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Breaking The Rules ~ Small Spaces, Dark Paint

January 21, 2014

There Are No Decorating Rules

I am usually a rule follower. I obey stop signs, I don't cut the line and I never bring more than ten items to the express lane. However, when it comes to so called decorating rules, I live outside the law.

Who made these rules anyway and what will happen to me and my house if I disobey them?

Will my deed be revoked?

Will my friends stop coming by?

Will my home be...UGLY??  Gasp!

That's it, isn't it, if I don't do what the decorators and magazine articles say, my house will be ugly won't it?

Better Homes will never come by for a shoot, Ralph Lauren will not give me the thumbs up the next time he comes over and everyone at PTA is going to be talking about how awful it is that all my furniture is not anchored on the carpet.

Fall Decor in the living room

That's it right?

Actually, I don't think so.

First of all, I've never even met Ralph Lauren, shocking, I know and the chances that any magazine editor is going to magically show up for a photo is remote, at best.

The truth is, nobody cares about your house, but you. You live there, day in and day out. You are the one looking at the color on the walls, the tile in the bathroom and the curtains on the window. The only decorating authority you should be answering to, is yourself.

You've seen and probably read the magazine articles, that cheerfully list the dos and don'ts of decorating; they infuriate me. These publications are not always helpful, they tend to speak in absolutes and sometimes exposure to all these "rules" does nothing but paralyze people and stifle creativity. Some of the most beautiful spaces out there have been created by people who dared to be different and defy the rules.

Even the rule makers say to add something unexpected to the room for interest.


I obviously take issue with many of the so called commandments, but today I will start with the one that bothers me most. It is the one that states, do not paint a tiny room a dark color, it will close in the space and make the room smaller.


Paint does not change the square footage of a room. The end. If it did, my taxes would be a lot lower and cleaning would take less time! Yes, lighter colors can certainly make a room appear larger or feel more spacious, as the light reflects off the wall, but it will not actually change the footprint. 

So, if like me, you crave the drama that a dark color adds to a space, paint away, regardless of the size of the area.

My tiny hall bathroom has no windows, it is dark red and I love it. In my old house, my husband and I slept in a full size bed. It was not because I painted the master a dark teal green, it was because the room was ridiculously small. If I had painted it white, I still wasn't going to be able to fit a queen mattress in the room and it wouldn't have had the cozy, retreat feel I was looking for.

Red Paint In Bathroom

The dimensions of a room are never a factor, when I choose a color scheme.


I decorate with what feels right in my gut, what I like to look at it and what functions well for my family.

Of course, if you want a brighter look, then by all means, go light. If you love white, paint away, but don't pass up that deep violet or navy blue, because of some arbitrary decorating rule.

I promise no one's coming to judge you.

No one that matters anyway.

Do you obey the rules?

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Stacey! Your comments always make me smile!

  2. Yes! I agree!
    There are NO rules.

    have a great week,
    White Spray Paint

    1. Thanks Laura! That is my decorating mantra! :) Thanks so much for coming by!

  3. I like a small library or reading room in a darker shade painted all the way around with the same color on the bookshelves and 50 percent dilution on the ceiling or a pretty pale blue on the ceiling. It looks cozy. Sometimes I think about painting a room like that, but I also love wood, and it happens to be nice wood.

    I agree. Do what you love. It can always be repainted.

    1. I have always wanted to paint a ceiling and I have never gotten around to it...I love that look, too! I always feel that a room done in that style "hugs" you. And yes, completely agree, paint is so easy to change, it is nothing to be afraid of!

  4. I have a dark cocoa room and love it. I basically go with light colors but I do like the drama and warmth a darker color brings. I'm with you- throw caution to the wind and do what calls your heart! xo Diana

    1. Ooh, Diana, dark cocoa sounds lovely...and I am with you, I generally lean toward lighter colors, but if I want a little dark color drama, I am not letting the size of the room stop me! Thanks for the visit! :)

  5. Hi Kim I agree with you too and that you should decorate the way that you like! I love the bathroom color you chose! Thanks for stopping by today and I'm pretty much a basic knitter too and I like to switch on and off with crochet and knitting. My mom taught me a while ago and I took one course on the basic stitches and increase and decrease. On YouTube they have a lot of little videos that you can watch which might be helpful. Thanks for being supportive of my makeup series too and for all you visits. Have a great day.

    1. Julie, I really like your make up posts, I'm a total girly girl! I would love to learn how to crochet and I would love to be a better knitter! I agree, YouTube can be an awesome instructor! I just need more time to sit down and watch! ;)

  6. I absolutely agree with you! Rules are for Martha, not the rest of us who actually LIVE in our homes! Speaking from what wisdom I'm not sure, but a friend once informed me that those flowered pillows don't go with the plaid ones, like she was some kind of expert and her opinion mattered in my home. I smiled and didn't say a word.

    The only thing to remember when painting a room a dark color is that it sucks up light - as in 100 watt light bulbs don't make a dent in the darkness!

    @Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow, I love the idea of painting the ceiling, just haven't gotten brave enough to do it yet. But, as you say, it can always be repainted! Thanks for the encouragement to do what I want.

    1. I love flowered and plaid fabrics together, Nancy! I have some of that going on in my family room right now! I have always wanted to paint a ceiling, too, I just haven't figured out which one yet! Ha! :)

  7. Girl ~ do your thing! What matters is having a space that makes us smile. Every. Single. Day!

    1. Thanks Ashley! I agree, I just hope this encourages more people to do that too!

  8. Rules? What rules? I can't think of anything more laborious or boring than decorating my home according to what someone else thinks. That would take all the fun out of it. I'm glad you blogged about this, Kim. Great post. ~ Nancy

    1. I agree, Nancy...rules are no fun at all!

  9. I like rules. I am a rule follower. BUT I also break the rules. I think a small space looks dreamy and romantic in a dark color, it encloses you and makes you feel enveloped, and it makes the space more intimate. I say go for it. You are absolutely right - you live there - do what you want. So many people are trying to impress someone and maybe you want to stick to the rules if that is what you are after, but I don't think that is what you are after. Go For It!
    Patty at Home and Lifestyle Design

    1. Thanks Patty! I hear way too many people reference the rules when trying to decorate a space and I feel that it holds them back sometimes. I say throw caution to the wind and do what makes you happy! :) Thanks for popping by!

  10. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! Finally.....a voice of reason!!!

    1. Oh no~ Thank you Christy!! Voice of reason, huh? Going to have to show this comment to my teens! ;)

  11. Kim,

    Great post! I, myself, ruled out the rules a long time ago, probably when I was about seven or eight, when my mother insisted that I put my bed back against the wall, after I had pushed it to the centre of the my bedroom, AND on an angle. The horror!

    I've always thought that all those decorating magazines need to dictate design definitions so that WE always need to rush out and BUY the new paint colour or fabric or piece of furniture to support their advertisers! Now THAT, is a horror!

    Have a lovely weekend!


    1. So you were born creative, huh? That makes a lot of sense! I remember rearranging my room as a child, as well! My mom was always less than pleased with my efforts and made me put it all back, too! Decorating rules I can's rules, I could not!

  12. the only real rule
    of decorating
    is to create a space
    you like

    after that
    it's all gravy

    thanks for sharing
    at Fridays Unfolded!


    1. My thoughts exactly, Alison! :) Thanks for the pretty party!

  13. No rules, just go with whatever makes you smile!

    1. That's my motto, Sharon! Well, when it comes to decorating anyway! ;)


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