you’ve probably heard the saying that you must first know the rules before you can break them, and though we love the irreverence of tossing the design rule book out the window, there are some guidelines that make the task of decorating a space a little easier and more fool-proof. Few know this better than America’s leading interior designers who have made it their mission to transform an empty space into an inspiring and unique home.

We spoke to 10 top interior designers to find out which interior design rules are worth following for a statement interior. Whether you’re starting a renovation from scratch or are looking to make a couple of small but high-impact changes to your existing home, these expert-approved tips will guide you to get it right every time.

Mix Textures

If you can’t understand why your space feels lacking, Charleston, South Carolina-based interior designer Angie Hranowsky recommends adding different textures via accents like rugs, throws, or accent cushions. “Always mix materials and add texture—metal mixed with wood, or rattan or natural woven fabrics with lacquered furniture or walls, for example,” she says.

Layer Lighting

Rooms with one type of lighting, such as a single overhead pendant, can feel two-dimensional. “Lighting will elevate the mood of any room,” says Consort Design’s Mat Sanders. “Be sure to have light coming from multiple sources, not just overhead.”

Take Risks With Accessories

Afraid of taking risks? Start small with accessories like a quirky bowl or statement vase, says interior designer Grant K. Gibson. “Don’t be afraid to take some chances to make bold statements, updating classic, timeless elements to make them current and your own,” he tells MyDomaine.

Start With a Simple Base

Struggling with brick walls? It’s possible to paint over them. “Anytime you’ve got brick walls and they’re keeping you from using the color scheme you really want, kick that brackish, brownish-red to the curb by painting the brick white,” Brian Patrick Flynn instructs.

“A lot of people are against this and there are some rules to follow. If the surfaces are super historic and the brick has tons of character, maybe keep it as is, but if the brick is just contractor-grade hogwash, and it’s forcing you to live in a marsala-toned nightmare, buh-bye, brown brick,” he adds.

Always Measure Your Space

Before you add that dreamy daybed to your cart, be sure to measure your space. “Measure twice, buy once” is the mantra Jennifer Jones of Niche Interiors adheres to. “Scale can make or break your space. Pay close attention to the size of furniture pieces in relation to the room. Always map out the larger items, such as sofas and rugs, before purchasing.”

Don’t Forgo Function

We’re all for buying a beautiful, sculptural piece of furniture that has instant visual impact, but Los Angeles–based interior designer Jeff Andrews says those with small spaces should always opt for items that offer form and function.

“Use every square inch of space in creative ways—especially in a small home where you can’t have a lot of clutter. Include pieces that are as functional as they are sculptural and interesting,” he says.

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, you should to take risks and follow your gut to create a truly unique home.

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