These common decorating mistakes will make me (and any other designer worth their salt) cringe. The good news is, they’re easy to fix. If you’re guilty of any of these design boo-boo’s, now’s the time to take action!
- The number one offender is: artwork hung too high. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into someone’s home for a consultation and my FIRST observation is that the art is too high. The best rule of thumb is that the art should be hung so that the middle of the picture is at approximate eye level (about 60-65″ off the floor). If you’re hanging art over a table or chest, the bottom of the art should be 4-8″ off the furniture. In this photo the art is about a foot too high. While the mix of art is interesting, it looks like they hung it in the vertical center of a tall wall so it’s not connected to the sofa and nobody would be able to see or enjoy that top picture. Check every picture and painting in your home and rehang them………..lower.
- A close second also has to do with art. The art MUST be proportionate to the size of the wall. Do NOT hang a small 8×10 or 11×14 family photo on a wall 6′ wide. Even if it’s at the right height, it will look so lost and uncomfortable on that big wall. (See the picture below, doesn’t it look funny to you?) Similarly, don’t hang a large, oversize poster or painting that’s 36″ wide on a 48″ wide wall. Even though it fits, that only gives 6″ clearance on either side and the the painting will overpower the wall. Art needs a little breathing room. If you find that you have predominantly small pictures but some large wall spaces to fill, group the pictures. When I say group, I mean hang with only 1-3″ between pictures so that there is a connection between them all. It’s better to leave a large wall blank than to hang one too-small picture on it like a blot. Often if a picture is hung just to “fill the space”, it’ll stay there for years. Better to wait for just the right piece of art.
- Too much contrast. Painting an accent wall with a color that contrasts too dramatically with the other wall colors can be jarring. While I encourage you to be bold with your color choices, a single bright red (or orange or whatever) wall in an all white room is usually too strong. It becomes impossible to look at anything but the wall color. If you’re going bold on a wall, be sure to warm up the adjoining walls with a little bit of color and/or hang drapes or art to cover some of the accent color paint.
- Collections scattered all over a room. Collections can take over a room or, in a worst case scenario, a whole house. This mistake is compounded when the collection is of a mid-sized thing like figurines, pottery or books. Somehow when a collection is of a dozen ducks from 8-12″ tall, you’re likely to find them scattered here and there, singly and in pairs, around the house. Gather all the pieces of the collection in one place and evaluate the strength and interest of each piece.
Edit ruthlessly if necessary and just place your best pieces – all in one place…… one or two tabletops, or throughout one bookshelf. If the collection is of small items, gather and anchor them together on a tray. If the collection is of oversized items, group them in pairs or trios and place judiciously around the room. If it starts to feel like a store, edit some more.
- Naked windows. For years I was guilty of this no-no. I have a contemporary sensibility and thought naked windows looked more sleek and open and contemporary. Wrong. Every window benefits from dressing of some sort. Window treatments offer sound absorption, color, misdirection (making a small window appear bigger), reinforce your style, and add softness. There are lots of simple options that work well in sleek, contemporary rooms: blinds, Roman shades, sheers. There will be many future posts on window treatments - suffice it to say here, it’s a mistake to leave your windows blank (and don’t hang a sheet, even temporarily, and think that’s good enough).
Following trends too closely. This mistake can be quite costly as you replace items unnecessarily just to have the “hot” new color or style. It also doesn’t allow rooms to evolve and showcase your personality and interests. Model homes are perfect showcases for trendy colors and styles – enjoy them, but choose carefully when those colors are coming into your home. Can you live with the look for years and years?
Rooms too cluttered with “stuff”. Don’t get me wrong, I love my ‘stuff’! However, every room has a limit. Make sure it functions well and isn’t so crammed with furniture that it’s difficult to move around. I once had a client that had 2 armoires and 4 nightstands, a bench and ottomans in her master bedroom because she couldn’t tell an over zealous salesperson NO. My first advice was…..pick only one style and let’s get rid of the extra furniture. Accessories are lovely but make sure the tabletops are clear enough for a glass or plate to be set down. Collections are personal reflections of our interests, but make sure they take back seat to the function of the room. Need to declutter a little? Check out my previous post for some good ideas.
Furniture too far apart. Your seating needs to be close enough for people to hold a conversation without raising their voices. The other side of that is that you don’t want seating furniture clumped together and edges touching – that’s TOO close. If you’re not sure, test it. Sit on the sofa and talk to a friend in a chair across the room in a normal voice. If you can’t be heard, you’re too far away.
Use this list of frequent decorating mistakes as a checklist to see how your rooms are looking. Take a few minutes to adjust and rearrange and I’m sure you’ll instantly feel more satisfied with your space.
Do you have a specific concern or dilemma that’s just driving you crazy? I’m here to help. Email me or comment on a post and it comes directly to my personal inbox and I’ll answer right away. If you found this post interesting or helpful, share with friends. Thanks.