The YHL Take On A Few Controversial Issues

We’ll start this post off by saying that when it comes to decorating your house, we believe there are no right answers. Rules are meant to be broken and feathering your nest is definitely one of the most subjective and personal things you’ll ever do. Our mantra has always been “just do what you love” so you end up coming home to a house that makes you smile. But what if you don’t know what you love? Just look at rooms in magazines and online and find out what tickles your fancy and use it as a springboard to take your house to the next level. Or stare at your favorite painting or even a pair of earrings or a pretty invitation and use it as your inspiration – yes you can even design a room around a pattern on a napkin or a pretty soap box like this:

We love reminding people that we have absolutely no background in home improvement or interior design, we’re just two people who learned as we went and slowly updated our house on a budget and shared our progress as we went. And somewhere along the way we amassed enough confidence and on-the-job experience to help other people spruce up their spaces as well. But we definitely have made our fair share of mistakes, and we think those learning experiences have truly made us who we are today. They help us relate to everyone out there who’s also trying to fix up their home on a budget without any formal training- armed only with their wits, some elbow grease, and a lot of bullheaded determination. Oh yeah, we can totally relate to that.

And we have one more rule around here: don’t do something just because we suggest it. When we dish out advice on anything from a recommended paint color to a rug rule, we do it to help get the ball rolling and serve as a starting point. But we never want people to blindly do things just because “John and Sherry said it would work.” Because design is so subjective that there are about 100 ways to skin a cat. So it would just be crazy to robotically follow our suggestions without a bit of thought and consideration to see if they really feel right for you and your home. There’s not one right way to decorate your living room, there are about a hundred different solutions that would look fantastic. And that’s good news because it means you can follow your heart to a result that works for you instead of blindly hunting for the nonexistent one and only “answer” to your decorating dilemma.

BUT (there’s always a but, right?) on the flip side to that coin, we do get asked a few questions that are definitely highly debatable, so here’s our take on those decorating dilemmas. They’re really more like general suggestions that you can consider and apply in a way that makes sense to you or choose to completely ignore. Really it’s all about doing what you love, not what we say!

Controversial Question #1: Can your living room rug be shorter than the length of your sofa? Generally speaking we prefer for the rug to be at least a few inches longer than your sofa on both sides so it feels anchored by the rug instead of top heavy and a bit too bulky. So in smaller rooms with a sofa and a chair arrangement (like our den or living room) we usually recommend a 5 x 8 rug, but in any other seating arrangement (that involves a sofa and a loveseat, a sofa and two chairs next to each other, or a sectional) we always think an 8 x 10 rug works best to define that arrangement and ground everything with ease.

But rules are meant to be broken, so there’s a room over on with a rug that’s shorter than the sofa that’s awesome. See there really are no right answers here, so why not take home three potential rugs and see which one works best for your space (just return the two “losers” when you’re done and you haven’t wasted a cent trying out a few alternatives). Read more general rug rules right here.

Controversial Question #2: Should large upholstered furnishings be covered only in neutral colors so they always feel classic, or can you get more bang for your buck with a brightly colored sofa or a fun patterned chair? We prefer classic upholstery and opt to bring in color with accessories, which is usually the safest way to ensure that you won’t tire of the look of a room and be forced to purchase large items in order to change the look (as opposed to switching out some accessories for a new look on a far smaller budget). For example, a bright abstract turquoise painting above the fireplace and some punchy orange and aqua pillows could totally change up the look of our den in under $100.

But again, rules are meant to be broken. Here’s a space with a bright red sofa that looks amazingly classic and fresh (see more info about this room makeover here):

And here’s a bedroom makeover where we recommended graphic striped chairs that really made the space feel polished and luxe (without breaking the bank since they’re from Target). So sometimes some color or pattern in your furnishings can really make the room.

Controversial Question #3: Do all the frames in a room have to match? Personally, we love that every frame in our house is white so we can switch them out from room to room for an easy change (which has saved us some major moolah over the years since they’re so flexible and easily movable). Check out more framing ideas right here.

But they definitely don’t have to be all the same color throughout your house, or even throughout a room. There’s a space with a mixed display of frame finishes that looks eclectic, lovely, and collected over time from over on Apartment Therapy this morning. So again, it’s really all about what you like and what you have on hand so there’s no perfect answer in this category either.

Controversial Question #4: Do all wood furnishings have to match? No way. We actually believe that falling for the matchy-matchy look is the quickest way to a flat room that looks like you got everything in an afternoon from the same store. Here’s a post with a slew of details and suggestions on that subject – we really think layered materials, finishes, and tones can make a space feel dimensional, interesting and effortlessly stylish.

Controversial Question #5: Does all hardware (faucets, door knobs, fixtures, etc) have to match? Nope, definitely not. It can’t hurt if you have a small bathroom or kitchen and painstakingly ensure that every latch, pull, and fixture is the same brushed nickel finish, but we’ve also seen some amazing rooms with layered hardware and fixture choices (like antique brass mixed with silvery finishes). We actually wrote a big post all about this subject so click here for more info.

Controversial Question #6: Should all the trim in your house be the same color? Well, we love that all of our trim is a nice crisp white (it keeps our home feeling cohesive and current) but we’ve also seen houses with rich dark wood moldings in some rooms and clean white trim in others- and it looked pretty darn amazing as well. And here’s a lovely English casa with gorgeous raw wood beams that add tons of character and charm:

The bottom line? Do what you love (whether that’s mixing and matching trim throughout the house or keeping it all consistent and cohesive).

Controversial Question #7: Can you put an area rug over wall to wall carpeting? Our opinion: yes, yes, yes! We love rugs over wall to wall carpet. Any seating area that floats in a space (which is often how they look best, even in small rooms) needs something to ground and define just that distinct area. So a rug over a carpet (be it jute, wool, or anything really!) often looks fantastic in every space from a living or family room to a bedroom with a small seating area or a centered bed. In short: Go for it if it makes you happy (and avoid it if you disagree)!

Controversial Question #8: Besides paint, what’s the biggest way to transform a space? We believe that answer is undeniably curtains (as demonstrated by this amazing reader-submitted curtain makeover, which you can learn more about here):

They really can make the room and create a taller, bigger,  and more architectural effect. Here’s a post all about picking the perfect window treatments to spruce up your space, so you’re bound to find lots of ideas (don’t forget to check out the comment section for even more solutions).

So that’s our take on a few controversial decorating topics. What do you guys think? Are there any decorating rules that you happily break around your house? Or any that you stick to religiously without any interest in straying? Do tell.


  1. says

    I really love the idea of having one kind of frame, but I think I would get so bored! I think having a handful of the same for interchanging purposes is great, but I love to add a little flair with some different ones!

  2. Janice says

    The area rug rule that I believe should not ever be broken is that, at the very minimum, the front legs of the chairs & sofa must be on the rug. That Domino shot, with the little tiny rug under the coffee table is a mistake I often see that drives me batty.

  3. says

    I loved reading this! I think I have broken most of the rules you mentioned. For instance, I have a dark blue sofa, all different types of woods furniture, and lots of mismatched frames. I think it give the house lots of character. :) I do love that large area rug rule though.

  4. Sandy says

    The thing that I dislike about so many people’s houses is when everything is matching from the light fixtures, to the faucets, cabinet hardware and even the cabinets throughout the entire house. I think this must have come from housing developments and the stuff that builders install. It is much more interesting to have different features and finishes throughout your house, otherwise it is a snooze of the “same old–same old” in every room– very boring. Why do people want everything to match?

  5. says

    That’s funny – I disagree with Janice. I prefer the Domino shot in which the couch is not on the rug. Just goes to show you that everyone has different tastes and rules!

  6. says

    We used to have a light neutral beige colored sofa. Since it was time for a new sofa we went and got us a deep blue sofa and loveseat. I would love a nice white colored sofa, however with a dog and a toddler running around I would more than likely find myself stressing over every little dog hair and every time my son even came within 2ft of the sofa [honestly, toddlers hands magically become dirty, no matter how many times you wash them]… I don’t want to have to stress over my furniture, so since we both like blue we found the perfect comfy sofa. The majority of the colors in our home are light, clean and neutral so the sofa really pops with the rest of our décor and we don’t have to worry about ‘little hands’ grabbing and climbing all over it.

    Overall I think you have nailed all the controversial questions. I agree with all of them for the most part!

  7. says

    You know, I am glad you guys wrote this. Sometimes, I get a little annoyed at how people get on you guys for things you talk about. I always take everything as it is…an opinion. One thing I learned in fixing up my home is rules are meant to be broken! Great post!

  8. says

    I agree with Janice, the little rug does nothing for me. I definitely think the sofa/chair legs need to be resting on the edge of the rug, at least. That said, I have a little rug in front of my sofa. And yes, it drives me nuts. :P

  9. says

    On the subject of rugs, I think the rug can be smaller, when it is obviously intentional, like in that Domino picture. But when it’s a 4×6 rug under a 7 foot sofa, it just looks like a mistake. I’ve also seen a rug over wall-to-wall done right, and done wrong many times. So it just depends. :-)

  10. says

    Re: brightly colored furniture. You can try a good slipcover on your couch that can easily be changed over the years. Another idea is purchase a neutral couch but a brightly colored chair. The chair can be moved out of a room or reupholstered easier than a couch.

  11. Cordia says

    I am definitely one of those people who fall into the category of “I dont know what I love”. Well, it’s more I love a lot of things,lol. Your site and decorating advice has been a great inspiration. You could have fooled me that you dont have a background in interior design or home improvement! I love your style and I am having a hard time decorating my own home b/c I love a crisp white modern feel as well, but my 1920’s home with all the dark woodwork and built-ins doesnt fit that look. I do however love a warm homey Pottery Barn look too, which is what I was originally going for. I guess you have to work with what you have character-wise with your house too. I have decided though to paint all my trim in the upstairs white and “crispen” it up. My kitchen, once we can afford to do a complete remodel will be crisp and modern too. I cant wait for that to happen! Keep your ideas and advice coming! I know you are helping a lot of us out here figure out how to do things around our own homes!

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