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Decorating Rules You Can Break

There is no rule book when it comes to decorating. But if there were, the rules are meant to be broken. Break out of your comfort zone and forget some of the guidelines that have informally become law.

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    • Paint the Ceiling

      Ceilings don't have to be white. Painting the ceiling a color adds interest to the room and brings harmony to the walls and ceiling. Choose a color similar to the walls, or have the wall color mixed a shade or two lighter or darker.

    • Be Creative with Wallpaper

      Wallpaper isn't just for walls. Paper the drawer or door fronts of a painted dresser or cabinet, or use it to decorate a plain headboard. You'll get a custom-looking piece of furniture with lots of impact.

    • Paint It Dark

      A small space can handle dark walls. In fact, deep and strong hues can be better in small spaces because a little goes a long way. The bold statement adds personality and impact.

    • Mix Plaid and Floral

      Patterns don't have to match, they just need to coordinate. Put geometric patterns with florals. Mix modern designs with traditional. The key: Make sure they share a common color.

    • A Different Centerpiece

      A charming centerpiece doesn't require a large vase of flowers and a pair of candlesticks. A collection of interesting objects -- an old pewter pitcher, a big bowl with mounded moss and a small crystal sphere, or a gathering of favorite books -- is so much more interesting on the dining table. The more unusual the better.

    • Raise the Curtain Rod

      Hang curtains near the ceiling rather than the typical placement just above the window trim. This gives the illusion of height, which makes a small window appear larger or a low ceiling appear higher.

    • Layer Floor Coverings

      Wall-to-wall carpet doesn't eliminate the use of rugs. Add an area rug in the bedroom to create an intimate sitting area, just as you would under the dining room table and chairs on a wood floor. Layer multiple rugs of coordinating colors and patterns in different sizes atop one another to make a striking design statement.

    • Perk Up the Bedroom

      Convention says the bedroom should be decorated in soft hues and soothing patterns to encourage sleep and relaxation. But if you're drawn to bolder colors and patterns, unwind in a bedroom surrounded by what you love. Warm lamplight tones down bright colors at night, while the same hues energize in the morning. Busy pattern offers the same morning pick-me-up and can be balanced by using it in just certain areas, such as on a single wall or draperies, but not bedding.

    • Forget the Matched Set

      Just because furniture is sold as a set doesn't mean you have to use it that way. Mix a new dining table with a medley of refinished antique chairs. Buy the new sofa you love, but have your favorite chairs re-covered instead of settling on the matching settee. Rearrange the furniture you have, using pieces from different collections in different rooms.

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      Think Big

      You can put oversize furniture in small spaces. Too much small furniture in a small room can make the space feel cluttered and full. Instead, buy fewer, larger pieces to make a small space feel roomier.

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      Make Your Own Art

      Wall art doesn't need a famous signature or even have to be purchased. Personalize your space by hanging a puzzle you put together or framing a map showing your favorite destination. Dig out family treasures -- old pictures or your grandmother's platters -- to appreciate instead of collect dust. For a creative twist, hang dinnerware in open frames.

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      Paper the Ceiling

      Wallpaper works on the ceiling. In a room with lots of pattern, a white ceiling stands out like sore thumb. Use wallpaper on the ceiling to tie the space together.

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      Add Furniture with Character

      Not every piece of furniture has to be what is expected. An old grain cart discovered at a flea market makes a whimsical coffee table that keeps this room casual. Not only is it movable, the low height is easy for stacking books, and it could hold a tall flower arrangement that might sit too high on a standard table.

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      Paint Kitchen Cabinets

      While stained-wood and white-painted kitchen cabinets are the norm, it doesn't mean you have to stick with tradition. In a room ruled by function and sometimes lacking in decorating opportunity, painted cabinets can add interest and color. Use a solid, bright finish for a contemporary space, or distress door and drawer edges for a more casual look.

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      Embrace One Color

      A monochromic color scheme isn't dull and undecorated. On the contrary, it can make a stunning design statement. In this bedroom, similar shades of pinks and reds make a smooth transition from the walls to the windows to the bed, creating a cohesively decorated space. Use contrasting trim, such as white molding, to define the perimeter of the room.

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      Be Versatile with Draperies

      Draperies aren't just for windows. Use window treatments to add interest to a large, plain span of wall. Hang draperies in a large doorway to make it more intimate. Use a curtain panel in place of a closet door.

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      Make Rooms Multitask

      A room doesn't have to have just one purpose. Make the most of the space you have by sharing. A less-used guest bedroom with a pullout bed is the perfect place for a home office contained in a storage armoire. The family room media entertainment space can have a playroom corner.

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      Next Slideshow Decorating with Color: Expert Tips

      Decorating with Color: Expert Tips

      Our designers and editors dish out their tips for decorating with colors including green, red, and more. Get our top paint picks for every color, and then keep clicking for color-by-color decorating tips.
      Begin Slideshow »

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