact that I too, cannot choose a new paint color. Likewise our burgundy leather Chesterfield lounges are a practical choice, where I would favor pristine white, and soft Aubusson inspired cushions. My favorite design rule is ‘no boy stuff’. Alas it doesn’t wash here. I truly do have to display my husbands model car collection and choice of art, betwixt my crystal, silver and French artifacts. Such is life. Love Mimi xxx

  2. Great tips and what an adorable puppy! I totally agree on the paint sample tip! I just did this in our master bedroom about a week ago! I’m still undecided on the color-but it’s amazing how helpful it is to see the colors change somewhat throughout the day! Thanks for sharing at The Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop! Pinning!

  3. These are great rules. I really wish someone had told me about white linens when I left my parent’s house 20 years ago. It really is so much easier!

  4. This was a really good, sensible post. Rule#1 for me would be you have to LIVE with it, not just look at it…(loved the Truth on the Dog slobber…hubby’s do that, too.) Thanks for the share—Oh, and white linens—I bleach all towels…so they eventually become pale—which can be attractive all rolled up in a rack. Grins, Sandi

  5. I love your design rules, especially living in your seaon. I tell people that my decorating style right now is Early Childhood. Toddler stuff seems to dominate everything. I also like your tip about white towels. We have off-white ones right now, and I really wish I could bleach them.

  6. These are all very good design rules……that #1 rule is sorely needed for a lot of people. I used to sell wall accessories many moons ago, and I had a customer who bought a lot of really nice things but she was tall and she hung everything very high on the wall, and I tried to explain to her in a nice way that her furniture and wall accessories should look like all one unit and that she needed to lower them about 3 feet, as there was this huge gap between her sofa and the beautiful pictures she had purchased……..but she liked it the way it was……………
    but it really took away from the beauty of it all.
    Thanks for sharing these great tips.
    Blessings, Nellie

  7. I found you just in time (through Mimi’s Five Star Frou-Frou) because we’re in the middle of home improvements. Thank you for all of the tips!

  8. Good Morning!! I wanted to let you know that your post has been selected as a Feature for the Welcome Home Wednesdays Link Party! Stop by this morning to see your post linked up and don’t forget to grab your “Featured” button too!! ~Lisa~

  9. Awww.!! So beautiful.. No words to describe the beauty of every single minute thing. Will definitely follow
    #Welcome Home Wednesday Link Party #24

  10. One of my favorite posts Jenna. Thanks for sharing at Five Star Frou-Frou. I hope all is well with you and the boys. Happy 2016 my lovely! Mimi xxx

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