It’s time to bust those decorating myths

Dear Gail: I’m painting my house and a girlfriend said that all my ceilings, baseboards, doors and trim have to be all white. Is this a rule? Will I be making a decorating faux pas if I don’t do white? Thanks. — Millie

Dear Millie: I do appreciate your friend’s suggestions and ideas, since sometimes it’s hard to see your own home in a different light, but I believe that it’s your home. At the end of the day, you need to love it.

There are no hard and fast rules to decorating anymore. The decorating police are not going to lock you up if you want your home to be uniquely yours. So here are a few decorating myths we’re going to bust.

Myth No. 1: Ceilings, doors and trim must be white.

White is that comfortable go-to color. It goes with everything. It’s what the builder did, so it must be right.

No, it’s just the easiest for them to do, as they can spray everything and not have to spend endless hours taping. White is clean and simple, and depending on the light in your room, it will make the room appear taller, but not all the time.

In small rooms, especially powder baths, I’ll paint the ceiling the same color as the walls. It actually extends the ceiling, as your eye is not stopping at the color change.

When doing crown molding, I always like to paint the ceiling something other than white, so you can see the wonderful molding you invested in. I do still prefer white on popcorn ceilings.

Doors and trim can be a little trickery. I feel they should be a consistent color throughout the home when you see more than one at a time, but not necessarily white. The color you choose just has to work with your color scheme in your home.

I had a client who wanted the fronts of all the doors painted black and the backs white, all with white trim. It looked striking.

I painted my door that goes from my laundry to my garage purple, and I love it. My brother painted his doors and trim a sand color, as the white showed everything. The color flowed great throughout the house.

Myth No. 2: Wood finishes should match.

I’m asked this question all the time. “Don’t all my woods have to match?” The answer is “No.” They just need to complement one another.

You have to watch red tones with orange and yellow. Making them a contrast in both color and wood species works better than the same species. Watch that it doesn’t look like you tried to match them but failed.

If mixing wood tones scares you, try painted furniture. Mixing woods creates interest and depth to a room. Your eye travels through the room instead of just stopping in the middle.

Myth No. 3: All the furniture in a room must be the same style.

Sorry, this is so boring. Furniture is sold in sets because retailers get a better price, plus it’s an easier sale as most people are not comfortable mixing and matching. You don’t need to have what I like to call a “room in a box” to have a beautifully designed room.

Same as the lamp sets where you get two table lamps — a floor lamp and then an accent lamp. The price is great, but it’s too matchy-matchy unless you put the lamps in different rooms.

In a bedroom, have the same chest and dresser with different nightstands. Do a different coffee table and console from your end tables. Do a different kitchen table and chairs versus the set.

I find people are more comfortable with this mix and match than any other. It shouldn’t be any different in your other rooms.

When clients want to buy a “room in a box,” I always remember the Seinfeld episode when someone — I think it was Kramer — bought a whole room just as it was in the Pottery Barn catalog. Someone else put it together, so it must work. Of course, with Pottery Barn it did.

Myth No. 4: Small rooms must be painted light colors.

Oh, how many times have I heard, “It’s a small room, so I want to go light.” If I were paid a dollar for each time I heard that, I could be retired by now. My belief is that it’s already a small room, so let’s give it some life and interest.

I especially like to go bold in a powder bath. Think about it: How long does anyone stay in the room? They’re not going to feel trapped in the few minutes they are in there.

Deep or bold colors will make the room dramatic and give it a larger-than-life presence. What’s wrong with that?

Remember it’s just paint. Come to the color side.

Myth No. 5: Accent pillows must match.

Accent pillows on your sofa do not need to be matched pairs. There are so many pretty and inexpensive pillows in home stores that it’s time to break out of the mold and mix and match them. Select ones that are similar in color but change the scale of the pattern.

So, Millie, take a chance and bust the all-white myth. Start with one room and see how you feel. Maybe your girlfriend will see the light and make a change, too.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to Or mail to 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her web address is

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