You want your home to feel cozy, comfortable, and inviting, but it's easy to go overboard on decorating and end up with a messy, cluttered space. Here are six things to avoid to pull off a polished look.

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You work hard to keep your home clean on a daily basis, so the last thing you want is for your decorating choices to contribute to a messy-looking room. Although clearing out clutter is the first step to a polished, orderly look, the way you furnish and decorate the room is also hugely important to its overall neatness. Sometimes simple decorating mistakes can make the design appear awkward, disheveled, or downright chaotic. When something isn't quite right, it can detract from the design and interfere with the overall mood of the room. Luckily, these decorating problems are often easily fixable with just a few tweaks. Simply swapping out accessories or rearranging furnishings can help bring order to the room and maximize your tidying efforts.

To help you create a space that looks clean and organized, we've compiled a list of decorating mistakes that could be making your home appear messy. By steering clear of these common issues, it's easier to maintain order and achieve an immaculate look.

white shelves hutch
Credit: Erin Kunkel

1. Relying Too Much on Open Storage

Open shelves are a great place to store books and display collectibles or art, but this type of storage works best when it's not overcrowded. When decorating a bookcase or built-in shelves, don't pack every inch of space with books and accessories. To achieve a cleaner look, edit down the arrangement so you can leave some open space between items. You should also avoid using open storage to manage electronics and cables or to hold games, movies, and toys. These items are best stashed away inside cabinets, boxes, or baskets for a less cluttered effect.

modern living room with teal-blue walls and black window trim
Credit: Jay Wilde

2. Using Too Many Colors

Decorating with too many colors is guaranteed to make a home look cluttered. Use one or two hues combined with neutral colors to give your home a cohesive, relaxed look. This living room features various shades of blue to create a gorgeous, cohesive space. The neutral rug, window coverings, and furnishings allow the room to breathe while making it appear more spacious and open.

dark teal living room
Credit: Marty Baldwin

3. Adding Too Many Accent Pillows

Avoid a haphazard and untidy look by limiting the number of accent pillows on a sofa or bed. This living room looks pulled together and well-decorated because the sofa isn't laden with piles of decorative pillows. Two or three accent pillows on each end of the sofa are typically the perfect amount to decorate a room with beautiful color and pattern.

white shiplap living room
Credit: Edmund Barr

4. Pushing Furniture Against Walls

Arranging all of your furniture up against the walls will make the space look cluttered and messy. The solution? Pull the furniture away from the walls and toward the center of the room as in this living room seating arrangement. This grouping of four chairs around a coffee table creates the perfect conversation area. Ground the furniture with an area rug to tie the arrangement together.

living room furniture brown couch striped chairs
Credit: David Tsay

5. Placing Too Much Decor on Tables

Too many decorative accents on the surface of a table will make a room look cluttered. Instead, edit the number of accessories, then decorate the table with one or two groupings of items. First, pare down what you already have on the tabletop. Only display what you love and what is functional (for example, a small dish for storing car keys and sunglasses) and remove the rest. Group many small objects in a jar or bowl. Elevate small objects on a stack of two or three books to give it a purposeful look.

Blue-themed bedroom with blue artwork
Credit: Adam Albright

6. Hanging Pictures Randomly

Pictures and wall art hung in haphazard fashion across a wall creates a chaotic look that can overwhelm the space. Instead, group pictures in a gallery wall arrangement to instantly make the room appear more organized and balanced. The art hung above this bed, for example, demonstrates how several pieces can be hung to create a visually pleasing and curated look.

Comments (8)

Anonymous
October 28, 2020
I agree with the commenter who points out that to have furniture in the middle of the room you must have outlets in the floor where the furniture goes. Added later this requires jackhammering into the slab. I lived through this once. Those poor men. I had initially asked for two. After watching those poor men and listening to the horrendous noise for hours I said that one would be fine. This did allow a lamp on the console behind the couch and a nice way to walk through to the dining room. Yes, it does look nicer and functions well . About the open shelves-it depends-some people are happy to show you their CD's. I like full bookcases with excellent books-philosophy, natural history, literature, reference works, travel, children's classics-how is this clutter ? And I have a table completely covered with fossils and seashells. No one ever says " What a mess !" They say : " Cool, where did that come from ?" And I like color though I try to be artful with it. One of my favorite guides is " Living With Decorative Textiles" which I passed on to my lovely daughter in law. I think that some layering and textures is beautiful and welcoming.
Anonymous
October 27, 2020
I wish my family had less stuff and we could implement some of these ideas. In reality, I’m lucky if I don’t find crackers stuffed in the couch and dirty socks everywhere. I agree with the comment about the floor outlets, it’s one of those things you don’t think about until you rearrange your furniture then go to plug in a lamp... I would love to see an average home, with normal amount of family stuff, decorated. It would also be nice to see things people already own incorporated into the designs. I feel like there is too much disposability these days. However, thank you for showing some color! The blue room is gorgeous, and I’m so happy to see color making a comeback, I’m so tired of greige.
Anonymous
October 27, 2020
I wish my family had less stuff and we could implement some of these ideas. In reality, I’m lucky if I don’t find crackers stuffed in the couch and dirty socks everywhere. I agree with the comment about the floor outlets, it’s one of those things you don’t think about until you rearrange your furniture then go to plug in a lamp... I would love to see an average home, with normal amount of family stuff, decorated. It would also be nice to see things people already own incorporated into the designs. I feel like there is too much disposability these days. However, thank you for showing some color! The blue room is gorgeous, and I’m so happy to see color making a comeback, I’m so tired of greige.
Anonymous
October 27, 2020
I wish my family had less stuff and we could implement some of these ideas. In reality, I’m lucky if I don’t find crackers stuffed in the couch and dirty socks everywhere. I agree with the comment about the floor outlets, it’s one of those things you don’t think about until you rearrange your furniture then go to plug in a lamp... I would love to see an average home, with normal amount of family stuff, decorated. It would also be nice to see things people already own incorporated into the designs. I feel like there is too much disposability these days. However, thank you for showing some color! The blue room is gorgeous, and I’m so happy to see color making a comeback, I’m so tired of greige.
Anonymous
October 22, 2020
Thank you, i appreciate this article
Anonymous
January 6, 2020
Your suggestion for pulling furniture into the center of the room and away from the walls only work if you had your home custom built with floor outlets. Your home is suppose to look and feel welcoming, but you need to be able to live in it! Most people when relaxing, need to plug in a lamp for reading, or doing hand mending or embroidery while watching TV. My home is neat, organized, and comfortable, people who come to visit always say they love my home, and many take photo's so they can implement my ideas into their own homes. Your room is beautiful, but I would hate it because I like to cross stitch, do embroidery, go through the mail, all while relaxing and watching TV. I could not do that in your pretty, but useless room. Having wires running across the floor to reach an out let on the wall is dangerous.
Anonymous
June 8, 2019
The examples are terrible. If they are going to show pictures of supposed decorating mistakes show actual examples...or was this written on opposite day?
Anonymous
June 7, 2019
Speaking of decorating mistakes: Why do most decorators think you should put items on top of books? So books are for decorating and not for reading? Really?