The Rules of Breaking Rules

Designed by Katie Dickerson, this room uses fabric designed by Dorothy Draper and follows the rules of scale and balance. ~photo by Michael J. Lee

Designed by Katie Dickerson, this room uses fabric designed by Dorothy Draper and follows the rules of scale and balance.       ~photo by Michael J. Lee

My mother never stops teaching.  While this has caused more than a few fights during my teenage years (and in my twenties… and last week), I am forever grateful that her chosen career in education never stopped when the bell rang at the end of the day.

She taught me that some rules can and should be broken and challenged because they are unjust and restrictive. She taught me about the courage it takes to battle them and how to hate the prejudice while still loving the person.

Mary Evans Browning, far right, from the 1968 Paxon High School Yearbook. Jacksonville, Florida

Mary Evans Browning, second from the right, from the 1968 Paxon High School Yearbook. Jacksonville, Florida

My mother Mary, a ninth generation Southerner,  grew up in our beloved South during the sixties, experiencing the heartbreak of seeing people you love say things you hate and learning to balance losing neither the person nor the argument.  There is a delicate design to that balance, one I have not yet to master.

While this is not a forum for me to espouse my social criticisms and promote my civil rights agenda (you can email me for my manifesto on why the words “right wing conservative” and “Christian” are not always synonyms, haha), it is a place to elevate the art of dinner parties and decorations to a more respected, cerebral level because our homes and our parties are integral to our lives.

They are where we spend our time forming our beliefs, challenging ideas, and refining that great craft of loving each other despite the differences. And maybe, if we are very good at it, changing someone’s mind for the better.

My mother was, and is, very good at it… along with many other things.

An 1840's Greek Revival  dining room  in New Orleans designed by Alexa Hampton and featured in The New York Times. ~photo by Scott Francis

An 1840’s Greek Revival dining room in New Orleans designed by Alexa Hampton and featured in The New York Times. ~photo by Scott Francis

She knows good design instinctively. She could be pointing out that a dress was well made if it had at least a 2 inch hem, invisible from the outside of course, or showing me the The Color Purple and reading to me To Kill A Mockingbird..  no matter the subject, she taught me the rules of beauty and design; even the ones we shouldn’t follow.

The other day a girlfriend of mine asked me about the color of a rug she was going to get for her dining room. I instinctively answered,

“It needs to be large enough so your guests’ chairs don’t fall off the edge when they slide back from the table.”

“I asked you about the color, not the size,” she said.

“I know, but scale and balance are so much more important than color. That’s the rule.”

Dining Room Designed by Suzanne Kassler~ notice the scale of the rug compared to the table and chairs.

Dining Room Designed by Suzanne Kassler~ notice the scale of the rug compared to the table and chairs.

There are some rules in design that should not be broken because when the scale and balance are off, the room is not as effective; it does not work like it could and should.

Just like life, right?

She told me I should write about the rules because some people don’t know them. I don’t know if she was just being a sweet girlfriend or telling the truth, but I am my mother’s daughter and the thought was inspiring.

Here is the first rule:

Your dining room rug needs to at least 36-48 inches wider than your table.

Your dining room rug needs to at least 36-48 inches wider than your table.

 

You don’t want a guest at your table hanging off the edge of your rug right in the middle of an important discussion.

You never know how crucial that discussion could be… it very well may be changing someone’s mind for the better.

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