To my mind, sometimes there is a load of old waffle talked about in relation to home décor and what you should or shouldn’t do. Most people don’t have the luxury of starting from scratch with a ‘blank canvas’ and if you live in a rented home you have to be creative to get a style you can call your own.

I found a list as long as your arm of do’s and don’ts and thought one or two worth mentioning.

Apparently, one of the things that should be avoided these days is a themed room. You might be into Moroccan stuff right now, but will you still love that look five years from now? A few Aztec accents, pillows or throws is fine, but whole rooms with just the one theme could become dated very quickly. And talking of pillows, apparently, they shouldn’t be too small, but a mix of sizes, colours and textures will work well - and be comfortable for lounging too.

If you like to put rugs on your floors (nice for Portuguese winters) be sure the size fits with the room – if it’s too small it will look like a mat just sitting there, so size does matter in this instance! A rug will bring warmth, colour and interest to a room, and a rule of thumb is that an area rug should fit under all of the key furniture pieces in a room. If this isn’t possible, you should be able to fit at least the front legs of major upholstered pieces on the rug, or if you have a large room, two rugs that complement each other at each end of a room would be a good look.

If you have high ceilings, it’s tempting to hang your artwork and photos on the walls at an approximate halfway point, thinking of balancing the top and bottom spaces, but this tends to make your ceilings look even higher and the pictures would be hard to see. The pros suggest the centre of your picture should be at a rough eye level, or 57” above the floor, but this doesn’t apply when hanging pictures above your sofa, mantle or whatever, in which case it is recommended to have the bottom of the frame 6” - 8” above the piece of furniture in question. But if you are renting, you are probably stuck with nails or hooks from a previous tenant and have to make do or risk pulling plaster or paint off the wall by removing them, but stick-on tabs can be bought that can be removed from walls with no damage, and these will help you balance your picture layout.

Curtains are a relatively inexpensive solution to updating your room’s look. Poshly called ‘window treatments’, this could mean curtains, blinds or shutters, but curtains are probably the cheaper option for a good look, particularly if there is a curtain rail already in place.

Curtains usually come in set lengths – so your first step is to measure up. If you can afford it, curtains to the floor look elegant, and a pro tip to make your windows look bigger and wider than they are is to add a bit extra to your measurements, which will allow you to take them to within a few inches of the ceiling for maximum height and drama if you are putting a new rail up. It doesn’t matter if they are too long, as curtains that ‘puddle’ on the floor are trendy, but bear in mind these will be a bit higher maintenance if you have animals, as they will be a magnet for fur!

Finally, arranging stuff on windowsills or shelving – there is a guideline rule of three, that says things arranged in groups of odd numbers are more effective than even-numbered groupings, three being the perfect number, but 5, 7 or 9 items work well too. However, rules are made to be broken, so if you have a big family and want to display all their pictures – go for it!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan