14 Common Decorating Mistakes and Tips for Avoiding Them

dining room
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Mistake No. 1: Poor Lighting

living room

We've all had to get over the tendency to light a room with one bright overhead and a big clicky wall switch. The warmest way to light a room is in layers. Make a plan as you would with a furniture layout, with task lighting for work areas, accent lamps to add color and personality, and put that overhead light on a dimmer to change the mood of the room throughout the day.

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Mistake No. 2: Wall-Hugging

living room

Maybe that's not the official name for lining up every piece of furniture along the wall, but you get the picture. One layout alternative is to find a focal point in the room -- entertainment center, fireplace, each other for conversation -- and build your design around that. Move furniture away from the walls for a more intimate feel, with chairs no more than eight 8 feet apart to encourage talk. Position a table within reach of every seating piece, with traffic lanes several feet wide to allow easy movement.

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Mistake No. 3: Cluttered Decor

family room

It's easy to pack your rooms with way too much stuff, but that look crosses over easily to clutter (and the next step is hoarding, so beware). When every surface is covered with tchotchkes, nothing stands out as special. Solve the issue by clearing off every surface in a room, one by one, and returning only half the things on it. Be your own tough editor and store the objects that didn't make the cut this time. You can bring them out next season -- or make a donation trip to the secondhand store.

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Mistake No. 4: Too Much of One Color


Whitewash walls in an art gallery serve a purpose: standing down in deference to the colorful beauties on the wall. But our own living spaces deserve a good dose of color variation. Even if it's just a single deep-blue pillow amid a sea of neutral beige, adding a little pop of your own will spice up any room in a snap.

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Mistake No. 5: High Art

Cabin living room

Few things personalize a space like the things you choose for the walls. But hanging stuff can be tricky. The first step is to figure out the correct hanging height. Hang your art at the average person's height -- roughly 57 inches from the floor -- so most eyes can look straight and see it comfortably.

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Mistake No. 6: Disjointed Frames


Maybe you've found the prints or photos that you love, but aren't sure how to frame them to fit your room's style. Unless you're really good with mix and match looks, keep it simple and pick one style or frame color for all. A streamlined look takes the guesswork out of the design and allows the viewer to focus on the art itself.

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Mistake No. 7: Too Studied

living room

So you've pored over the magazines, done your shopping, and put together a room that should technically be stunning -- but, well, it's not. What's missing? Maybe a little bit of you? Add a few pieces that have a warm backstory, stack beloved books on the coffee table, or layer in some photos of the people you love. It's possible to make a room look too slick, more like a furniture shop than a home. Think about what speaks to your heart, even if its a little pop of the orange dreamsicle color you loved as a kid, and add that personal touch.

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Mistake No. 8: Ignoring Scale and Proportion

blue room

Does your room feel sort of underwhelming? Or way too crowded? You may have an issue with scale, which means the visual size of things, and how they look in relation to each other and the space. For your pieces to stand out, rooms need big things and little things, tall things and short things. It'll make things look a lot more interesting.

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Mistake No. 9: Lack of Storage

Classic Color Scheme

Two words: storage problems. We all seem to have them. Take a look around your room and see where you can comfortably add more places to put things away -- the easier to reach the better. Consider bare wall space first -- anywhere to mount shelving or cabinetry? Can you add side tables with drawers? Any missed opportunities for built-ins? In bedrooms, consider building shelving around the headboard and adding storage boxes beneath the bed.

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Mistake No. 10: Wrong-Size Curtains

orange curtains

Window treatments are readily available at most box stores, so replacing curtains that are too long or too short is a weekend day away. For quick hanging, choose tab-top or grommet styles, which slide easily onto the rod. To find the right panel length, measure from the floor to just above the window casing. Mount the rod to match panel length, rather than the other way around, as you would for custom-made curtains. Panels should be as wide as the window and rod brackets mounted six inches outside the frame so panels can be pushed away from the glass easily.

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How to Hang Curtains

The trick to hanging curtains correctly? Start with taking good measurements. Watch and learn more.

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Mistake No. 11: Tiny Rugs

Classic Color Scheme

We know it's more expensive to buy the big rug. But the postage-stamp look really brings down a room. Luckily, there are great choices out there at a wide variety of price points. In the dining room, measure the width and length of your dining room table and add 18-24 inches to each of the four sides to allow extra room for the chairs (include your table leaf in the calculation). For most spaces, that means a 5x8-foot rug is too small, so look for something between 6x9 and 9x12 feet.

  • How to Make a Statement with Rugs
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Mistake No. 12: Fear of Color

Pop of Color

Although neutral colors are timeless, a splash of bright or dark color can do wonders for elevating a space's style. Energize a room by incorporating a bold complementary color into small accents, like throw pillows, artwork, and storage.

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Mistake No. 13: Ignoring Comfort


We all have those furniture pieces -- the couch or high-fashion chair that looks oh, so sleek but scores low on the comfort factor. When shopping for decor, keep an eye out for pieces that balance fashion and function, and don't be afraid to give seating a test run! This will ensure a cozy, relaxing home that's chic to boot.

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Mistake No. 14: Diving into (or Tiptoeing Around) Trends

dining room

Walk a fine line with trending decor. Delving too much into of-the-moment patterns and paint palettes can leave you with redecorating regret. But don't feel like you have to deprive yourself! Dip your toes into trends with accent items that bring you joy.

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Decorating Mistakes That Are Actually OK

Now that you know what the decorating mistakes are, learn what they're NOT. These common "mistakes" aren't actually mistakes at all! Watch and learn the "mistakes" you're free to make.

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