Decorating your home can be an exciting and rewarding process. However, it’s all too easy to commit decorating faux pas that can make your space look cluttered, dated or just plain bad. Avoid these 12 deadly decorating sins to create a stylish, cohesive and comfortable home you’ll be proud of.
Picking the Wrong Paint Colors
Choosing the wrong paint colors is one of the most common decorating mistakes. When selecting paint colors, consider the size of the room, the amount of natural light it gets and the furnishings you already have. Small rooms look best in light, airy colors like soft blues, greens or grays. Dark colors can make small spaces feel closed in. Rooms with ample natural light can handle deeper, bolder paint colors. Make sure to pick a paint color that works with your existing furniture and decor. A color that clashes with everything else in the room will look haphazard and messy.
When selecting paint colors, stick to a cohesive color palette. Pick one light color for your walls and one or two darker accent colors to use sparingly on moldings, doors and furnishings. Limit your paint colors to two or three per room for a polished, designer look.
Tips for Choosing Paint Colors
- Opt for neutral wall colors like beige, gray or soft blue-green for a tranquil background.
- Use accent colors sparingly on moldings, doors or furniture.
- Make sure your paint colors coordinate with your furnishings and decor.
- Limit your color palette to just 2-3 colors per room.
- Avoid bright, bold paint colors in small spaces.
Hanging Artwork Too High
Hanging artwork too high on the wall is a very common decorating mistake. Picture frames hung too high look out of balance and awkward. As a general rule of thumb, artwork should be hung about 57-60 inches from the floor. For large wall art, you can go slightly higher, up to about 66 inches.
The center of the artwork should be at eye level so you can properly see and appreciate the piece. Of course, you’ll need to adjust for the size and shape of the frame. When arranging multiple pieces of art together, hang them at the same height for consistency.
Tips for Hanging Artwork:
- Center artwork 57-66 inches from the floor.
- Large pieces can go slightly higher.
- Hang all pieces in a grouping at the same height.
- Adjust height so center of frame is at eye level.
Cluttering Up Your Coffee Table
Coffee tables are notorious for becoming catch-alls for remote controls, magazines, mail and other household clutter. While coffee tables provide useful surface area in living rooms, cluttered coffee tables create a messy, disorganized look.
To avoid this common decorating faux pas, regularly clean off your coffee table. Store remotes, coasters and other essentials in baskets or trays when not in use. Keep just 2-3 neat stacks of books and magazines along with a couple decorative items like candles or a vase. Make sure items are dusted and properly arranged.
With just a few items, properly maintained, your coffee table can look neat and attractive. Resist the urge to pile on too many things.
Coffee Table Decor Tips:
- Regularly remove clutter from the coffee table.
- Store essentials like remotes in baskets when not in use.
- Keep just 2-3 neat stacks of books/magazines.
- Limit yourself to a couple decorative items.
- Dust regularly and keep items orderly.
Hanging Curtains Too Low
Hanging curtains too low is a very common decorating mistake. Curtain rods installed too low make windows appear shorter and ceilings seem lower. For proper proportions, mount curtain rods as close to the ceiling as possible.
As a general guideline, install the rod about 3-4 inches below the ceiling molding. For 8 foot ceilings, place the rod about 8-10 inches from the ceiling. You can go even higher if you have tall windows. Hang the rod high enough so the curtains clear the window frame when open.
Having curtains too low makes the room look out of balance. Hang rods at the proper height to elongate your windows for an elegant, finished look.
Tips for Hanging Curtain Rods:
- Mount rods as close to ceiling as possible.
- Place 3-4 inches below molding for 8+ foot ceilings.
- Allow 8-10 inches for 8 foot ceilings.
- Go higher for tall windows.
- Make sure curtains clear the window frame.
Not Measuring Furniture Before Buying
Failing to properly measure the room before purchasing furnishings is an all too common decorating mistake. Eyeballing furniture sizes usually doesn’t work. Items often end up too large or too small for the intended space. This makes the room look haphazard and messy.
Before making any furniture purchases, carefully measure your room’s dimensions. Account for irregularities like bay windows or fireplaces. Have a measuring tape handy when furniture shopping. Take measurements of items you intend to buy to ensure they will fit properly.
Don’t assume furniture will fit because it looks right. Always take measurements first so you can avoid returns, exchanges and disappointments.
Furniture Buying Tips:
- Carefully measure room dimensions beforehand.
- Account for any irregularities in the space.
- Bring a measuring tape when furniture shopping.
- Take measurements of items before purchasing.
- Don’t rely on sight alone – always measure first.
Placing a Rug Too Small for the Space
A rug that is too small for the furniture grouping creates an awkward, uneven look. The rug needs to be large enough for the front legs of surrounding furniture to rest on it. If the rug is too small, furniture pieces will look like they are haphazardly floating in space.
Measure the dimensions of the furniture in the room before purchasing an area rug. Pay attention to irregularities like a fireplace or radiator that reduce usable floor space. Buy the largest rug that will fit the space while allowing furniture to sit atop it.
If possible, leave 12-18 inches between the edges of the rug and surrounding walls. This frames the rug nicely without making the room look crowded. Properly measuring for rug size makes a space look neat, balanced and pulled-together.
Area Rug Size Tips:
- Measure room dimensions and furniture sizes first.
- Ensure rug is large enough for front furniture legs to rest on.
- Allow 12-18 inches between rug edges and walls.
- Account for irregularities like fireplaces when sizing.
- Buy the largest rug that will fit the space.
Not Having Enough Lighting
Having too little lighting is a very common decorating mistake. Rooms can end up looking dark, gloomy and cave-like without adequate illumination. As a general guideline, every room should have a mix of ambient, task and accent lighting.
Ambient lighting illuminates the entire room. Add ambient lighting with flush or semi-flush ceiling fixtures. Task lighting aids specific activities like reading or cooking. Wall sconces, pendant lights or recessed lighting work well for task lighting. Accent lighting draws attention to particular features like artwork. Use directional lights or track lighting for accent illumination.
Also make sure lighting is properly layered with a mix of overhead and secondary lighting. Illuminate all work areas appropriately. Avoid shadows in seating areas. With the right lighting design, your room will look welcoming and polished.
- Provide ambient, task and accent lighting.
- Layer overhead and secondary lighting.
- Illuminate all work and seating areas appropriately.
- Add ceiling fixtures for ambient lighting.
- Use directional lighting for accents.
- Install task lighting as needed.
Decorating Too Matchy-Matchy
Designing spaces that are too matchy-matchy with overly coordinated furnishings looks boring, uninspired and outdated. While you want some cohesiveness in your decor, strict matching creates a bland, monotonous look.
Try combining furnishings and decor in complementary colors and patterns rather than identical items. For example, pick pillows in varying blue tones rather than all the same blue. Select subtly varied throw blankets instead of 100% matching ones.
Introduce contrast with pieces like a black and white geometric rug or vibrant artwork. Layer in some furniture and accessories from different style eras for visual interest. The key is creating a collected look that feels personal, not rigidly uniform.
Tips to Avoid Being Too Matchy:
- Combine similar but not identical items.
- Use complementary colors/patterns, not 100% matches.
- Add contrast with bold art and rugs.
- Mix in varied furnishings and accents.
- Create a collected look, not strict uniformity.
Not Having a Focal Point
Forgetting to create a strong focal point is a common decorating mistake. Focal points add visual interest and balance to a space. The most obvious focal points are fireplaces or large statement pieces like shelving units. But anything eye-catching can serve as a focal point.
Primary focal points include fireplaces, large windows and standalone features like statues or furniture. Secondary focal points include groupings of photos, art arrangements or collections. Position the focal point so your eye naturally gravitates to it when entering the room.
Keep the area around the focal point simple. Avoid clutter competing for attention. Make sure lighting illuminates the focal area. Repeat colors or shapes from the focal feature throughout the space for a cohesive look.
Creating Focal Points:
- Identify the room’s natural focal point.
- Arrange furniture to highlight the focal feature.
- Keep the surrounding area simple and uncluttered.
- Use lighting to draw attention to the focal point.
- Echo colors/shapes from the focal point throughout the room.
Placing Furniture Against the Wall
Lining all the furniture along the walls leaves an empty void in the center of the room. This default furniture arrangement makes spaces feel cavernous and impersonal. Proper furniture placement establishes intimate seating areas for conversation and functionality.
Pull sofas and chairs away from the walls to define seating areas. Angle furniture to create an inviting, communal feel. Place complementary pieces together to form stylish vignettes. Floating furniture reflects a purposeful layout, not just haphazard wall-lining.
Leave enough space between groupings and traffic paths for easy movement. Make sure each seating area has a focal point like a coffee table. Thoughtful, balanced furniture placement makes rooms feel welcoming and full.
Furniture Placement Tips:
- Pull furniture away from the walls.
- Create organized seating/activity areas.
- Angle complementary pieces together.
- Leave space between groupings for traffic flow.
- Give each seating area a focal point.
Displaying Too Many Knickknacks
Filling every surface with decorative figurines and trinkets looks busy, cluttered and outdated. A few meaningful keepsakes displayed in an organized fashion look infinitely better than overcrowded surfaces.
When trimming knickknacks and collectibles, store the items you rarely notice or appreciate. Keep just your very favorite pieces that elicit happy memories and emotions. Arrange like items together in an orderly, artful way.
Group collected items on trays or in baskets to contain them visually. Limit yourself to 2-3 collections per room for simplicity. Use decorative books and plants to take up space instead of knickknacks. Thoughtfully curated keepsakes have much more impact than cluttered collections.
Knickknack Display Tips:
- Store little-loved items out of sight.
- Only display your very favorite pieces.
- Group similar items in an orderly arrangement.
- Contain collections in baskets or trays.
- Limit yourself to 2-3 curated groupings per room.
Choosing the Wrong Area Rug
An area rug has tremendous impact on the look and feel of a room. Choosing the wrong rug size, color, shape or pattern can throw off the whole space. When selecting an area rug, let your existing furnishings guide the choice.
The rug color should coordinate with your room’s color scheme. If your furnishings are dark, choose a lighter rug to balance the space. In rooms with minimal color, pick a rug with bold patterns or color accents. Make sure the rug is large enough for the furnishings but still allows some floor to show.
In terms of shape, rectangular rugs work well in most spaces. Round rugs suit rooms with lots of furniture anchoring the space. Oval and octagonal rugs add visual interest but still work with most layouts. Choose a rug suited to the room’s shape, color scheme and furnishings.
Area Rug Selection Tips:
- Let existing furnishings guide your choice.
- Coordinate rug color with overall room scheme.
- Choose rounded rugs for heavily furnished rooms.
- Opt for rectangular or oval rugs in most spaces.
- Make sure rug is large enough for furnishings.
- Show some bare floor around edges of rug.
Picking Impractical Fabrics
Selecting upholstery and accent fabrics based on looks alone is a common decorating mistake. Just because you love the color or pattern doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for your home and lifestyle. Durability and maintenance should be top considerations.
For high traffic areas like family rooms, choose sturdy upholstery fabrics like leather, microfiber or synthetic blends. Save delicate velvets and linens for formal living rooms. Washable slipcovers are useful for households with kids and pets. Check that accent fabrics are colorfast and stain resistant.
Pay attention to fabric details like double rubbing scores and stain protection. Do a reality check on your family’s habits before selecting fabrics. Choosing the most practical, durable options will extend the life of your upholstery.
Fabric Selection Tips:
- Prioritize durability and easy maintenance.
- Choose family-friendly fabrics for high-traffic areas.
- Opt for washable slipcovers where practical.
- Check details like rubbing scores and stain protection.
- Save delicate fabrics for formal rooms.
- Be realistic about your family’s habits.
Hanging Too Many Small Pictures
Plastering the wall with a collage of framed photos and art may seem fun and personal. But walls overloaded with many small pictures look messy and haphazard. This shotgun style of art display lacks design elegance.
Limit yourself to just 20-30 percent wall usage for framed pieces. Too many pictures compete visually and create clutter. Arrange similar-sized prints in orderly groupings centered around furniture. Include medium and large-sized art among the small pieces for proper scale.
Sometimes less is more with photo displays. Highlight just your very favorite images. Choose frames that complement your decor. Group family photos on a gallery ledge rather than scattering them. Thoughtfully curated art has much more impact than haphazard collages.
Tips for Hanging Pictures
- Cover just 20-30 percent of wall space.
- Arrange similar-sized pieces in orderly groupings.
- Mix in some medium and large-size prints.
- Limit displays to very favorite photos.
- Choose frames that match your decor.
- Gallery ledges work better than scattering.
Making TVs the Room Focus
With giant flatscreens dominating many living rooms, it’s important not to let TVs take over as the focal point by default. While you want a comfortable viewing area, avoid letting it become the room’s sole focus. Position the TV on a side or secondary wall whenever possible.
Incorporate architectural details like shelving and millwork around the TV area. Flank the television with decorative items or framed art. Make sure other seating areas have focal points so the TV isn’t the only attention-getter. Light the surrounding space well to balance TV glare.
With careful planning, you can have ideal TV viewing without sacrificing style. Allocate enough space for screen viewing while creating an overall room ambiance conducive to conversation and community. The TV should accent your design, not dominate it.
TV Placement Tips:
- Avoid placing TVs on the main focal wall.
- Position on a secondary wall if possible.
- Incorporate architectural details around the TV.
- Illuminate surrounding space well.
- Give other seating areas unique focal points.
- Flank TV with decorative items and art.
Forgetting Room Function
One of the most fundamental decorating mistakes is overlooking a room’s intended function. Just because a space is designated the “dining room” doesn’t mean it only needs a table. Analyze how your family really lives and interacts in each room.
Consider the activities that typically happen and furnishings that will facilitate functionality. Then problem-solve creatively so the room works efficiently. For example, if kids do homework at the dining table, incorporate bookshelves and file storage nearby.
Make sure lighting accommodates each space’s real-life uses. Select durable, family-friendly fabrics based on room habits. Don’t just set up “model” rooms – create spaces tailored to your family’s needs.
Designing for Function:
- Analyze how each room is actually used.
- Note typical activities and required furnishings.
- Problem-solve creatively to maximize functionality.
- Add built-ins for storage and efficiency.
- Make sure lighting accommodates real-life uses.
- Select fabrics suited to the room’s habits.
Decorating a Home That Reflects Your Style
Decorating and furnishing a home you truly love requires forethought and creativity. By avoiding common decorating pitfalls, you can create functional, beautiful rooms tailored to your family’s lifestyle. Determine your aesthetic by clipping magazine photos and browsing Pinterest and Instagram. Establish a cohesive color palette and style vision before making purchases.
Always measure spaces and furnishings carefully. Select hardworking fabrics designed for durability. Include ample layered lighting and comfortable, flexible seating arrangements. Display your favorite collected items and meaningful artwork in a curated fashion. Establish unique focal points in each room.
Most importantly, make sure your home reflects who you are. Mix favorite nostalgic pieces with new acquisitions. Include personalized details like family photos and kids’ artwork. With careful planning and decorating savvy, you can create a home that perfectly suits your family’s needs and brings you joy.