Personal preference plays a huge part in interior design. There’s nothing inherently right or wrong about the colors you prefer, the artwork you’re drawn to, or the furniture styles you love. But sometimes, you walk into a room and can tell that there’s just something off about it. Maybe it’s glaringly obvious what’s amiss, or maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it but know that something isn’t right. Either way, I’d be willing to bet there’s one of a handful of interior design mistakes to blame.
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Interior design is both a skill and an art form, and it’s easy to make mistakes when you’re trying to put all the pieces together. Luckily, some of the most common interior design mistakes are easily fixable—as long as you know how to recognize them.
12 Interior Design Mistakes to Avoid
Although there are lots of factors that go into creating a beautiful space, a single wrong element can significantly affect the overall look and feel. Read on for some of the interior design mistakes you might not even realize you’re making, as well as tips on how to avoid them.
Your curtains are the wrong length.
This is one of those design faux pas that’s glaringly obvious as soon as you walk in the room. Full-length curtains should either pool slightly along the bottom or just barely brush the floor. Any higher and it’ll give a similar effect as high-water pants—not a good look. You’ll also want to make sure your curtain rod is mounted a few inches above the window casing to avoid crowding your window and making it look smaller. Mounting the rod even higher (a few inches below the ceiling) can help make the whole room appear larger.
You’re relying on “the big light.”
If you’ve heard that trending sound on TikTok, you know what I’m talking about. But if not, let me break it down for you. “The big light” refers to any type of overhead lighting (like chandeliers or flush-mount fixtures) that directs brightness downward. This works great for task lighting, but when you’re trying to unwind in the evenings, it can feel too harsh and intense. Relying solely on overhead lighting is a super common interior design mistake, but one that’s easy to remedy by varying your light sources. Table lamps, floor lamps, wall sconces, string lights, and natural lighting are all great alternatives that offer more diffuse ambient lighting and a more relaxing feel.
You’re not hanging your artwork properly.
Artwork is another one of those things that’s easy to get wrong—and it’s pretty obvious when you do. Fortunately, there are a few interior design tips that’ll take the guesswork out of it. First, your artwork needs to be right-sized for the space you’re trying to fill. If you’re hanging art above a sofa, headboard, or another furniture piece, the art should take up about three-fourths of the available wall space. That means you may need to hang several pieces together if your space is large. Then when you go to hang artwork, aim to position the center of the piece at eye level (approximately 60 inches off the floor). If you’re hanging a whole gallery wall of frames, the center of the grouping should be at eye level.
Source: Studio McGee
Your furniture is out of proportion.
A small room overstuffed with big furniture is obviously not ideal. Likewise, furniture that’s too small will get lost in a large space. To find that happy medium, you need to align the size of your furniture to the scale of the room. The same concept applies to the relationship between pieces within a room. If you have a large sofa, you need a sizable coffee table to match. A narrow side table requires a slim table lamp, not a bulky one.
Your rug is the wrong size.
It makes sense that small rooms would need small rugs, but going too small can make your space feel awkward and disjointed. Whatever the dimensions of your room, refer to your furniture arrangement to determine the best rug size. For living rooms or bedrooms, use this rule of thumb: Make sure at least the front two legs of all your furniture pieces can rest on top of the rug. If all your furniture can fit completely on the rug with a few inches to spare, that’s even better. For rugs that go under a dining table, you should be able to pull out each chair fully without going off the rug or catching on the edge.
You’re letting clutter take over.
If your living space feels crowded or too busy, clutter is likely to blame. To get some of that space back, start by putting things back where they belong. For items that don’t really have a place, consider whether they should live in a different room or if you’re better off getting rid of them. For stuff you’re not willing to give up, opt for closed storage where possible. Instead of keeping things out in the open, tuck them away inside cabinets, baskets, or bins for a more streamlined look.
You’re not paying attention to traffic flow.
Especially when you’re working with a small space, finding the right furniture arrangement and orientation can be a challenge. But if the back of a sofa or an accent table is blocking access into or around the space, you know there’s a problem. Think through how people will enter and move around the room, then make sure that all of those pathways are wide enough and not blocked in any way. In general, you need about 30 inches of space between furniture that you need to walk around. Between seating and accent furniture, leave about 18 inches so you can easily reach your drink on the coffee table from the sofa.
Your room isn’t balanced.
This interior design mistake can be trickier to spot, and it might take some time to train your eye in this way. When a room is unbalanced, it can appear lopsided or simply “off.” The key is to make sure the visual weight of the space is balanced from side to side and from top to bottom. As you look at a room, consider whether there are any spots that feel empty or unfinished compared to the other areas of the room. What could you add or rearrange to fill that space?
You’re not relating shape to space.
There’s a reason why a horizontal painting won’t look right on a tall, narrow stretch of wall space. Or why that curved desk looks funky set against a flat wall. When an object’s shape isn’t in harmony with the space around it, something just feels off. As you’re placing furniture and decor throughout a room, consider whether the shape of the object matches the shape of the area you want to put it. If not, consider finding a new home for it.
You’re overdoing it on design trends.
Do you love it because it suits your style and personality—or just because it’s all over your FYP? It can be tricky to tell the difference, especially when our social media feeds are flooded with new fads constantly. Interior design trends can be a fun way to breathe new life into your space or add a new twist to your living room decor ideas, but it’s possible to overdo it. Be selective about the trends you embrace, and remember that it’s OK to forego trends completely in favor of more timeless pieces you know you’ll still love a year from now.
You’re designing rooms individually, instead of as part of a whole.
It shouldn’t feel like you’re walking into a whole new place every time you go between rooms. As you’re outfitting your home, try not to think of each room as a separate entity and instead consider the different spaces holistically. Although having each room match exactly would be tedious, they should relate to each other in color, finishes, and style so each space feels like it’s connected to the whole.
Your home doesn’t feel like you.
This is perhaps the biggest mistake of all—and the one most often overlooked. After all, you’re designing your home for you, not for a panel of judges or a bunch of strangers on the internet to critique. Your home should reflect who you are and what you love, and if some of that isn’t exactly picture-perfect, that’s more than OK.
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