Are You Making These 7 Rookie Decorating Mistakes?

published Jan 2, 2017
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(Image credit: Suzy Hoodless)

Since we spend so much of our time discussing design on Apartment Therapy, I’m willing to bet that most of us have pretty good-looking homes. But style is all in the details, and sometimes it’s easy to overlook things that are right in front of you, day after day. Read on for the small things that might be letting your home down, and the easy tweaks you can make to change them.

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Ignoring scale and flow.

It’s difficult to envision how your new furniture will fill your space, and having a solid furniture plan in place can help avoid mistakes in scale and flow. By drawing out your room in scale, you can see what works and what might not be quite right in terms of usage, size and what might block circulation paths. A larger sofa or sectional in the living room above from Suzy Hoodless could have easily blocked the doorway at right if not planned for properly. Same goes for choosing a side chair for the narrow space rather than a larger love seat which would have restricted the room’s flow.

(Image credit: House & Garden)

Playing it too safe with color.

I understand wanting a neutral base to decorate against: It’s versatile, can be easily updated, it’s reassuring. But sometimes, it’s also boring. Spaces which make you take note are rarely decorated in a sea of beige or gray. I bet the first thing you noticed about the image above from House & Garden was the vibrant red wall, right? A deep wall color, brightly-hued drapes or even a statement sofa will all up the style quotient of your home—you don’t have to do them all, but I’d urge you to consider incorporating at least one.

(Image credit: Design Sponge)

Thinking white will fix your space issues.

While we’re talking about color choices, let’s get down to specifics and tackle this common misconception: I hate to break it to you, but painting a small, dark room white won’t help it look any larger. White works best in spaces which get a lot of natural light, and it can’t magically create space where there is none.

If you have a smaller space that you wish to appear larger, you’d be better off using a mid-tone or even a deep shade (how luscious are the peacock walls in the above powder room from Design Sponge?)—think about it, you want those walls to recede away from you, giving the impression of space. The same goes for creating light—white just looks dirty in a dim room, so you’re better off going with a cozy color.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Not using a palette.

I’m a staunch advocate for using color, but I’m not saying that anything goes. Not having a color plan in place can be a recipe for a decorating disaster, as over time things can seem disjointed. You want your home to feel cohesive, so deciding on a loose, flexible palette (see “Being too one-note” below) and sticking to it is a great way of achieving that.

(Image credit: Alicia Macias)

Haphazard hanging.

I’m talking about art hung too high, curtains hung too low or too narrow, and light fixtures hung at awkward heights over tables. All of these pitfalls have the potential to sabotage the finish of your home, making spaces feel smaller, darker and more uncomfortable. Luckily, these problems are easily fixed.

(Image credit: The Debrief)

Being too one-note.

A considered, cohesive scheme is one thing, but a place which feels too designed, in color or style, can easily become boring. The best spaces have a bit of tension to them—a quirky piece of furniture, an unexpected light fixture, a surprising piece of art hung off-center. The hue of the green velvet chair in the bedroom above from The Debrief breaks up the yellow-and-burgundy color palette nicely without standing out too harshly.

(Image credit: House & Home)

Buying rugs that are too small.

Few things in home decor look as sad as a bunch of dining chairs clinging to the edges of an area rug like castaways on a raft. Ditto for rugs in the living room that barely support the coffee table and nothing more. A larger rug will not only make your home look more sophisticated, but the room itself will look larger, as the scale of a larger floorcovering tricks the eye into creating square footage. Check out our handy rug size guide below to avoid this common mistake.

Re-edited from a post that originally appeared 01.07.2017. – AH

(Image credit: House & Home)