Interior Design

3 Decorating "Tricks" So Transformative You Can Think of Them as Rules

October  5, 2016

Sometimes, a so-called "trick" (or, yes, "hack") comes along that's so truly effective you buy all in and never look back. (We feel this way about softening butter more speedily by smacking it with a rolling pin!) It then transforms from trick to rule—the best way, rather than just an alternative or something to consider. The same ascent happens in interior design trends: Someone has (or spots) a good idea, calls it out, and it gains such widespread support that it eventually feels universally agreed-upon.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Of course the very best rules are the most fun to break (nobody knows better than us), but they're good to turn to if you're feeling uninspired, or directionless. (How do I make this room feel bigger? Where does this curtain rod go?) So here are three interior design tricks-turned-rules that you can depend on when decorating a space.

To make a ceiling look taller...

Hang your curtain rod well above the window.

Rather than just run your curtain rod along the top of the window casing, mount it instead at least six inches higher on the wall—even so far as to be closer to the ceiling than the frame itself.

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The effect is elongating, and so much so that not raising the rod up this way will cause the curtains to look stubby and cramped.

For a balanced, but not-too-perfect, style...

Group furniture and accents in threes.

Why? Because groupings of odd numbers are simply more visually appealing. Your mantle vignette, grouping of tchotchkes heaped atop a dresser, and cluster of paintings will feel more finished, more casually impactful, than if you stop at two (or move past to four!).

(There are always exceptions to this one, of course, but it's a good rule of thumb to lean on if you're arranging and can't seem to pull off the right look.)

To give a room a finished look...

Paint your ceiling.

If your ceiling is already a bright, clean, airy white when you move in—lucky you! That's going to keep the room feeling open and will really look fine with any paint choice on the walls.

But if you move in to a yellowy-white, or anything colorful that you didn't choose, paint it. "It’s such an overlooked move, but for me a room isn’t finished until the ceiling has been considered," designer Chloe Redmond Warner says.

Some alternatives to white are:

  • Match the walls. For an enveloping, cozy feel, use the same color on your ceiling as you do the walls.
  • Go slightly lighter than the wall color. You'll get more depth and dimension from your color choice without introducing too many variables.
  • Choose an entirely different color (or pattern!) than the walls. The result will be bold and graphic—so save this for when you're aiming for high-impact.

What interior design rules do you live by? Share in the comments!

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Chad December 11, 2023
Where have you been all my life? I discovered your "5 ingredients" menus and joined back in 2019. Only today did I spend several hours going through the resourceful, beautifully presented, and wide-ranging contents of your website. Dansk dishes and cookware! I love my Romny by Denby ironstone, but am seriously tempted by the Dansk cookware. I should be doing Christmas cards and here I am locked into the vast amount of information you provide. Kudos and thanks! Ellen
Joanna October 6, 2016
what would one suggest to cover a sunny yellow that is ALL over the room? Walls, trim, ceilings, you name it it got sprayed. My father in law used a power painter on the room. The only thing that go masked off was the door hardware.

I would love a dark ish tan or even a light blue. What is a good cover for a bright yellow?
Carolyn V. October 6, 2016
I painted my living room ceiling the same color as the walls (cream) and was amazed at how much I liked it. Have only 8' tall ceiling and the walls just blended into the ceiling making it seem more spacious and welcoming.
mary J. October 6, 2016
Ceiling color, even when it's exactly the same as the walls, will look lighter than the walls, because of the way light hits it. Also, if you go for color on the ceiling, like that bold blue in the bathroom photo, please paint the vent covers. They should be primed and painted. Otherwise, the vents are highlighted, like trim. Who wants your eye to be attracted to fittings? Make them disappear with the ceiling paint color.
JoAnne L. January 6, 2017
I agree mary jane suruda. You can buy kits at home improvement stores to make spray painting vents and other fittings easy, if you own a power sprayer, easier yet. If you hire a painters, they can easily do this for you. The vents will disappear once painted the same color as the ceiling for a professional, finished look.