13 Decorating Mistakes To Avoid

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Interior design should be a reflection of your personal preferences and the styles that make you truly feel at home. That aside, some faux pas are just too much to handle. To err on the side of caution, use the following 13 rules to home decorating as a basic guide to what not to do when styling your home.

Buying Furnishings Just Because They Are on Sale

A sale is only a deal if you actually like what you bought. Don’t get sucked in to a $20 rawhide lamp if your current theme is Parisian glam. It’s always better to wait for items that you can not only afford, but can actually use, than to cram your home with sale items that look out of place, or just don’t make you say “wow.” You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Too Many Unrelated Patterns

It’s great to use a few patterns that work well together, but it’s chaotic to mix and match several patterns with nothing in common. Polka dots, toile and paisley should probably stay far, far away from each other, especially in your décor. The secret is to keep at least one color the same throughout all the patterns, and choose designs on the same scale of size. Play it safe by only using one pattern among a mix of solid colors.

Knickknack Overload

It’s easy to get carried away with collectibles. After all, if a few knickknacks are good, then more must be better, right? Unfortunately, too many decorating accents create a hodgepodge, and quickly become a dusting nightmare. Limit yourself to a collection of just a few of your very favorite pieces, and keep them grouped together for impact. Even sentimental collections should be kept out of public areas like the living room. Not everyone needs to see all 300 of your ceramic cat figurines.

Everything Matches

While you want to avoid chaos in your decorating, you also want to avoid the opposite extreme of having your entire room decorated in a single color or design. While purchasing the entire floor display of the local furniture shop is easy, it’s also boring and does nothing to reflect your own personality. Furnishings don’t need to match, just to relate by virtue of color, design or material. Always use at least one other color in your design, and mix materials that blend well together. An all-black-leather room is just weird.

Pictures Hung At The Wrong Height

A very common mistake is hanging pictures too high or too low. Your artwork should be hung at the eye level of the viewer. Take a moment to look at the blank wall. Where does your eyesight naturally fall? That’s the height you should aim for. A big open area looks best with one large picture or several smaller pictures, and they should be arranged to balance the space. If you have a sloping ceiling or permanent fixtures attached to the wall, hang your pictures at a height that balances things out. When hanging a grouping of artwork, some should be below eyelevel, some above, to achieve a harmonized look.

Using An Area Rug That’s Too Small

Your area rug shouldn’t be floating in the center of the room. Not only is that a tripping hazard, it looks tacky. A rug looks best anchored with furniture on the edges or center; and with only one or two feet of the flooring exposed. If you can’t afford a large rug to go beneath your dining or coffee table, it may just be better to hold off and save up for one.

Furniture In Weird Sizes

A small room looks crowded and uncomfortable stuffed with oversized furniture. A large room looks unfinished and comical with small pieces. Your furniture needs to be scaled to your room, but that doesn’t mean each piece should be the same size. Choose furniture that is the right size for your home, but vary the height and width of your pieces, always keeping a balance between them. If you can’t walk freely between pieces, your furniture is too large. If your room appears bare even when it’s furnished, your pieces are likely too small. Rather than adding more small chairs, couches or tables, purchase larger versions to fill the room but keep clutter to a minimum.

Overdoing A Theme

While having a theme to your decorating looks nice, going overboard looks strange. Don’t get carried away with sticking to your beach theme, western theme, or retro decorating scheme. You want your home to look like real people live there, not like a set for a movie. Break up a heavy decorating theme with a few pieces in a neutral style.

Keeping The Center Of The Room Bare

While it makes sense to keep most of your furniture against the wall, break up the flow with a coffee table, ottoman or small table that moves to the center of the room. Bare centers look unfinished, and give your house a dancehall vibe you probably weren’t going for.

Going Crazy With Throw Pillows

Two or three throw pillows make a sofa inviting and comfortable. A stack of pillows filling most of the couch makes it difficult to sit, and tend to get knocked to the floor or piled up to one side. Remember, these pillows are only for decoration, and don’t need to be bought in bulk like you’re saving up for winter. If you find yourself constantly adding to your collection, consider switching out the pillows to fit the changing seasons, rather than simply adding more and more.

Bad Lighting

Whether you like your home dark as a bat cave or lit up like a laboratory, you’re going to need the right lighting for the right rooms. Keep your living room and kitchen well lit. You’ll use these areas to read, eat and handle sharp things. Living rooms used to watch TV may not need as much light, but always make sure lamps or overhead lighting can clearly illuminate walkways throughout your home. Overly lit rooms can also look harsh and call attention to flaws in your architecture or décor. Find a happy medium and you’ll appreciate the effect. Place light bulbs in varying wattages around the room to give yourself the option to set the mood with low lighting, or brighten things up for safety.

Plastic Plants

If your thumb is so brown you kill even the hardiest of houseplants, invest in quality silk greenery, not plastic. Plants, like people, don’t look great with bad plastic work.

Lack Of Color

While a palette of neutrals can be restful and sophisticated, a room decorated entirely in beige due to lack of courage in bringing in color just looks boring. Spark things up with a few colorful accents. Cheerful artwork, colorful toss pillows or a small collection of bright ceramic figurines will liven the room without getting too rambunctious.

Your home should make you feel good every time you step inside. Decorating to suit your own personal style is a big part of that comfort, but avoid breaking too many style rules to keep things looking good.

Last Updated: August 23, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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