We’re all raised with a few internalized beliefs about interior design. From the personal (I’m not neat enough for a white sofa), to the ubiquitous (white paint cures all!), it’s safe to say that interior design myths run deep.
But, like the design rulebooks of decades past, we cordially invite you to completely ignore and subvert these common decor myths. “I always hear the same set of internalized ‘rules’ about design when working on projects,” says Havenly lead designer Kelsey Fischer. “And unfortunately, they can keep many people from realizing their true potential!”
Ahead, Fischer shares the nine common interior design myths she’s heard time and time again, and how to play by your own rules when decorating your space.
Myth #1: A dining room isn't complete without a rug.
Truth be told, a dining room rug can be more trouble than what it’s worth, especially if you have kids. While it can add a nice touch of texture to a particularly large dining space, nixing one can mean easier cleanup for the long haul. We especially love the rug-free dining table look in an open-concept space where a nearby area rug is already checking the “texture” and “warmth” boxes. Plus, going sans-rug means you have more room to play with color, texture, and pattern with your furniture, paint, decor, and more.
Myth #2: Stick to a single wood tone.
We’ll admit that mixing wood tones in a space can benefit from an expert eye, but sticking to a single wood type, finish, or style is by no means the answer. First off, matching wood tones throughout an entire home can feel very flat and one-dimensional. Instead, mix in rich walnut, finished black, reclaimed wood, and beachy white oak for a more unique, interesting look. We wrote an entire guide on this exact topic if you need help!
Myth #3: Painting small rooms white will make them feel larger.
This is the oldest “trick” in the design book: stick to a light and airy color palette in small spaces lacking natural light to make it feel larger. But we’d argue that it’s better to lean in to the naturally moody atmosphere by going in the opposite direction: saturated colors. Doing so can create a sense of coziness and warmth, instead of leaning stark and unnatural. Keep this in mind when designing basements, home libraries, offices, or cozy bedrooms, and swatch a few of our favorite moody hues to get started!
Myth #4: White bedding is too high maintenance.
We hear this one often, and we’ll start with this: it’s completely untrue that you have to be some sort of neat freak to enjoy crisp white, ivory, or tan bedding. If you love that warm minimalist aesthetic, simply choose a bleach-friendly sheet set and you’ll never go back! One wash later, and your self-tanner or leftover mascara will wash right out.
Myth #5: Use wallpaper sparingly.
We’re not necessarily on board with the loud, wallpaper-clad interiors of the 1970s (or the wallpaper border craze of the ’80s and ’90s). But generally speaking, we do advise going all-in on bolder design decisions. Similar to our feelings on accent walls, fully committing to a bolder look makes it feel intentional and design-forward. Getting creative with wallpaper will set your space apart — consider ceilings, staircases, shelving, and furniture in addition to the walls.
Myth #6: Symmetry is the foundation of good design.
This is a popular myth because it is so easy to execute. But forgoing symmetry in your space, whether through furniture layout or decor, can give you that designer look you’ve been searching for. We encourage you to explore how a single chair feels instead of a pair, or maybe an offset artwork rather than the standard centered piece. This intentional asymmetry can make all the difference.
Myth #7: It's not worth updating a rental
Nothing could be further from the truth! Just because you rent doesn’t mean you should settle for less. Removable wallpaper, bold curtains, lighting upgrades, and paint are all low-lift, affordable ways to customize your space for the short term. As long as you’re willing to put effort into a space that isn’t your forever home, the sky’s the limit!
Myth #8: I can't have a white sofa with kids and pets
Today’s performance fabrics are truly on another level — one that allows parents and dog moms to peacefully indulge their love of clean, white upholstery. From water and stain-resistant to pet-rated to kid and family-friendly, there are countless durable options suited to your lifestyle. Start by scooping a few fabric samples and putting them through the ringer: red wine, finger paint, muddy paws, ketchup, and beyond. Next, read this article about our favorites. Prepare to be amazed.
Myth #9: Large, empty walls are meant to be filled
On the contrary, we’d argue that good design is all about restraint. Just because you have a large, empty wall doesn’t mean you have to fill it with artwork or decorative knick-knacks. Negative space is important — every design needs a little breathing room in order to truly sing. Let a headboard, statement sofa, or sculptural light fixture shine instead.
Looking for a way to overcome your unique home dilemmas? Work one-on-one with our expert interior designers for just $129 per room. Get started today with our style quiz.