The worst decorating mistakes and how to fix them
This post is part one of a five-part series to describe the worst decorating mistakes and how to fix them. All of my references will refer to living/family rooms. Some of these mistakes apply to other rooms, but I’m going to focus on the main living space in the home since we spend a lot of our active time there.
There are several photos in this post by Studio McGee. Their room design, furnishings, and style are shown here for inspiration and as an example of what to do~ Don’t worry, I also found some photos of living rooms to show several furniture mistakes.
I should also share (confess) that I have made most, if not all, of these mistakes at some time or another so don’t feel embarassed or frustrated – these are common and sometimes understandable mistakes. Most of these decorating mistakes are made because you just didn’t know, you didn’t care, you couldn’t afford to change it, or maybe you liked it regardless of decorating rules-of-thumb.
My hope is that after reading this post, if you identify with any of the worst decorating mistakes that you will be open to considering some of the fixes or at least walk away understanding why you can’t get your room to look or feel a certain way (maybe it’s the huge sofa getting in your way, literally~).
The worst decorating mistakes and how to fix them
The purpose of this post is to help you achieve your decorating goals, layer by layer. I would suggest sitting in your living/family room while you read this and just note what you have going on in the room. I would even encourage you to address an issue you want changed, like right now, and try doing one of the possible fixes. There’s no need to read all five parts of this series before taking action. Each part is independent from the others and since design is done in layers, you would address one layer at a time anyway.
I should also note, that this isn’t an exhaustive list of decorating mistakes, but they are what I believe are the worst decorating mistakes and can also be easily be fixed. These common decorating mistakes aren’t just my opinion, they’re largely recognized and agreed upon on by the design community – so please don’t shoot the messenger. If you have a decorating dilemma or question, please email me directly or leave me a comment below – maybe your question can help others. And if you believe that I left out any of the worst furniture decorating mistakes in this post, please leave a comment as well.
Part 1: Furniture mistakes
Your room may feel bigger with all the furniture pushed up against the walls, but if you have to raise your voice to be heard by others sitting in the room or it’s difficult to see the TV, this furniture layout may not be functioning at its full potential. If you have a small room or odd-shaped room, you may feel that placing furniture along the walls is the only way to make the room feel bigger, but if you just ‘float’ one piece of furniture it will define the space, create a cozy and comfortable feel, and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of space. You can also ‘float’ a couch or loveseat by placing a narrow console table behind it. Or you can quickly ‘float’ an accent chair or recliner to fix this mistake and create a conversational space.
If you have most of the furniture placed on one side of the room (maybe all facing the TV) it can look and feel unbalanced. To achieve a balanced look, you don’t have to have all furnishings arranged in a symmetrical way, but just bring out one piece like a loveseat or chair to create an ‘L’ shape and you will define and balance the space so much better.
Oversized pieces can quickly overtake a space, and make it feel heavy. Sometimes overstuffed couches have deep seats which are also hard on the lower back, be sure to consider smaller pieces that fit your body and provide support. Large pieces can often only go in one spot in a room, but a smaller version can be flexible enough to fit in multiple places. This gives you flexibility when planning your furniture arrangement. A good sofa is key to comfort, but it’s also central to how a room feels and looks.
In a small or odd-shaped room, less is more. Too much furniture makes a room feel cluttered and small. With the right pieces and layout, you can retain enough seating for all. Consider if you actually need every piece; what’s its purpose, should the piece live in a different room, or be stored elsewhere until needed. To fix this issue, determine if any of your pieces can be multi-purposed so that you can reduce pieces that aren’t necessary. For instance, adding a console table behind a couch can display lamps and hold drinks so that you can remove the coffee table or side tables. In a small space, determine what pieces you use the most and try to scale back on the rest.
A room with ugly or plain furniture backsides is not a great first impression. But I applaud you for floating your furniture! However, if the first thing you see when you walk into a room is the ugly or plain back on a piece of furniture, rethink your furniture arrangement. Situate a chair with a bad back into a corner. Or place a console, narrow desk, or short bookcase against the piece to hide the back side of a sofa.
Your main seating piece (usually a sofa or sectional) should have a focal point, whether it’s a TV, a window, a fireplace, or even an archway or opening into another room. As you can guess, arranging furniture around a fireplace or TV are the most popular and common options. If your sofa has to face a blank wall, consider what you want on the blank wall to create your own focal point. It could be a bookcase, floating shelves, a desk, or even a gallery wall. For extra interest, place a console table below your gallery wall.
All the seating is matching and there’s no coordination. Selecting a matching set from a showroom is an easy way to select furniture, but when it’s all the same it’s not interesting, can appear too heavy, may look outdated sooner, and doesn’t show off your style or personality. You can make a matching set look good, but it won’t give you the benefit of additional color, texture, and style that you can get with a collective approach. Determine your style and the purpose of the room (conversation, entertainment, study) and select coordinating pieces that define your personal style.
The space doesn’t mix furniture styles and time periods. Oftentimes people feel stuck and limited by the architecture of their home and end up selecting furniture based on the home’s architecture and time period. You can mix furniture styles with the style of architecture to create a new eclectic cohesive style. For instance, you can merge contemporary furniture with traditional crown molding, vintage rugs, rattan/cane benches, and modern art. When you mix styles and coordinate your seating selections, the living room feels timeless and comfortable. When mixing furniture styles, pay attention to the height of each piece and keep them all similar heights.
My list of the worst decorating mistakes and how to fix them regarding furniture provides you some guidelines to consider as you redecorate or even invest in purchasing new pieces for your home. I love moving things around my home and mixing styles to create a style for my family to enjoy and function for our lifestyle, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take months or years for me to find the right piece or to afford the right piece – so be patient and pick something that you’ll enjoy long-term. Buying furniture, the core pieces in a living room, shouldn’t be an impulse – save those impulsive purchases for things like accessories and seasonal décor.
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You can look forward to even more decorating mistakes coming up. In this series I will also cover walls, floors, lighting and accessories, and design planning. Planning out your design can not only save you a headache, but it can usually save you money as well. If you struggle with planning the overall design, the big picture, as well as selecting all the pieces to fit your budget, you may consider 804 Sycamore E-design.
My clients take a short online design survey, chat on the phone with me, measure their room, snap a few photos of the room, and then sit back while I work on a design. Clients will receive a final design board with a list of product links to purchase at your convenience, a room layout design, detailed instructions to put all the finishing touches on the room, and communication with me as questions come up or to request a different option for the design (up to 3 design board changes are included).
E-design is easily the most affordable option to get professional design help. If your style is antique Victorian, then I’m probably not the best fit. 804 Sycamore specializes in fresh and timeless design to create a welcoming modern farmhouse. If you’re signed up to receive my weekly email, you will get the coupon code for $100 off any E-design package.
Thanks so much for checking out this post. I hope it was helpful and encouraging. We all make mistakes now and then, and we’re all learning – I hope you’re energized with some ways to fix any decorating mistake so that you feel confident about your room design and layout.
Decorating mistakes series
- Worst wall mistakes
- Worst floor mistakes
- Worst lighting and accessories mistakes
- Worst design planning mistakes