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8 Common Decorating Mistakes and How to Fix Them

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We *all* make decorating mistakes.  Yes, everyone, including the professionals.  Decorating is an art form and sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Of course, it’s always best when you can get it right on the first try, so here are 8 common decorating mistakes and how to fix them.

collage showing 8 common decorating mistakes and how to fix them

Mistake #1: Pushing Furniture Against the Walls

Often times, people think that in order to make a room look bigger, they should put all of the furniture against the walls so as to leave as much room as possible in the center, thus giving the illusion of more space. 

Unfortunately, this actually makes the room look smaller! 

Why?  Because pushed against the walls, the furniture mimics the shape of the room and so puts the focus on the shape of the room instead of the beauty of the furnishings.  Also, the room will often look crowded on the perimeter and empty in the middle, which jars the eye.  It will be just a plain box of a room instead of a space with interest and dimension.

Solution #1: Pull Furniture Into Conversational Groupings

As an alternative, pull furniture away from the walls and create more intimate conversational groupings.  If the room truly is small and it’s necessary to put the sofa on the wall, move it at least 2-3 inches away just so that a shadow will be created, which will add just a bit of dimension to the space.

Here are some general spacing guidelines for a living room:

  • Amount of space for a walkway: 26″-36″
  • Distance between chairs: 4″-12″ or the distance of an accent table
  • Distance between furniture and coffee table: 8″-18″ (within arm’s reach)
  • Furthest distance between seating: 8 feet

For more decorating measurements, see {THIS POST}.

Conversational Grouping | Life on Cedar Lane

White family room with two chairs and two slipcovered sofas.

Mistake #2: Recreating a Showroom

Browsing through catalogs is so much fun and provides tons of inspiration, but let’s be honest, no one lives in those showcase rooms!  While beautiful, they lack the individuality that makes a house a home.  So while you look for ideas and inspiration in catalogs and on showroom floors, don’t make the mistake of trying to recreate those *exact* looks in your own home.

No one lives in a showroom!

Solution #2: Make Your Home Uniquely YOU!

If you find a look you love, recreate as little or as much of it as you want in your own home, but then add in touches that are uniquely you!  Maybe it’s a favorite color, a family heirloom, a collection you have, seasonal touches, etc. Just be sure that if you’re using a showroom as your inspiration, that you make the effort individualize it to reflect you and your family!

Add personal touches that reflect your taste and your style.

Artwork Grouping | Art Print Beauty

Entryway with bird pictures hanging above antique chest of drawers and chairs

Mistake #3: Going Too Trendy

I realize that to some, this is a controversial topic, but to clarify, I’m not suggesting that you avoid purchasing trendy home decor, but rather that you try not to purchase trendy items for your big, expensive, investment pieces. 

Big ticket items shouldn’t be trendy!

Why?  Because once they are out of style, you probably won’t like them as much but they’re too expensive to replace on a regular basis!  Admittedly, everything moves in and out of fashion all the time, but some things go out of fashion much more quickly than others.  For example, if you purchase a sofa in Classic Blue {Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year}, will you still like it in 2021 when it’s out of style? Or what about the olive green appliances that are popping up now?

Solution #3: Start Small

The bottom line is this: for expensive items or permanent fixtures in your home, select colors and materials that you feel you will love and enjoy for many years to come, regardless of whether they are in style.  Pick items that will have longevity for youDoing so is a much more economical and budget-friendly way to decorate.  And if you still want that touch of olive green, use it in your accent items!

Neutral Furniture with Blue Accent Pillows | Sita Montgomery Interiors

Large beige sectional in great room with white kitchen and blue accents

Blue Accent Chairs | Ballard Designs

Traditional living room with white sofa and blue chairs around fireplace

Mistake #4: Using the Incorrect Scale

In the world of interior design, “scale” refers to the size of an object in relation to the size of the room, as well as to the size of other objects in a room. 

A common mistake is to purchase furnishings and decor that are either too big or too small for the room.  If furnishings are too big for a room, they look as if they are overpowering the space.  If they are too small, it will look as if the room is eating them up. 

Solution #4: Make Your Furnishings Fit

The goal is to achieve the Goldilocks effect – scale that is juuuuuussst riiiiiiiiggght.  When the scale is right, furnishings will look as if they fill the space without dominating it and you will have achieved a sense of balance and harmony.

In general, big rooms can handle bigger furniture, smaller rooms need small pieces.

For small rooms, look for more streamlined furniture items that don’t take up precious space. Large roll-arm sofas are comfortable, but the wide armrests can take up valuable space in a tight area.

Also pick a mixture of items to keep the room from looking too one-dimensional. Look for both tall and short, soft lines and hard lines, big pieces and small decor.

Test it Out First

If you’re not sure whether an item will fit nicely in your room, get the dimensions and then physically mark the space on the floor,  You can lay out newspapers in the shape of the item or use painter’s tape on the floor.  The goal is to get a better 3D representation.

For some rule-of-thumb guidelines when it comes to furniture and space planning, click {here}.

Vaulted Ceiling with Tall Headboard | Kellynan

Master bedroom with gray tufted headboard and seating area

Mistake #5: Ignoring Organic Elements

Often, homeowners forget the importance of organic items. Plants and flowers are a detail that while often overlooked, make a home feel more inviting and complete. Organic items help to blur the line between outdoors so that the space doesn’t feel completely manufactured. 

Solution #5: Bring the Outdoors In

Fresh flowers or live plants are ideal, but not everyone has a green thumb. Truthfully, anything organic will make an impact. Alternatives include preserved boxwood, branches, feathers, seashells, wood, moss, aged paper, and even candlelight  can all help to make a space feel natural and homey.

Also, there are a lot of great faux plants on the market now and sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference!

The goal is to bring in an organic shape and texture.

Indoor Olive Tree | Brown Design Group

large olive tree in weathered pot in corner of living room
The Olive Tree is the new Fiddle Leaf Fig!

Mistake #6: Not Enough Lighting

Overhead lighting does a good job lighting providing overall light, but it should never be the sole source of light in a room. Overhead lighting is often unflattering and not even throughout the room, leaving some corners and focal points in the dark.

Solution #6: Use Multiple Light Sources

In addition to overhead lighting, add floor lamps, table lamps, and even sconces if possible. Multiple light sources not only help create an evenly lit room, but make a space feel warm and inviting. Additionally, they help to add a layer of depth to the space that overhead lighting alone just can’t achieve.

Use task lamps in work areas, spotlights on artwork or other focal areas like a fireplace, table lamps for color and be sure your overhead lights are on a dimmer switch.

Sofa Table with Lamps | Dimples and Tangles

Dark wood sofa table with gold lamps on top and plaid stools tucked underneath

Mistake #7: Small Curtains

Have you ever seen someone wearing pants that are just too short? Well, curtains that are too short have the same look. Not only do many people have curtains that are too short, but they are also hung incorrectly.

Curtains helps to bring in softness, frame out a window, make the room look taller, and bring in color – so they have an important role in the room! Don’t leave this key detail high and dry!

Solution #7: Long and Lean

Proper Curtain Length

Curtains should just skim the floor or be longer if you want a puddled look. Any shorter and you are making the wall appear shorter than it actually is.

You can skim or puddle, but never hover!

Also, curtain width should always be at least 2x the width of the window for fullness.  For modern rooms, just twice the window’s width or even just 1 ¾ times for a really sleek look (if you’re using multiple panels, purchase an even number of panels that equals at least twice your window’s width for fullness)

Curtains Should Skim the Floor | Kirtam Custom Curtains

Family room with window seat and white curtains

If you want a puddled look, add anywhere from 2″-8″ to the total length depending on your preference.

Puddled Curtains | Kate Forman

Floral curtains that puddle on the floor with a single chair and side table

Mistake #8: Hanging Curtains Too Low

Homeowners often think that curtains should frame out the window exactly. The problem with this is that doing so means the curtains overlap the window some and block out some of the natural light! Also, if they hang just above the window, they chop up the vertical line of the wall and make the window look small.

Solution #8: Hang Curtains High and Wide

We don’t all have soaring ceilings or large, luxurious windows that flood our rooms with natural light, but we can fake that we do! By hanging your window treatments just below the ceiling (or crown molding), you create a tall vertical line that makes the ceilings seem higher and the window seem taller!

Also be sure to hang them so that they overlap the window by just a couple of inches to help make the window seem wider than it really is. Doing so will also help bring in more light, which also gives the illusion of more space.

Key Measurements:

  • Extend the curtain rod by at least 6”-8” past the outer edge of the trim on each side of the window
  • Always hang curtains as close to the ceiling line as possible to help elongate the window and add anywhere from 2″-8″ to the length if you want the curtain to have the puddle look

The Right Way to Hang Curtains | HomeGoods

Diagram showing the wrong and right way to hang curtains
{via HomeGoods}

BONUS: Creating a Theme Room

I’m not technically counting this as a decorating mistake because some people like and want theme rooms. But there’s a difference between a style and a theme so be careful. A nautical themed room is not the same as a room with a nautical style. You can read more about the differences in the post below:

How to Create a Decorating Style vs a Theme

Final Thoughts on Decorating Mistakes

Just remember, making the above decorating mistakes is not the end of the world! Even if you can’t afford to change or redo one of these mistakes, there are often ways to disguise them.  For example, is the scale of a sofa too small?  Try adding end tables to either side that are exactly the same height as the sofa arms to visually lengthen the sofa!

Your home is like a giant puzzle where you can move the pieces around to suite your needs, so never be afraid to change it up and try something new!  And hopefully, these tips will help give you the confidence to tackle a new project.

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21 Comments

  1. I’m looking at a few of your blogs because I’m a teen and share a room with my younger sister, but want to give the room a proper makeover. We each have are own dressers but they are completely different styles, sizes, and colors that don’t match at all, and that’s our biggest dilemma. Do you know any way around this? Thank you so much for your help!

  2. Kim – -the one about ‘trends’ is a real sore point for me. You give good direction when saying to incorporate trends on a small level, rather than the big expensive purchases. Still and all, I seem to see the same ‘look’ in so many blogs. You are an exception; your unique and personal style shines through your blog. And your post about style vs theme is one of my favorites!!

    1. Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Kristine! Thank you for your kind comment! Maybe I should revise the wording a bit in the post to say only buy big trendy items if you LOVE them, not just because they’re trendy. Personally, I love the look of deep blue kitchen cabinets that are “in” this year, but I know two years from now I’d be so over them! Lol!

  3. So many great ones, the scale is an important one, otherwise the room will not feel or look right.
    I also strongly agree with #3, especially buying these at a really high price only to discover they are out of vogue the following year. Great tips!

  4. Great reminders, Kim. I think it’s easy to get off track with all of the lovely online influences. It’s helpful to remind myself what style I truly want to live with day in and day out.
    xo,
    Karen

  5. I agree with all of your “mistakes”…especially the furniture against the wall…very much so in larger rooms where there is no reason to do this. Some homes are very small though but if you can fit a sofa table between the sofa and wall, it mimics space.

    My big project is ready to begin very soon and I’m so excited. I’m turning our smallish den into my version of a “woman cave” (although I’m not fond of that term!). We already have a living room, family room and office, this room was simply filled with too formal furniture and tons of bookshelves with books we no longer had a use for. Wallpaper and shelves coming down, soft colors and comfy furniture going in. I am so excited!!

    Thanks for a great post as always. Please stop by when you have a chance for my Year In Review post! :)

    Jane x

    1. Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Jane! Sorry for the delay in responding. Great point about the sofa table! How’s your “woman cave” coming along? Sounds like it will be such a great space – I’m happy for you!! :) Kim

  6. Great post and fabulous tips to keep in mind. I am learning to update my very tradition pieces with a few more modern accessories that I love. Totally changes the look of everything. My #1 project this year is to finally get the hardwood floors down.

    1. Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Marty! It’s it funny how accessories change the look of everything? I would *love* to update our floors – are you doing the work yourself???

  7. #3. Uh huh. I still have a red couch from 2000. Although I’ve tried to update the look by varying the pillows, it’s still an expensive red couch. I loved it at the time and I still do but it’s big and red. :)

    These are smart ideas. I’m working on changing the color scheme in our master bedroom right now. We use a pretty basic white matelasse bedspread so it’s easy changing out the pillows. Loving it so far!

    1. Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Stacey! If you still love your red sofa after all these years then you’re not #3 at all! :) #3 was really more about buying things just because they’re “in” and not because someone really loves them, regardless of whether they are “in” or “out”. But I do understand what you’re saying about it being difficult to update the look of a red sofa…. :)

      Matelasse is one of my all-time favorite patterns – so classic! And you’re right, with white it’s very easy to update the look. Good luck with your master bedroom. I’m sure it will turn out beautifully!!

      1. Why not have some slipcovers made for the sofa? Then you still have the great sofa but with a different color. Also, there are sofa covers you can purchase ready made. One other thought, use a matelasse’ spread as a throw on your sofa and tuck in and pin for a budget decor idea to change the color of the sofa. At Christmas, unveil the red, I bet it looks awesome!

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