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Top 8 Design Mistakes You’re Probably Making PLUS How to Fix Them!

Sometimes, when we put a room together, it doesn’t look quite how we’d planned it in our minds. In this article, I’m going to show you 8 common design mistakes you’re making without even knowing it…and how to fix them!


We all know that a beautiful home can do wonders for your mind, body and soul. It can welcome weary friends and give them a place to rest when they need it most. A beautiful home can be a refuge from the world and a place you and your family can recharge before heading out to do battle with the everyday.

But sometimes, when we put a room together, it doesn’t look quite how we’d planned it in our minds. A lot of the time, that’s because we’re making one or more common design mistakes without even knowing it!

I love to get to the point, without wasting time. So, in the next few paragraphs, I’m going to show you the top 8 design mistakes you’re probably making and how to fix them! Stick with me until the end of the post. This article is going to have you smiling all the day long…because you’ll finally be able to pull your rooms together so they look just like you’ve been imagining they could!

design mistakes

8 Design Mistakes You May Not Even Know You’re Making…and How to Fix Them!

Before I tell you the mistakes, I want to encourage you. This list isn’t meant to make you feel bad about your decorating. It’s meant to help you see your space from a decorator’s perspective and give you SOLUTIONS to the mistakes I see all the time. They’re generally easy enough fixes that can bring improvement and a more cohesive style to your home fairly quickly.

Read the list with an open mind and an eye on the positive changes you can make armed with this new knowledge! 

On with the list…

Mistake #1: Too Much Furniture

It can happen innocently enough. A friend is giving away a gorgeous chair. You bought a new sofa and coffee table. Then you find a great dresser at a thrift store and add it to the mix. The problem is, after awhile, you accumulate way too much furniture for a space. Soon your room is crowded and crammed, instead of cozy and welcoming.

The fix for this mistake is to ruthlessly edit your furniture. Keep only what you TRULY love…and what fits in the space well. Perhaps another room or a friend’s home could benefit from your editing.

Trust me, you’ll thank me when you can breath in your space again!

Mistake #2: Wrong-Sized Rug

Usually with this mistake, a rug is too small for a space. Rarely is it too large for a room. Wrong-sized rugs happen way more often than you’d think. Mostly this is because smaller rugs are cheaper than larger rugs. But if you shop around you can find a good deal on the right sized rug. Plus you can always layer a larger, cheaper rug under a smaller, nicer rug too! Like we did in our living room here:

Living Room with new coffee table

We have an area rug size guide blog post and printable specifically created to help you solve this problem. Get the Area Rug Size Guide here.

Mistake #3: Matchy-Matchy Furniture Sets

I’m pretty sure if you’ve ever shopped at a big box furniture store, you’ve made this mistake at least once in your adult life. I know Dean and I have made it more than a few times.

For real. When Dean and I were younger, we purchased an entire matching bedroom set. Not once, but twice. And we’ve done it with dining room sets too. There’s no faster way to have your home look bland and cheap, with little character.

But by mixing and matching pieces, you create the look of furniture collected over time. you can also save money by thrifting some pieces or accepting hand me downs from friends and family that blend seamlessly into your home decor. (Just don’t let this lead you back to Mistake #1!)

If you’ve got a room full of matching pieces, perhaps try moving one or two of them to another room. And then bring in a thrifted piece or an antique to break up the sameness of a matching set. 

Mistake #4: Furniture Lining the Walls

Let’s face it, it’s easy to just line the furniture against the outer walls of a room. It takes no thought or imagination. But it’s also a pretty boring way to style a room !

Unless your space is VERY small, you should try to pull at least some of the furniture away from the walls. Maybe even try a piece or two at an angle.

Play around with your space, look at photos online for room layout ideas. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes!

Mistake #5: Art Hung at the Wrong Height

Art at the wrong height. Oh my. The number of times I’ve seen this mistake made is insane!

Typically, the recommendation is to hang art at eye level. But whose eye level? My 5’ 1” eye level is vastly different than my 6’ 7” brother-in-law’s eye level! So, how do you determine where to hang art?

The best rule is to hang art so that its center is at (or about) 57 inches from the floor. But you can adjust this rule if it’s hanging over a mantel or couch or something else. In this case, the art should be hung with its bottom edge 6-8 inches above the mantel or couch, etc.

And for a gallery wall, you should treat all the pieces together as one piece when determining hanging height. (And keep about 3-6 inches between each piece otherwise.)

how to fix design mistakes

Mistake #6: Choosing Paint Color First

Choosing a paint color sometimes seems complicated enough without making it the first decision when decorating a room.

You need a basis on which to make the paint color decision.

Never, ever choose your paint color first. Instead choose the large pieces you’ll use, perhaps a couch or a large rug, and then base your paint color choice off of those other elements.

Mistake #7: Multiple (or No) Focal Points

There are two parts to this mistake: either choosing multiple focal points or none. Both make a room look awkward and haphazard.

Sometimes a space will have a natural, built-in focal point. Like a fireplace and shelves or an architectural detail. Other times you’ll have to choose or even create one. A new mantel or even a tv stand.

A focal point gives your room direction and a way in which to orient the space and furniture. It provides a grounding effect in a room and creates visual peace.

Mistake #8: Lack of Lighting

We’ve all been there, living in a rental that has no overhead lights. Or had a home where there was ONLY overhead lighting. Both seem off somehow.

That’s because a room needs three kinds of lighting: ambient, accent and task lighting.

  1. Ambient lighting is the overhead lighting, chandeliers, pot lights, etc. This provides an overall light to a room.
  2. Accent lighting builds on ambient lighting. it can draw attention to a focal point or highlight a unique design element and add warmth to a space.
  3. Task lighting is exactly what it sounds like – lighting you need for say, reading or crafting. By adding all three types of lighting to your space you create depth, interest and warmth.

Imagine the difference in your home if you just fixed these 8 mistakes in each of your main rooms! I’m guessing you’d be uber happy with the improvements you can make in your space in just a matter of days!

Pin for later!

If you can’t get to these fixes today, pin this post to come back to later!

design mistakes

So, are you like me? Have you made these design mistakes too?

I'd love it if you'd share:

I'd love to chat with you in the comments!

Comments

  1. Jayne says

    I truly enjoy your blog! You are the first one whose site when I took the quiz defined my decorating style and I was able to say “yes, that’s it, by golly!” We are in the process of buying our soon to be retirement home. The lot we are buying overlooks the 8 & 9 greens with 2 mini water trap/lakes right at the end of our lot. The mountains are in the foreground. I want to make sure I stay true to my style, the lighting and scenery and don’t get thrown off by all the pretty and updated modern choices and end up with someone else’s decorating style. I thank you so very much because this is helpful. I want to stay true to me and our budget.

    • Shannon Acheson says

      I’m so happy to hear that the quiz was helpful!!! And congratulations on your soon-to-be new home! You can do it! And I’m here if you need backup! 🙂

  2. Margo says

    I have a few of the problem areas you identified but seemingly no solution. Do you think you could address what to do in some of these cases? For instance, I have too much furniture in a small space, but we’ve moved to a smaller home with an open floor plan and there is virtually no alternative. We need to include our couches and a dining table. The table was special ordered to fit in a narrow space and our couches are on the small size to begin with. If we were to remove some of the furniture, where would people sit? We spend all our waking hours in this room and need comfort as well.
    Additionally, the predominant feature in our room is a massive stone fireplace which claims the role of focal point, however, there are the following competing areas: the vignette on the dining table as well as the one on the console behind the couch. Also, books and another vignette on the coffee table. There is also a long sideboard against the wall with a very large mirror over it and a small cabinet on a small feature wall covered with wallpaper. I could go on and on here, but the final piece is that all of this is in a room with a wall of windows with a spectacular view of the lake.
    So much of what’s here is lovely but we recently returned from 2 weeks abroad and I was overwhelmed when I came home and realized that everything is so lovely but there’s just too, too much. I don’t know where to begin to edit and wonder how this got so out of hand. I think I’ve read too many blogs and made too many vignettes!

    • Shannon Acheson says

      Hello Margo,

      I’m sorry you’re struggling with this. Home should refresh us, not overwhelm us.

      That being said, you may not like what I have to say. The fact is that you can only have as much as the space can handle. If you’ve moved somewhere smaller, some things from your previous home may have to go. Vignettes may have to be simplified or removed altogether.

      I don’t think you’re going to run into the problem of bare mundane surfaces, given the fireplace, the windows and all that is there, even if you left a couple of surfaces completely empty.

      If you truly love the items, you may have to rotate them somehow, rather than have them all out at once. But that of course presumes you have storage space for when they’re not on display.

      Remember, not every bare space needs to be filled with things.

      xo,
      Shannon

  3. Anna Costantini says

    Very good points to consider. I know i’m guilty of #3 and it’s my goal to fix this. Number 8 is good information to keep in mind with the different lighting needs/solutions. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

  4. barbaramantelandtablecom says

    Thanks so much for these great ideas Shannon! I kind of thought about each of them a little, but putting them together and giving more detail makes them really clear. I’m going to look at my home with a new understanding now! 💗

  5. Colleen says

    Hi
    Shannon..although #7 is probably correct if you’re already in a home. But, I built a new house and had to choose paint colour far in advance of buying new furniture. Picking paint was the worst part (for me) of the entire build! So..I just went with straight out of the can white. All the baseboards, the same. Although, they are a different sheen and actually make the walls look like a soft grey. I just add pops of colour wherever I want and can change them whenever I choose. My biggest problem is that I just don’t know how to bring my rooms all together. To me, it feels unfinished, but I don’t want a lot of clutter around. I am very frustrated by this. None of my furniture is match matchy at all, my walls are bare because I can’t decide what to put on them and hubby seems to have a problem of wanting to put holes in the walls to hang things! So, my new home isn’t at all what I had envisioned. Makes me sad. Any suggestions?

    • Shannon Acheson says

      Hi Colleen,

      Oh no! Don’t be sad! Just look at it like you have a great blank slate to work with!

      I can imagine choosing paint like that would be very stressful. In that case, I would have chosen a white too, just one that went with the floors. But even though your white straight out of the can may be bright and not necessarily what you’d choose now, it can work. It’s awesome that you chose different sheens to give it some differentiation!

      So to bring all the rooms together, you need an overall plan that incorporates your style (and hubby’s if he is wanting input, some guys do, some don’t) and colors you’d like to see there. Initially, I’d suggest reading this blog post: https://homemadelovely.com/how-to-decorate-your-home-the-foolproof-plan/

      After that, if you’d still like help and guidance, I’d suggest my course, Decorating Uncomplicated.

      I think your home can be great!!!

      xo, Shannon

  6. Lori says

    Could I ask you to clarify, please? You said a rule of thumb is to hang pictures with the center approximately 57″ from the floor. You are speaking of artwork that is viewed from a seated position, yes?

Student love

I found my style and was able to bring our small space together by creating a cozy and inviting home...

Danae C.

I loved the lesson on color theory, and also THAT YOU TOLD US EXACTLY WHAT ORDER TO DECORATE IN!

Erica L.

My ah-ha moment was when I realized how much time and money we have spent in the past couple of...

Cheryl P.

I love your easy process to determine my style. I've also learned that my style has changed over the years and seasons...

Sheryl R.

Your explanation of paint colors was the light bulb moment for me! Your explanation would have saved us from painting...

Pat Jensen