Saturday, May 30, 2009

Common Decorating Mistakes

Clients and friends ask me all the time what are the most common decorating mistakes people make, so I've compiled a list. Now some of these are simply my pet peeves, while others are based on sound elements of design like scale and balance. Good news is, most of these cost little to nothing to fix.
  • Wimpy table lamps beside beds and sofas. If you are sitting in bed the light should flow from the shade to the top of your shoulder. In the above photo, the lamps are too small in scale to shed light properly and seems out of balance with the very large headboard.

  • Lining your rooms walls with furniture. Furniture is best in conversational groupings that float in front of your focal point. Unless you plan on having a dance in the middle of your floor!

  • Not enough, or too much light. Every room should have three types of light: overhead, task and accent. If all you have is an overhead light you are in essence, lighting nothing when you light everything. Get some table lamps, a floor lamp, and uplight for a tree, etc.

  • Art hung too high... Take a cue from the art galleries where the center of the art is hung at or just above eye level. For above a sofa, art should be hung 4-8 inches above depending on your ceiling height.

  • No window treatments or just blinds -- enough said, it's like getting all dressed up and forgetting your earrings -- it looks unfinished.

  • Mirrors hung over beds or fireplaces. Mirrors should be placed where they reflect something worth seeing. If there is a pretty chandelier sometimes a mirror hung over a fireplace does work. But as seen in the photo above, the mirrors hung over the bed do not reflect anything pretty and should be replaced with some artwork.

  • Improper color transtions from room to room. Color should flow, it doesn't have to be the same but it shouldn't shock one when they walk from one room to another. My exception to this is children's rooms, they love those hot colors and deserve a room that reflects their personality.

  • Little knick knacks. Choose fewer accessories that are larger in scale and group together in odd numbers. It looks less like clutter and is easier for you come dusting time.

  • White ceilings -- especially if you have beautiful crown molding. If you are color shy, paint your ceiling a lighter version of your wall color. If you are bold, look at the color wheel and choose a complementary color for impact - your moldings will POP!

  • Going overboard with the faux painting treatments. As with everything, moderation is key.

  • Forgetting the floor. Area rugs are art for your floors and anchor your seating arrangement that is now away from the wall. Just make sure the rug is large enough - at least the length of your sofa. You never want your walls, ceiling and floor to be all the same color = boring.

  • Ignoring a room's character or focal points. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone place a sofa or a television in FRONT of their fireplace, how sad. Same with having a beautiful picture window with no soft window treatments.

  • Overstuffed bookshelves. Unless you are loaning out books, your shelves should be 2/3rds full and have things on them other than books to add interest. A few framed photos, some greenery or accessories and some books placed on the horizontal will liven up your shelves.

  • Buying matching suites of furniture, whether it be a bedroom or living room. That is so 1960's. Furnishing your space should not look as though it was done in a day. Matchy-matchy lacks originality and does little to reflect your personality.

  • Buying without planning. By taking the time to measure and do a floor plan you will save yourself time and often thousands of dollars. I've seen a ton of folks with furniture that is too large for their space and they always say, "It didn't look so big in the store."

  • Sloppy slipcovers. There are good slipcover companies out there and you can always have an upholsterer make one just for your furniture. Yes it costs more, but it is still less than replacing the sofa and it won't look like you are trying to hide something.

  • Not painting the angled parts of dormer walls. When the angles are the same color as the ceiling and not the walls your eye travels the room going up and down in a choppy manner. When the walls match the angles your eye flows more smoothly and you are not distracted by the angles.

That's my list for now - please let me know of your design pet peeves, I look forward to your comments. If you found these tips helpful, I now have a FREE monthly e-newsletter full of such design tips and inspiration. If you wish to receive my newsletter, simply email me at and type "newsletter" in the subject line. You should receive your newsletter the first Tuesday of each month.

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