Common Home Design Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

Written by Kelsey

Getting your home to look as good as the pictures on Pinterest can be challenging. But there are some common missteps you can avoid to make you look like an expert. We tapped a couple of real experts to reveal how to banish these decorating no-nos.

Shavonda Gardner of SG Style names three offenders as her pet peeves:

Rug is too small

In this case, Gardner recommends choosing a larger rug than you think you might need:

“In a living space it needs to be large enough so that all the major furniture players in the room touch it….your sofa, coffee table, end tables and accent chairs should all have at least two legs on the rug. And in the dining room, ideally you want it large enough so that when the chairs are pulled out all four legs are still on the rug.”

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If you have a rug you love, perhaps from a former (smaller) home or that’s of sentimental value, you may also consider layering your rugs to help them fit the space. A good general rule to bear in mind is keeping about a foot of floor space between the edge of the room/wall and the start of your biggest rug. Check out our Rug Buyer’s Guide for more advice.

Art hung too high

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Gardner’s second pet peeve is art that’s hung too high: “Unless you are going for a floor-to-ceiling gallery wall, you want your art at eye level, just as you would see in an art gallery or museum. People tend to naturally want to hang art very high…especially over a sofa. You only want to go up about 2-4 inches above the back of the sofa before hanging your art.”

Of course, how high you hang your art depends on the scale of the artwork itself, but the general guidelines still apply. Our guide to choosing and hanging wall art lays out some of the most important points to consider.

Furniture is too small

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Finally, Gardner’s third decorating faux-pas strikes a chord with many people who are embracing the smaller house trend: “The natural reaction is to buy small pieces to go in a small space and it will look spacious and airy—WRONG!  When you put a bunch of small furniture in a small room you get what I like to call ‘the dollhouse effect.’ Just don’t do it! Go with some larger scale pieces in a small space—it actually makes the space look and feel larger, and it helps create balance.”

Scale and placement are important elements to consider in larger rooms, too. You may be able to get away with smaller pieces of furniture in bigger rooms if the pieces are clustered effectively into little vignettes. A major mistake is to put all your furniture up against the walls, leaving a huge “dance floor” in the center of the room. This makes your space look awkward instead of inviting. Instead, create a cozy lounge area where guests won’t have to shout to be heard from sofa to sofa, and use the extra space for a beautiful writing desk nook or bookshelf.

And speaking of shelves…

From Studio O Interiors (@studio_o_interiors), Amy Peterson’s main advice involves, well, stuff. Your stuff. All the stuff that you have accumulated and can’t bear to part with. But maybe it’s taking over your home a bit. That stuff.

“Whether you are doing a complete remodel or simply looking to spruce up what you already have,” she says, “eliminating clutter can instantly add sophistication to your home.”

Peterson gave us the top three design tips that she shares with her friends and clients to help get the clutter under control, along with her beautifully realized results of following her own advice:

Hide it

Courtesy of Studio O Interiors

“As a designer, I do everything I can to hide as much visual clutter as possible. When taking on a remodel, I design cabinets and built-ins with handy pull-outs and electrical outlets inside to discreetly contain items such as small appliances and tech components.

“To do this, make a list of each item you would like to hide, and notate the dimensions. Then, as you layout a design plan, you can ensure you have the perfect place for every item you need–all the way down to your unsightly modem. For items that are used regularly (such as cooking gear and toiletries) I love to install rolling pullouts inside kitchen, bath and linen cabinets. These are inexpensive and can be installed in any existing cabinetry, no remodel needed!”

Contain it

Courtesy of Studio O Interiors

“Some clutter is just a part of life–think shoes, backpacks, keys. You can’t live without it but you don’t have to hate looking at it! When I build a mudroom I like to make each family member a ‘locker’ that includes an overhead shelf for hats, one tall cabinet with hooks for jackets and backpacks, as well as a drawer underneath to store shoes.

“If your home does not have a mudroom, set up an entry station with a stylish bowl to hold keys, a beautiful basket for stray shoes and wall pockets to hold mail. I also love what I call the ‘tray trick’ for any surface clutter you absolutely need on your countertop or coffee table. Placing those items in a tray keeps the mess contained and the look intentional.”

Edit it

The older I get, the more I appreciate the freedom of an edited lifestyle. I think much harder before I make impulse purchases, and several times a year I purge, purge, purge. If I don’t love it or use it regularly, I don’t keep it!”

Courtesy of Studio O Interiors

“Another way to eliminate visual clutter is to design around an edited color palette. Keep your large purchases neutral (think sofas, custom window treatments) and incorporate color in a thought-out manner. I typically select just two to three accent colors per room to keep the look clean and simple. An edited palette is much more soothing to the eye and adds an instant level of chicness to any home. Once you start practicing an edited lifestyle it becomes second nature.  As a conscious shopper you will spend much less money and soon your home will be filled only with items you love.”

Attention to details as well as larger issues like scale and balance will help you create an inviting and comfortable environment you can enjoy for years to come, and these thoughtful design tips are timeless guidelines that will never go out of style. Keeping this foundation in mind leaves you free to focus on incorporating everything you love and, as Peterson says, “Loving your surroundings is what design should be all about.”

About the author



When she’s not polishing up promotions as a web content specialist for Lumens, Kelsey is practicing how to properly pronounce Danish, if only to be able to say “home is where the ‘hygge’ is.” Aside from Scandinavian design, she spends a lot of time thinking about organic gardening, mini farms, honey bees and England.

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