Navigating the world of interior design can be tricky—especially as a newcomer. Decorating an entire home isn’t cheap, and the unwritten rules of style always seem to creep up on you after you’ve poured in blood, sweat (oh-so-much sweat) and tears.
The reality is, creating a beautiful space can be simple as long as you follow a few decorating guidelines. Of course, design is subjective, and these guidelines aren’t necessarily hard-and-fast rules to live by. But the interior decorating experts agree that when these simple rules are implemented, the results are always just as chic as you envisioned.
To help make your decorating process a breeze, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 decorating no-nos you should steer clear of—and of course, the fix for them.
1. Going too small with area rugs
Nothing looks more out of place than an oversized couch that looks like its eating up an itty-bitty rug. Large area rugs can be pricey, but a properly sized one made with high-quality materials is worth the investment. As a general rule of thumb, all of the main pieces of furniture should be able to touch the area rug. So in a living room, the sofa, coffee table and end tables should all be able to touch the rug.
2. Hanging artwork too high
Most interior design pros agree—artwork should be hung at eye-level. For a reference point, it’s suggested to hang art and decor at the eye-level of an average woman (which happens to be 5’6”). A good tip for visualizing where to place your artwork (especially if you want to create a gallery wall) is to create paper cutouts. Simply take some paper (newspaper, tissue paper, etc.) and trace the outline of your canvases or frames. Once they’re cut out, you can temporarily tape them on the wall—that way you can play around with arrangement before hammering in nails or anchors.
3. Not hanging window treatments properly
You may get tired of taking precise measurements, but that little extra bit of time will be so worth it. One major faux-pas that designers unanimously agree with is ill-fitting window treatments. You may think hanging up curtains is as simple as pie, but remember that drapes accentuate your windows and create the illusion of size. If you’ve already went out and bought gorgeous drapes, make the most of them by ensuring that they’re properly sized for your window type. Here is a handy chart for quick reference:
4. Overdoing it with the accessories
Say it with us: A cluttered space isn’t a chic one. All too many times an impeccably designed home is plighted by too much clutter. Displaying a few accessories on floating shelves, tables or cabinetry adds personality and flair to your space—but remember to actually keep it to just a few. While you may have collected many precious mementos over the years, they are best suited carefully tucked away in boxes (from a design standpoint). To make things interesting, swap out accessories a few times a year to keep your design interesting, and to give your trinkets some love.
5. Not paying attention to lighting
You can create the most breathtaking space, but it won’t hold up to its true value if nobody can see it! Relying on central ceiling fixtures, like ceiling fans or chandeliers, is usually not enough. To create a well-lit room, think about layering your lighting. A couple of floor lamps here and a table lamp there will help set the mood and get rid of harsh shadows that usually occur from having a single light source.
6. Painting small rooms in dark colors
Dark colors are elegant, but not so well-suited for smaller spaces. While dark colors, like navy blue or deep gray, can exude a regal vibe, they can also easily make a room appear much smaller than it is. If your space already happens to be on the smaller side, try visually expanding the space by painting it in white, light gray or another soft hue.
7. Buying furniture all at once
The unfinished and the unknown can leave us a little…uneasy. Many new homeowners come in wanting everything to look complete right away, but this mentality can lead to costly mistakes. For example, don’t rush out and get a bedroom dresser you have lukewarm feelings for just because you “need one”. You’ll regret it later when you come across the one you absolutely love. The most beautiful spaces are usually comprised of mix-and-match pieces built up over time. Many pro designers will tell you that interior decorating is a never-ending process, so enjoy the ride and take your time curating your space piece-by-piece.
8. Matching everything perfectly
Not everything needs to be matchy-matchy, and not every piece of furniture needs to be from the same collection. Mixing collected pieces is the best way to show off your personality. The last thing you want to do is get a brown accent chair to match a brown sofa, to match a brown area rug…the look becomes way too generic, and doesn’t pick up on your amazing personality.
9. Designing for the life you want (but don’t live)
Prime example: if you have young children, it’s probably best to steer clear of crisp white furniture. If you have a dog that gets a little drool-happy, avoid that luxury velvet sofa. And if you love lounging after a long day, avoid choosing a stylish piece that’s zero parts comfy. Always keep in mind that your choices should cater to your lifestyle, instead of changing your lifestyle to cater to your furniture. Plus, there are plenty of stylish options available that are sure to fit best for the (wonderful) life you live.
10. Going over your budget
This one’s a toughie that certainly calls for some will-power. But, you’ve created your budget for a reason and it’s important to stick by it. There’s going to be pieces you feel you must have, but just think of all the future sales, discounts or even better piece you’ll find that actually work for your budget. Good style just isn’t worth a mountain of credit card debt.