Before you shove that furniture against the wall or cover that couch with pillows, keep in mind these 10 common decorating mistakes that people make and what you might do instead.
1. Furniture against the wall with a floating rug
Try to avoid the natural inclination to place all of the furniture up against the wall to maximize the space in the middle of the room. This backfires and what you are left with is often chairs that are too far apart and rooms that do not function well. Instead, consider the largest direction of the room and consider running the couch or largest piece in that direction. Create a conversation area that does not require yelling across the room. The rug should actually be under the front legs of the furniture and this will help make the room seem bigger!
2. Too many pillows
If there are so many pillows on the sofa that it takes five minutes to move them before sitting, then that is too many. Same goes for the bed. Also, karate chopped pillows only exist in photo shoots. Instead, consider placing a larger one behind a smaller one and control the number so they need not be moved before sitting.
3. Harsh lighting
It is wonderful to have various levels of lighting in a room. Each seat should also have a light source and a place to rest a drink, but no one is doing surgery in the living room. Simply put everything on dimmers. They are inexpensive and allow you to control the amount of light you need at different times of the day.
4. Hanging art high
This is a common mistake. People assume that the height of the art should accommodate the tall people in the house! I remember learning about this in a class at the Rhode Island School of Design and called my friend at Providence Picture Frame for the scoop. Geoff Gaunt and his team not only create beautiful frames, they also hang art for designers around the Northeast. They have even hung the art in Attleboro City Hall and the city's public library. Geoff explains that "in general, the center of the image should be 60 inches off the floor. Multiple pieces should be hung by aligning the centers for a more appealing look." Also, keep proportion of the piece in line with the space you are hanging. A 12-inch frame does not carry enough weight to cover an 8-foot wall. Nor would a 36-inch frame work in a 42-inch opening.
5. Toilet rugs
Sorry, Grammie, these are no longer in style. Opt instead for a rectangular rug placed in front of the toilet (if you must).
6. Out of place themes
Have you ever walked into the home of a friend who was in her animal print phase? Or know someone who went to Hawaii and wanted their home to look like a beach house on Waikiki? Try instead to keep the main pieces simple and use a few well placed accessories to remind you of that trip or your favorite fur.
7. Keeping things you hate
When you really hate something in your home, get rid of it or donate it to charity. If you cannot afford to replace it then head to a consignment shop, or simply remove some of it. For instance, one of my nicest clients is staging her Cape house for sale and has a dark table and china hutch set that I would describe as what they used to call "Early American." My recommendation was to remove the top piece off of the hutch and keep the buffet base, and replace the two chairs at the head of the table with something colorful from HomeGoods. The colorful item drew your eye to the chairs and made a huge difference, and also updated the look by 20 years.
8. Furniture that doesn't fit
Shopping for furniture can be a real challenge because showrooms are always much bigger than your living room. Be careful, and be sure to bring your room measurements with you. It is better the buy a small sofa and two well proportioned chairs than a large sofa and an oversize chair alone. If you cannot afford to bring along a professional then bring along a tape measure and use it on the furniture you are looking at. Beware of pieces with enormous arms.
9. Too many colors
When I am asked how to begin with decorating an entire first floor, I explain that each room should have its own look and color scheme, but a well designed space flows from one room to the next. Try to avoid a red room, a green room and a blue room, etc.
10. Pattern overload
Also be careful when using too many patterns. Pattern proportion is important and the secret to doing it well is varying the size of the patterns. Have you ever driven by a yard with so many objects of art that you are dizzy? There's too much to look at. Think of your eye like the ball of a pinball machine. If you are going from one thing to the next without end, you have overdone it. Keep things simple and change accessories when you want an update.
Bonus mistake: Dreaded drapery
Here's an interior decorating faux pas I've touched on before in my column, but it bears repeating:
Draperies should not be too short or too long. Anything over 2 inches short is too short and even the White House does not have draperies that "puddle" on the floor. Sorry to repeat myself, but draperies done well hang off the window, covering the wall and not the glass. If you do not want to have them adjusted then hang them higher.
Karen Corinha is an accomplished and regionally recognized interior designer who specializes in creating high-style, affordable solutions. She is also a regular columnist for The Sun Chronicle.