From “don’t mix metals” to “tiles belong on kitchen walls” to “avoid dark colours in tight spaces”, so-called rules dominate the realm of interior design. But according to Amber Kingsnorth, interior designer and principal of local firm MāK Interiors, breaking from tradition has its benefits.
“It’s fun, for one thing,” she tells the Straight by phone, “and it’s nice to go against the norm because, for me, design is about creating a personalized space. If you want it to exude who you are, then you have to break some rules to build an aesthetic around that.”
Kingsnorth will be tackling this topic alongside three other Pacific Northwest design iconoclasts this Sunday (September 25) at Against the Grain: Design Rebels, a speaker presentation at IDS Vancouver, which takes place at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s west building (999 Canada Place) from Thursday to Sunday (September 22 to 25).
In the meantime, here are Kingsnorth’s favourite home-design and décor rules to break.
From outfit inspo to wedding planning to home renovations, Pinterest has become the de facto inspiration station for all sorts of style-related projects. But sometimes, it pays to step away from the pinboard.
“There’s a point that it becomes totally overwhelming,” says Kings-north. “So it’s important to acknowledge that these are places to keep stuff that you like or are drawn to, but just because you like it doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for you.”
The key, then, is to keep an open mind when redecorating or renovating your home. Is your partner proposing that you ditch the media console for a vintage dresser? Or perhaps your roommate is dying to drape the bathroom in a celestial wallpaper. Don’t be so quick to say no. “Just because you haven’t seen something before online or in a magazine doesn’t mean it’s not a great idea,” the designer stresses.
Keep kitchens neutral
Who says only light and bright kitchens look chic? For a striking visual impact, consider infusing some colour into your cooking space. “White and wood kitchens are classic, but I’ve been doing a lot of coloured cabinets lately and I love it,” says Kingsnorth. “They look so fun.”
Painting your cabinets—whether in their entirety or select sections to create a colour-blocking effect—is a no-brainer move. (Kings-north recently paired royal-blue with white flat-panel cabinetry in one client’s kitchen, for example.) However, tinted lighting fixtures, furnishings, and small appliances are also easy ways to embrace colour—especially if you’re wary of the commitment.
“It’s one of those things that people really shy away from,” the designer says, “They think, ‘Oh, resell value. What is the next person going to think?’ But I think spaces should be for you—you’re the one living there—so take a chance on that. I’ve done it many times and it’s always paid off.”
Leave ceilings bare
The ceiling, roof, or “fifth wall”—whatever you call it, it’s an oft-forgotten element when it comes to home renovations and space revamps. “That’s a huge surface that most people don’t think about. They’re like, ‘Okay, white ceiling. Yep, done,’ ” says Kingsnorth. “But it can be a really good opportunity to bring lots of interest to a room.”
If you’re feeling bold—and are working with an enclosed space—try painting your ceiling an unexpected hue like black, plum, or midnight blue. Balance the shade by incorporating punches of the same colour throughout the room with décor items like a sculptural lighting fixture, handcrafted tableware, or an abstract area rug.
Applying wallpaper to your ceiling is an equally ballsy move that packs a huge impact when done right. Consider a graphic pattern in a larger scale, which will help open up a space. “It might not be practical for every situation, but it’s a great way to bring in a cool touch,” says Kingsnorth.
Stick to one pattern
Forget what you know about matchy-matchy prints: Kingsnorth suggests combining an assortment of shapes, colours, and designs for an eclectic feel that’s all your own. “I love a good unexpected mix of patterns,” she says.
Tread lightly into the task by tossing together a mishmash of printed throw cushions. Marry chevrons with a funky pineapple print, for example, or a traditional Moroccan pattern with a nautical stripe. If you’re into the look, you can consider contrasting larger items like wallpapered surfaces, furnishings, or rugs.
To ensure a cohesive feel, incorporate hits of the same hue throughout each print and opt for varying sizes. “When you’re dealing with a mix of patterns, you don’t want to do too many that are the same scale,” advises Kings-north. “So, a small pin dot with a large floral—that’s a good combo. You don’t want medium floral with a big floral—that just doesn’t work. They kind of clash.”
Follow the latest trends
Though not as fleeting as the seasonal styles that dictate the world of fashion, interior-design trends emerge every few months too. And while there’s no harm in emulating the formal dining spaces or white-on-white aesthetic pictured in this month’s glossies, it’s important that you, well, do you.
“Interiors are just like fashion,” says Kingsnorth. “If you try to make a look work that isn’t you, it just reeks of not working. If you love it, it will come across well, you’ll be proud of it, and the space will just shine.”
Love the feel of a traditional dining room? Go all out with a vintage chandelier and dark-stained woods. Have a thing for ’70s-inspired décor? Embrace the orange and curvy plastics. You can also play on current trends by remixing them to jibe with your personal style.
“That’s a way to dip your toe into more rebellious design,” notes Kingsnorth. “It’s taking something that you like and then thinking, ‘How can I put my stamp on this? How can I do something that’s a twist on a classic?’ ”