Some people are born with a great eye for decorating or design. Others learn the skill and are able to apply it successfully. And then there are the rest of us. If you don’t have much of a knack for design, a few basic techniques can go a long way.
These decorating rules and principles are simple enough that most anyone can apply them. Your home might not look like a West Elm catalogue, but it’ll look presentable.
Consider Your Negative Space
Sometimes, less is more. In design, the negative space is the area that’s not taken up by any subject. Most commonly, this is the white area on your walls. Its tempting to fill every space with a subject, but sometimes, the negative space speaks for itself. Apartment Therapy explains:
In writing, sentences often contain extra words that without, the sentence would sound just fine. Train yourself to look for those moments in your own home. Is there a narrow wall with a small blot of art that when taken down, would still look like a fine wall? Is there a tabletop with a fledgling vignette that would look just as spectacular if cleared off?
Decorating with negative space can be a bit complicated, but there are a few ways anyone can do it:
- Avoid clutter. This is probably the best and most common way to make the most of negative space. A bunch of stuff might fit perfectly on your table, but that doesn’t mean it all needs to go there. Leave some room—some negative space.
- Be intentional. Make sure the negative space serves a purpose. You might leave a space empty to highlight a decorated area nearby. Or maybe the negative space creates an interesting design.
- Look at shapes. SF Gate’s Home Guides explains that two contrasting shapes can create an odd—or interesting—negative space. “a curved coffee table can soften the harsh negative space lines created by angular sofas and chairs in a square room. But this space plan may not work in smaller rooms, which would force edge of the round table too close to the sofa for comfortable sitting.”
To clarify, it’s not just about looking for places where you can remove things. It’s about looking for spots that look great even when they’re empty. It’s also about considering the function of the empty spaces between subjects.
Layer Your Lighting
Lighting could be a whole post in itself, but here’s what you should consider when you don’t know much about it. First, learn the three basic types of lighting:
- Ambient: Its also called general lighting, and its the overhead lighting meant to evenly illuminate a room.
- Task: As its name suggests, task lighting is meant to light a specific task. A lamp in the living room might light a reading area. Under-cabinet lights in a kitchen serve as task lights for countertops.
- Accent: Accent lights are meant to highlight a particular object. You might see them on painting, for example.
Adding different types lighting can give your room dimension. Start with ambient lighting in each room, then consider how you can use task and accent lighting. Real Simple has some specific tips on how to do this in each room.
Beyond these basics, you’ll probably also want to make your home look like your own. We’ve got some tips on how to do that, too. These guidelines help you get started, but you should adjust your decorating according to your own tastes and preferences. Use these rules to get started, but don’t be afraid to break them and go with your instincts if something feels right to you.