10 Home Decorating Mistakes That Ruin Designs (and 10 Great Alternatives)
At NW Rugs & Furniture, our goal is to provide the best rugs and furniture you can get. We believe that everyone should have the resources to create the home of their dreams no matter what their budget is like. To serve you even better, we regularly post updates on our style blog that any home decorator can use to improve their knowledge of home décor, get some handy tips to make their design better, and find inspiration in the work we’ve done.
With that in mind, it occurred to us that we’ve written quite a bit about what youshould do when you compose your design, but we haven’t touched very much on what you shouldn’t do. Often, we find that bad designs result from people thinking they know what they’re doing, but really don’t. We want to do something about that.
In today’s post, we’ll discuss 10 common mistakes that we’ve seen people make in their home design. We’ll also offer 10 alternatives to each mistake that you can use to craft a design that works beautifully for your home.
1. Ignoring Scale
When you walk in a room, how big does the furniture look to you? Have you ever seen a gigantic couch paired with a teeny-tiny end table and thought, “That just looks off to me.” That’s because the designer didn’t take scale into account when they drafted their design.
What is Scale?
Scale refers to the general perception of size when two objects are compared to each other. In general, the human mind expects that objects be paired with other objects of similar scale. When that balance is thrown off, we can perceive it and detect that something is off.
This doesn’t mean that two objects have to be the exact same size to fit well together. You’ll never find an end table that’s as large as a couch. (If you ever do, let us know - that would be something to look at!)
How to Balance Scale in Your Design
When professional interior designers account for scale, they use what’s called the Golden Ratio. The Golden Ratio is a naturally recurring numerical equation of about 1:1.61, or a ratio of 60/40. We can find the ratio at play when we compare the scale of the human body, works of art, and even in interior design.
To put the Golden Ratio to practical use, start by measuring out the full floor space of your room (let’s say it measured out to 100 square feet). Your furniture shouldn’t take up more than 60% of your total space (in this case, 60 square feet). Additionally, your accent pieces should measure about 40% of the pieces they support. If you have a sofa that measures 10’ x 6’, your coffee table should measure about 4’ x 2.4’.
Using the Golden Ratio will help you ensure that your furniture is well-balanced against your room and that objects are neither too big nor too small. If you want to explore the Golden Ratio more, House Tipster published an excellent post about it. You can also use our sizing guide to help you gauge your scale.
2. Forcing Everything to Match
Home decorators are often terrified of things not matching. There’s a stigma that if something doesn’t match perfectly, then the design is flawed. That may be true for picking out your wardrobe, but in home design, if everything matches, it can look incredibly bland. This is true whether we’re talking about colors, textures, and even material.
Introduce a Little Variety
Just because two pieces aren’t exactly the same color and texture, that doesn’t mean they can’t look beautiful together. Browse through the Magnolia Home Collection by Joanna Gaines just a moment. Notice anything? In many of the rugs, the colors don’t match. In others, one fabric is used as the base for the rug, and a second with a completely different texture is used for highlights.
This concept isn’t limited to individual pieces of decor. You can mix and match between multiple pieces to create a design that’s varied and interesting.
3. Selecting Decor Pieces at Random
While you definitely want some variation in your decor pieces, that doesn’t mean you should just use anything that catches your eye. All too often, we’ve seen rooms that looked thrown together because the decorator just picked whatever looked good to them at the time. They didn’t keep the overall design theme in mind (or they didn’t have a theme at all).
Start with a Unifying Theme
We’ve talked about the importance of selecting a theme before you craft your design, and it certainly applies here. Having a clear theme will help you choose pieces that align with your vision without looking so random. You can also choose a particular style to create harmony while introducing some variety in your design. Some popular styles include:
4. Adding Too Much Decor
A big problem we’ve found in bad designs is people not being able to say, “Enough is enough.” There’s a tipping point in every design where you can add too much furniture or too many accent pieces in the design. This can lead to a room that feels overburdened and foster feelings of claustrophobia.
Leave a Little White Space in Your Design
Don’t underestimate the power of white space in a design. Incorporating some white space allows people to appreciate each individual piece. It also allows your pieces to ‘breathe’ because they’re not competing with each other for attention.
A great method you can use to maintain balance is to start with a centerpiece. It could be a rug, a photo, a window, or any element you want to highlight in your room. As you arrange your other décor around your centerpiece, keep in mind how perceivable your centerpiece is. Have someone else look at your arrangement. If they can’t easily detect which item is your centerpiece, or they think your room feels cluttered, you should introduce more white space.
5. Using Colors That Don’t Fit the Mood
Colors play a critical role in any design. We rely on them to not only look appealing but also to channel certain emotions. We’ve seen many instances where an otherwise beautiful design was thrown completely out of whack because the designer used colors that didn’t fit the mood.
Consider the Emotion Impact of Colors Before You Choose Them
Different colors have different emotional aspects. When you design a room, it’s important that you decide what emotions you want that room to convey before you select your colors. For example, if you want your room to foster passion or energy, then warm colors like red, yellow, and orange are perfect for the occasion.
It helps to have a basic understanding of color theory when you’re designing your room. It will help you pick the right colors for your mood, and also select a palette that looks interesting and appealing.
6. Not Leaving Enough Space to Walk
Want to ruin a perfectly good design? Simply have your family and guests dodge furniture every time they want to move about the room. Too many designers forget that furniture and accent pieces serve a practical purpose in addition to their aesthetic appeal. People want to enjoy sitting on a comfy sofa or resting their feet on a cozy rug. If they have to duck, dodge, and weave their way just to sit down and stretch out, your design simply doesn’t work.
Use a Top-Down Floorplan to Design Your Walkways
Before you start arranging your furniture, start with a top-down sketch of the room you’ll be working with. Draw in your furniture and accent pieces, with their dimensions. As you sketch, think about the natural routes that people will use to reach your seating spaces. People tend to take the quickest route possible, so draw arrows from your doorways and connecting rooms to your seating space. It will help you visualize how people will move about your room so you can leave plenty of room to walk.
7. Blocking Too Much Natural Light
As far as light bulb technology has come, scientists have yet to replicate the stunning beauty that comes from natural light. I don’t think they’ll ever quite get their either. We’ve seen too many designs don’t take natural light into account, resulting in spaces that feel completely cold and artificial.
Let the Sunshine In
We’d never suggest that you sacrifice privacy for the sake of design. In areas like the bathroom or the bedroom, where you don’t want people to be able to see in your home, absolutely - cover up your windows. But in other rooms where you feel comfortable with it, incorporate as much natural sunlight as you can. Opt for curtains of thinner material like cotton, or don’t use curtains at all!
8. Always Following Trends
Every interior design business in the world likes to talk about what’s hot and what’s not in the industry. We confess - we’ve done the exact same thing. Exploring different trends can be a great way to find inspiration and craft a beautiful design. However, if all you ever do is follow trends, you’ll be redecorating constantly, spending a small fortune every year, and may ultimately end up with a design that you don’t really like.
Trust Your Own Instincts to Find Your Style
As tempting as it might be to keep up with the Joneses, no one knows your own preferences better than you. You know which colors, fabrics, and textures appeal to you most. Just because someone says they aren’t in style, that doesn’t mean they can’t work for you.
Before you start committing to your design choices, identify the colors, fabrics, and styles that appeal to you most. There are only so many different base colors and fabrics used to manufacture décor. As new trends emerge every year, those materials won’t change. Knowing which appeal to you most means you may only swap out select pieces, rather than redecorate an entire room.
9. Not Setting a Realistic, Prioritized Budget
One of our guiding principals at NW Rugs is that great furniture shouldn’t cost a fortune. It’s why we prioritize quality and value above anything else in our pieces. That being said, it’s important that you’re realistic about how much your design project will ultimately cost. This is especially true if you plan on getting new furniture. If you don’t, you might find that you’ve used up all of your money before you’re even partway through your project.
Put Your Money Where it Matters Most
When you establish your budget, the first thing you need to do is prioritize how you’ll spend. Think about where you really need to invest versus where you can settle for a budget alternative. While this isn’t always the case, higher priced furniture and rugs tend to be of better quality. You can usually find great accent pieces, like vases, picture frames, and wall art at thrift stores for very affordable prices. We recommend that you prioritize any furniture pieces at the top of your budget and settle for cheaper-priced accents to complete your design.
10. Keeping Furniture Too Close to the Wall
How easy is it for me to talk with you if you’re on the other side of the room? We all know it’s not a great option, but you’d be amazed how often that’s exactly what happens. When your furniture is pushed too close to the wall, you reduce that crucial white space we discussed earlier. You also risk missing out on the intimacy you want people to feel by having them spread too far apart.
Bring Things a Little Closer
The easy solution to this common mistake is to simply bring your furniture a little closer together. One perfect way to do this is to get a large area rug and rest your seating space on it. Your rug serves as a great centerpiece and helps to protect your floor at the same time.
Take Your Time and Relish the Joy of Design
We covered a lot of information in this post and you may feel overwhelmed right now. You might feel like interior design can feel like this big, complex puzzle that you have to solve if you want to capture the perfect look. It doesn’t have to be. Remember - the goal of interior design is to craft a home thatyou think looks beautiful and makes you feel comfortable. There’s no perfect answer to any design problem, only the answer that’s perfect for you.
As always, we’re grateful that you took the time out of your day to read this post. We hope it was enjoyable for you and gave you some great ideas. Until next time, happy decorating!