Design Myths

Full PDF here.

Think you know all the rules of interior design? You might want to think again. Here, Haskell Matheny, ASID, CAPS, busts 5 common lines of thinking. 

Over the years I’ve had many clients pull me aside to ask about certain “design rules” they’ve heard or been taught by others. Often times these rules aren’t totally unfounded –  they may have even been true 30 to 40 years ago. But if used today, they have the potential to tie you down if you are trying to re-evaluate your rooms or begin on a new project. Here, I dispel some of the most popular myths I hear in hopes of giving you more freedom and choice when you set out to design your space.


Myth 1: Don’t use strong dark colors in small rooms.

On the contrary, rich dark colors can visually expand a small space. By adding a dark color to walls, you add drama and make the walls recede, which in turn makes the width or depth of a space appear larger. Plus, a deep color can add drama and excitement to a small space. To maximize the effect, keep the remaining items in the room – like draperies or art – keyed within the same color palette.


Click to enlarge

(Click to enlarge)

Myth 2: You should always mount draperies just above the window. 

Actually, I always place my draperies at the bottom of the crown molding or the ceiling line of the room. This gives the room the appearance of a taller ceiling and can make an ordinary window appear to go from ceiling to floor. If there are more than 12 inches of space between the top of the window and the bottom of the crown or ceiling, then consider adding a valance to further the illusion of a taller window.


Myth 3: The sofa should be the focal point of the room.

While this is not exactly an incorrect statement, it is not always true. Many times I will start with a favorite piece of art for a focal point. Many other elements can serve in that role, too, like the fireplace, or perhaps even a wonderful view.


(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Myth 4: You shouldn’t mix different styles in the same room.

Quite the opposite! By mixing different styles and design periods, you will create a visually interesting room. If your entire room is from one style or period, it can become boring and predictable. The look can be too “done.” I like to throw a few unexpected pieces in a room to make it distinctive and give the feel that the items have been accumulated over time. By blending pieces that represent history with a touch of now, the room will feel alive and full of visual surprises.


(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Myth 5: Your dining table and chairs should match.

Well, yes – if it’s the year 1970. The look of the matching dining room “suite” went out decades ago. Today, designers like to mix tables and chairs to bring more interest to the dining space. Personally, I love the look of upholstered host chairs as a complement to standard wooden, carved dining chairs. It gives you a chance to mix in other fabrics and styles and add a punch of color if needed. If you already have a set of chairs, adding two host chairs will not only give you an updated look, but allow you to add two more seats to the table without having to match the existing chairs.


Haskell Matheny, ASID, CAPS is the owner and principal designer of Haskell Interiors,
located in historic downtown Cleveland, Tenn. Visit online at 




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