As the daughter of an oil painter, I grew up being told that there are no mistakes in art, only opportunities to add a little more paint. The same creative optimism transfers well to the decorating realm too. There really are very few decor dilemmas that can't be solved with well-placed curtains, toss pillows, or art arrangements.
Wall-to-wall carpet. True, not everybody sees wall-to-wall as a problem. It can be great for comfort and sound absorption, and there are plenty of beautiful options for those looking to go that route. But let's be honest, the average rental carpet is—at the very least—a soul-sucking beige abyss. How to deal? Break up the beige! Layering the carpet with a decorative rug that suits your taste is a great option. Tie the rug in with coordinating pillows and/or wall color, and you will hardly notice the offending mammoth. Our budget den makeover came together with the addition of the rug. Before adding it, the combination of the beige sofa and beige wall-to-wall carpet was hard to swallow. The whole room looked oatmeal. While the room is still not perfect, the rug added a lot more life to space.
The Ugly Arm Chair. I don't know why so many homes have them. We are free to choose what comes in and what goes out, but the proverbial ugly arm chair— in your case, it may be an ugly sofa instead— is found in nearly every home. Some are simply placeholders, some are too comfortable to give up, and some of us are just too sentimental or sweet to give away a family hand-me-down. I'm a decorator, I strangers purge their homes of ugly for a living, but I am so guilty of this! The main offender in my house is an old brown tweed wingback chair given to us by my husband's grandparents. It's an old friend, and even though it's not quite my style and it's too big for the room, it's with us for the long haul. Draping the back with textural throws and a slouchy pillow makes it less of a big brown mass and ties it into the relaxed feel of the room.
Off-Center Windows. Whether we fancy ourselves free spirits or followers, we all crave at least a taste of symmetry. Which is why off-center windows are so hard to get past. They make it difficult to anchor big pieces of furniture, and can make a whole room feel center-less. To compensate try using window treatments to your advantage. Lindsay Bond's house, featured in House Beautiful, is full of genius curtain tricks. However, her office deserves special attention. Not only does the wall of curtains create a soft dimension in the functional space, but it also tricks the eye into perceiving the whole wall as a wall of windows even though there is only one against the right wall. Adding bookshelves and art in front of the window further distracts the eye from the lack of symmetry.
In some cases, things like cornices or double width curtain panels can also work. For example, in a bedroom makeover that I did for two teenage girls, there were two windows on the same wall that were not only off-center but also different sizes. We faked symmetry by framing the windows with two identical width cornices the same width as the headboards below. We hung both cornices against the wall even though only one of the windows was placed against the wall. For the narrower window, we also used fuller drapes to make it look as wide as the bigger window.
(Images: 1, 2 & 4: Leah Moss for Apartment Therapy 3. Jonny Valiant for House Beautiful)