Learn what not to do with your decor (and how to fix it if you already have).
Sure, your rooms look OK at first glance: You finally got rid of that lumpy sofa and own a set of kitchen chairs that don’t fold up. But what would an interior decorator have to say about the state of your home? If you suspect your attempts at “mix and match” just look messy or your furniture arrangements are a little too fussy, read on to see if you’re committing our experts’ top decorating faux pas—and learn what you can do to fix them.
Faux Pas #1: Ignoring Scale
Every piece of furniture looks great in the store—but chances are your rooms aren’t showroom size. “Measure your space and decorate accordingly,” suggests Kenneth Brown, a Los Angeles–based interior designer who sells home decor pieces through QVC. For smaller rooms, ignore your instinct to use a series of diminutive pieces; fewer large-scale pieces will make it seem less busy. On a similar note, consider filling a wall with a single large painting, rather than a group of smaller frames. “It will act as an additional window and draw the eye beyond the room,” says Brown.
Faux Pas #2: Relying on Recessed Lighting
“I’m so tired of recessed lighting,” says Brown. “It makes a room look like a football field.” If you have recessed lights, use them, but layer your lighting by incorporating additional lighting features. Consider table lamps and floor lamps, and highlight artwork with picture lights. “Your room—and everyone in it—will look beautiful,” says Brown.
Faux Pas #3: Buying the Entire Matching Set
Just because a store showcases a sofa, loveseat, chair, table and ottoman as a set doesn’t mean you have to buy every piece. The first piece Brown recommends leaving behind? The loveseat. In its place choose two chairs, which will allow you to mix and match colors and patterns. Another way to mix things up: Choose a traditional sofa in an unexpected, modern color.
Faux Pas #4: Picking Paint Colors in the Store
“Stores have terrible lighting,” warns Brown. If you choose a color based on what you see in the store, chances are you’ll hate what winds up on your walls. Before you have an employee mix a few gallons of paint, first consider the colors in natural light, and then again in your home. For the best perspective, Brown suggests poking a hole in a piece of white paper, holding the paint swatch behind it, then looking at the color through the hole. This will give you an unadulterated view of the color.
Faux Pas #5: Letting an Accent Overtake a Room
Too much of one thing, like an animal print, can look overdone. “You don’t want to live in a theme park,” says Brown. It’s fine to introduce an accent piece—a few pillows, a throw or this animal print bench. Just remember that a little bit of pizzazz goes a long way.
Faux Pas #6: Having Knickknacks Scattered Around
“Nothing’s worse than a bunch of tchotchkes placed randomly around a room,” says Susie Coelho, HGTV host, author and designer for Grandin Road. The most frequent offenders: angel statues, children’s pottery and mismatched candlesticks. Edit your collection as much as possible—consider showcasing just a few pieces and rotating the display seasonally—then put everything in a curio cabinet or on a corner table. By grouping like items, you make insubstantial pieces more significant.
Faux Pas #7: Displaying Greenery in Itty-Bitty Pots
“Plants should make a statement,” says Coelho. “Otherwise they should be left outdoors!” Yes, small planters were en vogue in the ’70s, but that decade has passed. The modern way to do it is to use one large tree in a pot. A series of small indoor plants is just going to make your space seem cluttered—and dated.
Faux Pas #8: Getting Overzealous with Wall Color
Walls covered in too many colors are distracting and create visual tension. “You want your guests to feel stimulated, but you also want them to feel relaxed, says Coelho. A yellow room followed by a turquoise room followed by an orange room looks tacky and badly planned. To ensure a soothing flow from room to room, focus on a subtle variety of colors or tones, such as coordinating shades of green or earth tones.
Faux Pas #9: Not Knowing When to Quit
People are inclined to add more furniture and more artwork and more stuff until they can’t move around in a room without knocking over a decorative table. “You may have some stunning pieces,” says Coelho. “But who can tell when they’re surrounded by average ones?” The current trend is toward simplicity. To make a statement, clear out clutter and let your rooms breathe.
Faux Pas #10: Selecting Busy Textiles
When you’re choosing window coverings, tablecloths and upholstery fabrics, steer clear of anything with heavy gathering, ruffles or too much fringe. “Cleaner lines are better,” says Coelho, “and they’ll collect less dust.” If you favor prints, keep them subtle so you can switch things up periodically. If you opt for a loud print, you’re forced to use that piece as the room’s focus until you get rid of it.