10 of the Most Annoying — but Common — Layout Mistakes, Solved

published Aug 9, 2019
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Credit: Chloe Berk

We’re going to let you in on a little secret: Mistakes happen. It doesn’t matter how closely you follow decor trends or if you KonMari’d your home to the nines, there are always ways to improve your design game.

Take your space’s layout, for example. While your room’s configuration is by no means bad, but there are plenty of ways you can improve it. Chances are, you have no idea you’re even making these teeny, tiny mistakes in the first place. Take a deep breath; it’s all going to be okay.

At Apartment Therapy, we believe your home should make you—and really only you—happy. But if you’ve always felt like something was a little off, it might be one of these things. And the good news is it’s totally fixable. You just have to get a little creative.

To help make sure your home shines as bright as possible, we’re sharing ten of the most common (and annoying!) layout mistakes—and how to solve them:

Credit: Brian and Nicki Rohloff

Mistake #1: You always place your furniture against the walls

It’s often a default decision, especially in small spaces: Pushing all of your furniture up against the walls for more clearance for walking or because you think it’ll make your room seem more spacious. But you don’t have to fall into this trap, and it can actually have the exact opposite effect.

“Not all furniture pieces need to go against a wall,” says interior designer Tammy Price, owner of Los Angeles-based Fragments Identity. “Actually, you can create a very cozy space by building it out from the center of the room.”

So go ahead and move some of those anchor pieces, like your sofa or chairs, off of the walls. Or if you’re designing a room from scratch, stop relying on this decorating crutch to set furniture up—your room will actually be more inviting and warm if you switch things up this way.

Credit: Natalie Jeffcott

Mistake #2: Your dining table is gigantic

Maybe you host lots of dinner parties or Thanksgiving is always at your house. But that doesn’t mean your dining room or kitchen needs to be consumed by your table and chairs. Sure, removing a table leaf can help with proportions, but there’s a smarter solution.

“If you have a dining or eating table that is scaled too large for a space and gives you little room or not enough space for dining chairs, consider using benches for seating,” Price explains.

She suggests an upholstered bench or something wooden with a decorative topper like a sheepskin.

“This way, the benches can slide underneath the table and do not take up too much floor space,” says Price. 

Credit: Tamara Gavin

Mistake #3: You’re covering up the windows

This isn’t a cardinal decorating sin: We’ve all seen well-designed rooms where a headboard maybe extends up a few inches into a set of windows or a corner of the window is peeking out from behind the sofa because it’s so long. But if you can find a way to position your main pieces so they don’t eclipse your windows, you’ll get a lot more natural light in your place, and it’ll feel less stuffy.

“Look at sofas with low arms or no arms at all,” says interior decorator Liz Toombs, owner of PDR Interiors. “It will help to make your room look bigger.”

Credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion

Mistake #4: Your kitchen is filled with open shelving

Yes, open shelving is super Instagrammable. But unless you’re a bonafide type A who loves to enjoy rearranging your shelves constantly, you should find a kitchen with a layout that includes some closed storage. If you have no upper cabinets and a remodel isn’t in the cards, buy inexpensive, plain dinnerware and glasses so your stacks will at least be tidy. And Marie Kondo the heck out of your small appliance collection and serving pieces. 

Credit: Chloe Berk

Mistake #5: Your bed is too big

You may want to sleep like a king but if your bedroom is tiny, sizing down to a queen is probably best. If you’ve already made the investment though, not to worry.

“Consider putting the bed into the corner, where both sides are against two of the walls and add a rug to break it up,” suggests Price.

Or you can get rid of those massive nightstands, and use a pair of wall-mount shelves and sconces instead. 

Credit: Chris Stout-Hazard

Mistake #6: Your rug is way too small

Let’s be honest: Nothing looks more amateur hour decorator than a too-small rug. When you have a small rug, placing it in the center of your room can add insult to injury.

“Make sure at least the two front feet (if not all four) of your pieces of furniture are on the area rug,“ Toombs recommends.

If you have a small rug that you splurged on and love, layer it over a neutral sisal or jute carpet to get the sizing right on the cheap. Or use a couple of rugs to create a larger, patchwork effect, as seen in this living room.

Credit: Carina Romano

Mistake #7: Your bathroom vanity isn’t working

You probably want a big bathroom vanity — ideally with double sinks — for all of the space it offers for getting ready in the morning and storing your stuff. But if your bathroom doesn’t have the square footage to support one of these large built-in cabinets, best to go the route of the pedestal sink or something slender that’s wall-mounted and floating. You can supplement with other storage like a rolling cart or towel racks if need be. 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Mistake #8: You have too many clean-lined pieces in a room

If you like mid-century modern or contemporary design, chances are you have a lot of clean-lined pieces. Sometimes all of those rectangular and square pieces can muck up the flow of a room though, particularly when it comes to the relationship of your sofa to your coffee table in a small space. Not to worry though; all you have to do is introduce a circular table to the mix. Not only are rounded edges easier to walk around, but it’s also generally more visually pleasing when you balance out more angular pieces with some gently curved designs.

Mistake #9: You aren’t using your corners

Dead space is only “dead” if you don’t fill it, and empty corners are there for the taking. You don’t have to put something in every single corner of your home, but you might benefit by reclaiming some of these nooks and crannies. Say you’re short on square footage in a bedroom. Try pushing your bed into a corner to free up floorspace elsewhere in the room. Have several empty corners in a living room? Add a hanging plant or a fill the void with a pedestal you can top with a bust or sculpture. You could even mount some kind of shelving in a corner. If you’re ever looking for more spots to display your stuff, empty corners may be where it’s at.

Credit: Anna Spaller

Mistake 10: You aren’t hanging your mirrors in optimal places

Mirrors bounce light around a space, but only if they’re properly placed. If possible, make sure that when you hang a looking glass, it’s placed directly across from a window where natural light pours in. That way, your mirror has something to reflect — other than your reflection!