Designer Tips

7 Common Decorating Pitfalls (and Easy Fixes!)

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This bright, cheery room does lighting right: Twin lamps and sconces help soften overhead lighting.

This bright, cheery room does lighting right: Twin lamps and sconces help soften overhead lighting.

THE PITFALL: Unflattering, overhead-only lighting.

THE FIX: “A balanced lighting plan will eliminate shadows and cast an even glow throughout the room. Overhead lights are fine when there’s also light coming from other heights, like a pair of sconces or lamps. I also use dimmers on all lighting to control the mood.”—Jen Going of Jen Going Interiors 

This gorgeous gray sofa provides the perfect anchor for epic wall art.

This gorgeous gray sofa provides the perfect anchor for epic wall art.

THE PITFALL: Centering art on the wall rather than orienting it around the furniture.

THE FIX: “Art should relate to what’s in the space more than the space itself. One way to do this is to hang the art near the back of the sofa. And personally, I prefer the art be off center than on.”—Philip Gorrivan of Philip Gorrivan Design

Look how tall the ceilings in this petite living room look thanks to the high-hanging curtains.

Look how tall the ceilings in this petite living room look thanks to the high-hanging curtains.

THE PITFALL: Hanging curtain rods too low.

THE FIX: “People tend to hang curtain rods directly above the window trim, when really you should be hanging them closer to the crown or ceiling. It leads the eye up, looks more elegant, and can also make a ceiling appear higher.”—Amanda Reynal of Reynal Interiors

Plants on books in front of lamps in front of wall art makes for a rich mix on this bedside table.

Plants on books in front of lamps in front of wall art makes for a rich mix on this bedside table.

THE PITFALL: Lining up all your accent pieces so that nothing overlaps.

THE FIX: “Layering creates depth and enables visitors to view a vignette as a whole while inviting them to take a closer look. It’s okay if your lampshade covers a bit of your wall decor and if your tabletop accessories or flowers overlap your lamp.”—Jen Going of Jen Going Interiors

A deep-blue island, which might make another room appear too dark, works in this light-filled kitchen.

A deep-blue island, which might make another room appear too dark, works in this light-filled kitchen.

THE PITFALL: Picking a paint color because you loved it in a magazine or in a friend’s home.

THE FIX: “The mistake is to assume that what you see is what you’re going to get. That paint color will look very different in your home against your fabrics and depending on the lighting you get. Instead, use it as inspiration, and choose a color based on your reality.”—Alessandra Branca of Branca Design Firm

A cylindrical side table and ottoman are the perfect counterparts to leggy chairs.

A cylindrical side table and ottoman are the perfect counterparts to leggy chairs.

THE PITFALL: Choosing pieces that all have the same silhouette.

THE FIX: “Often when I walk into a living room all I see is legs: The sofa has legs, the chairs have legs, and the cocktail table and end tables all have legs as well. Ideally, a mix of legs, skirts, and solid forms creates a better balance throughout the space.”—Amanda Reynal of Reynal Interiors

Mix-and-match chairs dial up the drama of a basic wood farm table.

Mix-and-match chairs dial up the drama of a basic wood farm table.

THE PITFALL: Buying full suites of furniture.

THE FIX: “Mix it up! Working in vintage and new pieces keeps the space interesting and unexpected.”—Lee Kleinhelter of Pieces

Join the Discussion

Join the Discussion

13 Responses to “7 Common Decorating Pitfalls (and Easy Fixes!)”

  1. Uncialle says:

    Plants on top of books is water damage waiting to happen, and limits access to the books–also shows no respect for the books. Plants hiding a painting is just silly. That cluttered table is functionless and messy.

    • Joy Miller says:

      Agree! By the time you put your glasses, water glass, alarm clock, and book by the bed, it’s a mess. No clutter on the bedside tables for me.

      • Kimberly B Stone says:

        Clearly a lot of people want their bedside table to be more of a useful space. Mine is. Glasses, books, water, sometimes a cat. What I’d do is take the idea of layering and apply it elsewhere. Seems more suitable for a console table in an entry.

    • Alex Cutadean says:

      Just put your keys and wallet in the flower pot at night and read your Kindle. It also gives you a place to put those ugly paintings that you don’t want to see anyway. I think this is great design for the hoarder!

  2. Tori says:

    The night table “vignette” is ridiculous. It’s a completely unusable space. You can’t put down a glass of water without negotiating things and having something tumble over. What’s the point of artwork that’s not visible? And, as said below, the plants on top of books is not a great idea.
    As with anything, the “experts” don’t always have the best ideas or answers.

  3. Irene Madrid says:

    I have matching dining room chairs but I alternated pillows on the seats which make it look playful.

    • Kimberly B Stone says:

      I have 4 dining chairs all of the same family, but 2 have a taller ladderback profile, and 2 have a slightly shorter rounded profile. Not jarring to look at. Just a little more visually interesting.

  4. Deetsagain says:

    I agree about the plant on a book but I use books all the time to “anchor” pieces or add height. Also, use silk flower arrangements. Maybe not for bedside table but I love the look.

  5. Lauryna says:

    All pictures look amazing. I love it.

    Best regards
    Valgomojo baldai

  6. Mildred Nival-Jeff says:

    I didnt like that the bedside table was filled with books and plants and left no room for a glass, magazine or glasses. Thats where i put my stuff at night. I also do not like mixing different chairs in my diningroom. I think it makes for a confused look and this one definately had too many legs showing.

  7. Dee says:

    I wouldn’t take every bit of advice and wouldn’t follow it to the letter. Instead, taking things that are practical for me like the curtain rods being hung higher up is a great idea. Not centering wall art and having it work with furniture is great as well. I don’t personally like much on the night stand but I like the idea of layering interesting or odd pieces in a certain area like on a console table in the entry-way.

  8. Renee says:

    Love the.kitchen!

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