15 Decorating Mistake Designers Always Notice

These easy tips will give your space that professional touch, even if you did it yourself.

The New Look
Photo: Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

There are countless small choices when decorating a room—from flooring and paint to lighting and furniture. It's all important. Being faced with those decisions can be intimidating and overwhelming, and it's easy to start making choices based on convenience or cost eventually. We get it. However, when seen through a well-seasoned professional's eyes, a few key factors signal a space's strong (or lacking) sense of design. Interior designers see all kinds of areas that look off in one way or another, but the one decorating mistake they always notice? A misunderstanding of scale.

Perhaps it's the lack of a trained eye to seek out pieces with appropriate proportions, or maybe it's a case of missing the forest for the trees—in picking out every individual element with care, we fail to visualize the entire room together. Whatever the reason, there's no need to feel singled out if you're guilty of this decorating mistake. It's a widespread problem many designers encounter that is truly easy to fix.

Designers' issue with scale in a room is the size of the objects you put in it and how those objects relate to the size of the room itself and the other pieces within it. If that sounds vague, that's because it is. Below we explain common scale-related design issues and other design mistakes that designers notice right away—and how to fix them—to give your home the professional touch it deserves.

01 of 15

Wrong Rug Size

2019 Idea House Living Room
Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Liz Strong

Rugs can transform the overall aesthetic of a room, define a space within a larger room, and, most literally, serve as the platform for furniture. The most frequent mistake designers see with rugs is choosing one too small. We get it, rugs are expensive, but the 5'x7' version of a high-end rug will still look like a cheaper choice than the 9'x12' rug you can snag at Target for half the price. In a living room, all the furniture should have at least the front legs on top of the rug, creating a pulled-together look that makes your space look polished and intentionally styled.

02 of 15

Incorrect Furniture Placement

Sewing Table Transformed
Photo Robbie Caponetto / Styling Anne Turner Carroll and Fran Keenan

Speaking of where your furniture sits, it's common to feel tempted to push all your furniture up against the walls. It might seem logical to make a space look bigger (see more of the floor, the floor feels bigger—right?), but it can have the opposite effect. More importantly, it can make your room feel disjointed without a focal point or purpose. Instead, most designers suggest pulling your furniture toward each other, creating a more intimate vignette prime for conversation (and all within reach of the same coffee table). Now you have space along the wall for that bookshelf you've been eyeing.

03 of 15

Forgetting Artwork

Idea House 2020 Bunk Room Bath Art Wall
Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Kendra Surface

Art is your finishing touch and can make or break a space, so what's the most cringe-worthy mistake designers notice? Framed artwork that's hung too high. We're not sure how this became a standard decorating error, but stop hanging frames halfway between your entry table and the ceiling. The ideal height for artwork is eye level (or around 58 inches from the ground to the middle of the frame).

When hanging something above a piece of furniture, keep the art within inches of the top of the furniture. Your space—and the art itself—will instantly look more pulled together and higher end.

04 of 15

Mismeasuring Curtains

From this angle of the bedroom we see a large window with delicately patterned yellow curtains. A wood nightstand in a sand color is perfectly complimented by a copper lamp. Directly in front of the nightstand is a wooden armchair with cushions. The yellow headboard of the bead brings a nice contrast to crisp white sheets on the bed.
Annie Schlechter

Using curtains or drapes is an easy way to incorporate more color and pattern into a space. However, designers notice that placement can be an issue for inexperienced decorators. First, you want to place window curtains, so the sides touch the window's edge. This placement helps prevent you from blocking natural light from entering the room when desired.

Also, curtains should always touch the floor. Start by hanging the drapes at least four to six inches above the top of the window frame and measure to the floor to know what size curtains are needed. This floor to "ceiling" approach creates a more dramatic and visually appealing plan.

05 of 15

Not Adding Personality

Open Shelves
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Fill your spaces with decor pieces that are important or sentimental to you. Decorating is a way to tell your story, so add things like your favorite books, pictures, flowers, or animal figurines throughout the space. This personalization helps distinguish your home from the images seen in magazines, but to help the room retain its professional look, remember that designers have found that things look better when designed in sets of three objects.

06 of 15

No Lighting Variation

Biggest Decorating Don'ts: Flat Skylines
PHOTO: Laurey W. Glenn

Use table lamps, floor lamps, and wall scones to infuse more personality into a space. Not only does it look great, but these additional lighting sources can help establish a cozier environment instead of only using overhead lighting.

07 of 15

Forgetting to Add Greenery

Indoor Style
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Plants bring energy to interiors. Depending on the species, some plants might even thrive indoors during the winter so that you can enjoy a lively arrangement year-round. Use plants to add pops of color or grow edible herbs to use in your favorite recipes.

08 of 15

Using Dated Furniture

8. Update Your Furniture
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

As much as you love your vintage hutch, it might not fit your modern space. If the furniture's size is not an issue, consider reworking the piece to meet your current decorating needs. Refinishing the wood is one way to modernize a cabinet and help it blend seamlessly into your new design.

09 of 15

Not Adding Warmth

2016 Idea House
Mary Katherine Morris

Overall, your decor should be inviting, especially for a living or family room. Imitating a professional decorating style with an all-neutral look might be tempting, but it does not provide any warmth. Fix this by adding an accent color through artwork, rugs, lamps, or other finishings. If you want to stick with the neutral color palette, vary the finishings' textures to make it more visually appealing.

10 of 15

Not Varying Furniture Styles

Amy Berry Designed Dallas House Neutral Family Room
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Jenny O'Connor

You want to diversify furniture styles to make a room look professionally decorated—counterintuitive as this tip might seem. Furniture that is too visually similar doesn't create any interest. Use fabric patterns, sizes, and heights to add movements and direction to a space. The furniture choices can also help distinguish the room's intention, such as reading, dining, or encouraging conversation.

11 of 15

Not Varying Accent Colors

Trendy living room
Hector Sanchez; Styled by Jared Hughes

Too often, people decorate with only one accent color. The idea of adding a "pop of color" does not imply using a monochromatic color scheme throughout your entire home. Use a variation of shades or complementary colors to help accent the room. Mix a cool hue (blue, green, or purple) with a warm tone (red, orange, or yellow) for maximum balance and interest.

12 of 15

Designing Exclusively in One Style

New Old living room
Brie Williams

Don't let defined styles determine how you decorate a space. Use a combination of your favorite elements from different "styles" to build a room that represents your aesthetic. Try mixing mid-century velvet chairs with an industrial exposed brick look. Both create a cozy space with elements of natural, earthy hues.

13 of 15

Not Overdecorating

Graphic Wall Art
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Building a cohesive yet personally decorated space requires a lot of balance. You want to select artwork and finishings that complement each other but offer enough variation to make the space dynamic. Think about the room's focal point and make that design element the most visually appealing. Next, add pieces that complement your initial focal point, and remember to leave enough neutral decor. Varying textures is a great way to introduce new furnishings without overwhelming a space.

14 of 15

Forgetting to Emphasize the View

Casual Dining Room with Marsh View
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Page Mullins

Exposed light, draping, color choice, and furniture styles won't matter if you ignore the architectural structure of a room. You need to design in response to a room's windows, the number of available walls, and ceiling height. Taking these fundamental factors into consideration will help create a professional design. Measure your space before adding furniture to know the exact square footage available.

15 of 15

Not Being Bold

Bold Details
Photo: Helen Norman

If you want an awe-inspiring room, you can't be afraid to use some bold elements. If you are nervous about taking this risk, choose a bold decor item that you can easily change—don't start with a bold paint color. Throw pillows and rugs are excellent for introducing new colors and patterns into a space. Allow yourself to extend your creativity to its limit and see what new designs you can imagine.

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