Sell with Confidence
Read More

5 interior design rules meant to be broken

By Janice Lopez

Give a designer a rule, and they’ll show you the exception with surprising, stylish and colourful results.

We spoke to five designers about the design rules they most like to break – ones that will encourage you to create your own unique home without limitations.

Rule 1: White, light bedrooms create the most peaceful retreat

Designer Chelsea Hing ditched the white and instead went with a denim-blue tone for this bedroom. Photo: Rhiannon Taylor

While spaces filled with natural light create a feeling of restfulness, calm and joy, designer Chelsea Hing employed denim blue for this bedroom in order to dial down the light and create a sense of quiet.

“Natural light is the holy grail, but in this case, it was about controlling the light so it is dappled and natural,” she says. “I find blue restful to sleep in, and for this bachelor pad, it was a great outcome – masculine and cool, but still serene.”

For Hing, a sleepy bedroom is one that embraces colour saturation and tones for a subtle “murkiness”. Polished plaster is used for depth and detail and executed in a singular colour, creating a cocooning sensation.

“The depth of colour feels mysterious and has a calming effect, and light sheers and a cream bed are a counterpoint to the blue, allowing it to shine,” she says.

While symmetry in design is the ideal, it cannot always be achieved in a practical sense. Design by Lara Ette. Photo: Amanda Prior

Rule 2:  Always use symmetry in design

While there is an emphasis on symmetry and order in classic architectural details, designer Lara Ette says it isn’t the only way to create beautifully cohesive designs.

For her Castlecrag project, she bucked tradition and, instead of centring a bathroom basin in the middle of the wall, she moved it to one side.

  • “Had I not, the bench space on either side of the basin would have been too small to be useful,” she says. “It was more practical to create bench space on one side, and I provided balance to the design with a pendant light. Its shape and size work together to fill the space.”
Designer Kate Challis went all out with colour in this kitchen design. Photo: Robyn Lea

Rule 3: White walls never go out of fashion

While an all-white interior can look chic and fresh, designer Kate Challis says it isn’t always an easy scheme to execute.

“White requires real finesse, styling and layering to look great,” she says. “Very few people know how to make white work. Usually, it just ends up looking bland and devoid of personality.”

Combine your favourite vibrant hues or pluck a colour from an element in the space, such as patterned upholstery, artwork or floor rug.

“I was recently in Mexico where the houses are painted in bold colours as they believe that colour breathes life into their town,” she says. “Be inspired by wallpaper, patterned tiles, colourful natural stone and bold colours, and do what makes you happy.”

Blue and green should never be seen? Not so for designer Nickolas Gurtler. Photo: Timothy Kaye

Rule 4: Blue and green should never be seen

“I think this is just a silly saying!” says designer Nickolas Gurtler. “Colour should be combined and experimented with, and blue and green naturally pair beautifully and can be calming or energising depending on their application.”

Look for soothing blue-green hues like teal, turquoise and aquamarine, take inspiration from nature and add a neutral tone for flair.

Stainless steel, glass and walnut timber mixed with blues and greens makes for a sophisticated space,” Gurtler says. “Just don’t confuse the undertones – being a secondary colour, greens, in particular, have a wide variety of undertones, so combining brown or yellow-toned greens with blues can be tricky.”

Designer Shona McElroy of SMAC Studio created a moody lounge area by painting the ceiling in a dark hue. Photo: Dave Wheeler
Rule 5: Ceilings should always be white

White ceilings are popular for creating the illusion of depth, for light, and for ease of maintenance.

“Painting your ceiling white depends on the mood you want to create, but I’m a big fan of making small spaces moody, and painting the ceiling a colour keeps it cosy,” says SMAC Studio designer Shona McElroy.

Considered the fifth wall of a space, a ceiling’s colour is more critical to the room’s overall feel than you might think. Try colour-blocking with a light and dark version of the same hue, or for an all-enveloping feel, match coloured walls with the ceiling. Or, take a leaf from McElroy’s style book and paint it black, which can feel dramatic and make the space feel larger.


Up to Date

Latest News

  • Tips on how to style a kitchen countertop

    Between bulky kitchen appliances, multiple cords and dirty sponges, the kitchen countertop can be a beast of an area to keep clean, much less style with any degree of flair. Yet the kitchen countertop is “prime real estate”, according to interior stylist Carol Sae-Yang, meaning unneccessary and unsightly junk has … Read more

    Read Full Post

  • 4 ways to organise your living room

    Organising your living room means making it a more welcoming space for you and your family to enjoy some more relaxation time. Here’s how. Your living room should be a place that welcomes and nurtures you – your haven from the cares of the world and a place where you … Read more

    Read Full Post