10 Mistakes to Avoid When Decorating Your Living Room

Even those of us who are more experienced in interior design have had our fair share of decorating disasters. We saw something we loved, purchased it for the room and experienced with crushing realisation that we’ve made a huge mistake. None of us can say with hand-on-heart that we’ve never tried and failed and so when tackling decorating your living room, it’s sometimes easier to be told what NOT to do than what rules we should be following.

And trust me when I say, rules are meant to be broken in decorating. But these rules? Well, they are probably the ones you should be paying a little more attention to. Today, I’m sharing 10 common decorating mistakes and how to avoid them as well as inspirational examples of what you really should be doing.

Mistake #1: Artwork hung too high (or lack of any at all)

hanging artwork

When you are hanging artwork in your living room, the rules are slightly different than most other rooms in your home. Because you are generally seated, artwork should be hung slightly lower on your walls, generally about 6″ above the back of your sofa or other surfaces. This creates a much more intimate atmosphere.

Even worse is the lack of any artwork at all in a room. Because art is so personal and what we love is so instinctive, it’s important to surround ourselves with pieces that we love. It shows off your unique style and taste and creates a space that’s truly your own.

Mistake #2: Curtains that don’t go to the floor

Dallas Shaw

I can’t stress enough how curtains that hang only to the windowsill make me cringe and how often I see it repeated in households across our fair nation. If you have curtains, they should reach all the way to the floor and they should be hung as high as possible against the ceiling. This creates height in your room and will make it look more grand. If there’s a reason you can’t have full length curtains (a radiator, a bay window) then use roman blinds as in our inspiration image above – they are much more stylish.

Mistake #3: Not considering your lighting

living room lighting

Yes, a single pendant light in the centre of the room is illuminating but it’s so important to not treat lighting as an afterthought in your design. You should have multiple light sources throughout your room so consider adding some table lamps to your side table, sconces on either side of a fireplace, a lamp on your console or sideboard, a floor lamp directing light on your chair. Multiple lighting will allow you to change the mood and atmosphere in your room with a simple flip of a switch.

Mistake #4: Buying a fully matching set of furniture

mismatched furniture

We may walk into a showroom and see a full set of furniture and be tempted to recreate the look in it’s entirety in our home. But if you purchase every single thing in the set, your home will look more like a catalogue than look like somewhere you actually live. It will also mean that someone else out there probably has the exact living room you do! It’s so much better to mix and match your furniture to create a room with personality – your personality.

Mistake #5: Pushing all your furniture against the wall

floating furniture

Less common in larger rooms than in smaller spaces, this is a mistake that’s easily avoided. Floating some of your furniture creates a more intimate atmosphere for conversation and creates a look less like a doctor’s waiting room. Back a sideboard behind a sofa, float two smaller chairs around a sofa and use small side tables between them to give the chairs an anchor.

Mistake #6: Choosing a rug that’s too small

choosing an area rug

A rug should be large enough that all the front legs of your furniture should be able to sit upon it. Measure out the size you need based upon that measurement and always opt for a larger rug than a smaller rug. Small rugs tend to look like postage stamps when they are only under your coffee table, visually making your room appear smaller. For more tips on finding the right rug for your space, check out my tips here.

Mistake #7: Neglecting accessories

styling a coffee table

Sure, the piles of magazines or toys strewn across the floor may be temporarily filling the space’s ‘blanks’ but how much better to have taken care to create small vignettes or “moments” around your room. Consider placement and size of the objects you choose to display, vary their height, width and texture and layer items for a personalised look that makes a house a home. Check out Carole’s post on styling a coffee table for more tips.

Mistake #8: Making the TV the focal point

tv placement in living room

Sure, we all watch television in our living rooms but that doesn’t mean the entire room needs to be set up like a shrine to the big black box. Ensure some of your seating faces towards other seating, creating conversational areas and making your living room more about interaction rather than just staring at the large screen.

Mistake #9: Prioritising comfort over aesthetics or prioritising aesthetics over comfort

comfy but beautiful sofa

Your furniture should be both pleasing aesthetically and be comfortable. As someone who loves interiors, I tend to consider the way something looks over the way it actually functions and so whilst I may love that vintage french sofa, it’s probably not the greatest thing to lounge around on watching a film. My partner, on the other hand, would quite happily have a big overbearing recliner, “Joey and Chandler” style, in the middle of the room, without a care in the world that it matches nothing else. What you really need is a balance – something that looks great but is also practical for how you live. Ignore either one and your living room will suffer!

Mistake #10: Not considering the scale of your pieces

furniture to scale

We may walk into a showroom and see a huge L shaped sofa that looks amazing in the space. Then we bring it home and realise we can barely fit it through the door and if we do manage to get it into the room, there’s not even enough room to walk around it. Your furniture should be to scale in the space you are using it. So a really large armchair against a tiny sofa, a tiny piece of artwork above a wide sofa, or a side table that’s higher than the arm of your sofa will look off-scale. Make sure the pieces you choose not only fit the room but also fit the scale of those pieces around it. This will create a cohesive look for your space.


So I hope you enjoyed my practical tips today! Is there any decorating mistakes you’ve made you’d like to share? Any tips I might have missed? I’d love to hear from you if so.


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