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15 Rookie Design & Decor Mistakes

Decorating your own home is a lot harder than it seems. Putting together a cohesive design among various rooms can be a struggle, and even just making one room look photo-ready can take longer than you'd think.

1 - Nothing's Changed For Years

Has decor ennui crept in? You could just be tired of the same old, same old. We all have favorite styles, but it’s easy to get stuck in a groove. Shake things up. Reignite your passion and inject new energy and interest into your home by mixing up what you already have or adding some new accessories. Change bedding and pillows and move houseplants, chairs, lamps and rugs around. Reposition furniture for a fresh perspective.

2 - Over-Decorating

There’s an understandable temptation, especially in small spaces, to keep all the furniture and decor you’ve ever owned, and to decorate every nook and cranny. This can result in an overdone space that feels too cramped and cluttered that’s in desperate need of some negative space. Instead, it’s best to edit, pare back, and practice restraint when styling. Most importantly, saying goodbye (or storing) to some furniture and knick-knacks will ultimately result in a space that feels calmer, cozier, and more inviting.

3 - Under-Decorating

There’s a time for rebranding scant furniture and bare walls as “minimalism,” and that time is college. Successful minimalism is actually incredibly hard to achieve — you want your space to feel calming and understated, not unfinished and stark. Make sure you have enough furniture to adequately fill up the floor plan (even poufs and nesting tables can do the trick) and remember: going minimalist doesn’t mean cutting out decor. Save budget for the finishing touches, like books, vases, florals, candles, textiles, and beyond.

4 - Lining The Walls With Furniture

A common design mistake we see often is placing all of the furniture along the walls, leaving the center of the room bare and empty. While it might seem counterintuitive, floating some of the furniture off the walls (particularly pieces like sofas and accent chairs) will actually give the illusion of a larger, more layered, space. 

5 - Over-Scaled Furniture

The dimensions of your furniture should relate to the size of your room. A huge sectional can easily overwhelm a small living space. At the same time, a skinny loveseat might look tiny in a room with soaring vaulted ceilings. Scale the furniture size up or down depending on your room constraints to ensure a proportional look. TIP: Measure your rooms and come up with a layout before shopping for furniture.

6 - Outdated, Worn or Frat Furniture

College-era furniture definitely comes in handy once you graduate and start decorating your first space. Or maybe you keep covering that stain with a pillow. We all need to start somewhere, both financially and design-wise. But it’s more about knowing when to retire pieces like futons, sectionals found on the curb, bean bag chairs, movie posters, and the like. Once you’re financially able, consider upgrading the futon to a more sophisticated daybed, swapping out the posters for artwork that inspires you, and investing in a proper dresser. It’s amazing how switching out a few old pieces can immediately breath new life into a space.

7 - Skimpy Lighting

Relying only on overhead lighting can create a harsh and sterile atmosphere. A designer rule of thumb is layering in at least two to four additional lighting sources in every space, especially in living rooms, where you’ll be both lounging and hosting. Mix table lamps, floor lamps, and sconces to create a warm and welcoming ambiance.

8 - Hanging Art Too High

We often find that artwork is hung too high (or sometimes too low), especially when positioned over a piece of furniture, like a sofa or sideboard. The common tendency is to leave a large amount of space between the artwork and the furniture, which makes the piece look like it’s floating, rather than a part of a cohesive vignette. Fortunately, there’s an easy rule of thumb for this: art should typically hang at eye level (of course, there are exceptions to every rule). When in doubt, mind the gap.

9 - Too-Small Artwork

When selecting artwork for your home, we say go big or go home. While we love an unexpected, asymmetric art moment where a small, single piece hangs off-center above a bed or fireplace mantel, pulling this off takes an expert eye (more on that here). Generally speaking, too-small artwork can appear as if it’s floating on a large, blank wall — you want to fill up the space and make the artwork feel intentional, not unfinished. This can be achieved with one or two oversized paintings, like in the above dining room, or a robust gallery wall.

10 - Cliche Art

In general, avoid generic printed quotes, particularly on wood blocks, that read “Live, Laugh, Love” or “Keep Calm…” Instead, fill your home with art that holds some meaning to you — whether purchased while traveling, discovered at a local flea market, passed down from a loved one, or simply a scene that makes you feel something. Of course, if the aforementioned word art does that for you, then by all means, go for it!

11- Faux Decor & Plastic Storage

Be careful displaying too many "fake" items such as plastic or fabric baskets and storage, battery candles, silk flowers, and famous museum art copies. Nothing replaces real flickering candles, a vase of fresh flowers, a woven basket, and thoughtfully curated decor items. Opt for refinishing a simple chest of drawers or re-organizing your closets to stow away clutter.

12 - Tiny Rugs

We get it — it’s so tempting to save money and opt for a smaller rug, but in our opinion, this is not the area to skimp. When rugs are too small for a space, the room automatically feels unfinished and bare. It’s better to shop at a more wallet-friendly brand and purchase a rug that’s the appropriate size for your room and your layout, rather than investing in a smaller (but high-end) piece. The go-to designer rule is to make sure at least the front legs of all your furniture sit easily on the rug.

13 - Skipping or Short Draperies

One of the most common decor mistakes we see involves curtains, or lack thereof. From passing on them altogether to opting for buying a too-short pair to save a bit of money, window treatments leave plenty of room for error. But curtains are like mascara for a designer — they make a space feel put together and complete. Our rule of thumb is to always go high and wide:  hang the curtain rod four to six inches above the window frame, and extend it outwards so that the curtains are just dusting the sides of the frame. That way, you’re not blocking any precious light. Second, curtains should touch the floor — no ankle crops here. Floor length curtains help create more visual height (particularly in a small space), and draw the eye upward.

14 - Skimping on the Details

We know all too well how easy it is to lose steam at the end of a design project and shirk the finishing touches — whether from an energy perspective, budget perspective, or both. Always reserve a little cash and elbow grease to style your coffee table, media unit, floating shelves, sofa, and beyond — these finishing touches are what give a home personality, character, and charm!

15 - Playing It Safe

At the end of the day, well-designed spaces — the ones that make you think, Wow, now that’s a home — often involve a little bit of risk-taking. Whether it’s the addition of bold colors or patterns, a statement piece of furniture (we’re into curves these days), or tackling a new paint trend, our best advice is to never take design too seriously. Have fun, play around, try something new. The risk is often worth the reward.



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