How to Avoid The Eight Most Common Living-Room Mistakes

At this point in our lives, we’ve been to enough house parties/bridal showers/brises to know what we do and don’t like in other people’s living rooms.

And while most of our friends generally have good taste, there are a few design mistakes we see folks making again and again.

Check out our list of the eight most egregious blunders (cough-cough, harsh overhead lighting)--and what you can do to fix them.

Mistake #1: Not Using Color

We know, we know: You’re going for minimalist. But without any color, your sleek, modern space can quickly turn boring and sterile.

Solution: Baby Steps

Look, you don’t have to paint the whole house magenta. But pops of color here and there (a throw pillow! an accent table! an artfully hued floating fireplace!) will give a room personality and liveliness.

Mistake #2: Matchy-Matchy Furniture

Hey, guess what? Jennifer Convertibles totally wants to sell you a Price Is Right-style matching living-room set. Guess what else? You should just step away from the Price Is Right-style matching living-room set.

Solution: Mix It Up

Texture, size, historical era: Go for an eclectic mix that shows off your unique style. As long as the proportions are right and there are some unifying aesthetics, it’s totally fine to have mismatched furniture.

Mistake #3: Relying Exclusively on Overhead Lighting

You know that icky fluorescent glow you get in an American Apparel dressing room? That’s what your houseguests feel every time they come over.

Solution: Area Lights

Play around with table and floor lamps, as well as overhead lights on dimmers. Lighting sources at different heights and levels of brightness will yield a warm, flattering glow.

Mistake #4: Pushing All Furniture Against Walls

Is there something inherently embarrassing about the back of your sofa? Arranging furniture flush against the wall creates an overly formal vibe (not to mention an awkward, empty space in the middle of the room).

Solution: Move Toward the Middle

Bring your sofa and chairs away from the walls to create intimate areas where folks can comfortably talk. It’ll give the space a cozy, lived-in feel.

Mistake #5: Forgetting End Tables

You should never balance a glass of Malbec on a couch cushion. Never.

Solution: Get an End Table


Mistake #6: Hanging Art Too High

Why, oh, why are so many people inclined to hang their art mere centimeters from the ceiling? (The Kleenex also isn’t helping things in this case.)

Solution: Eye Level, Eye Level, Eye Level

Art should be hung so the center of the piece hits at eye level, about 60 inches off the floor. (See our cheat sheet for other optimal hanging heights.)

Mistake #7: Teensy-Tiny Rugs

We get it: Rugs are expensive, so it can be tempting to go with a smaller size. But as far as proportion goes, a rug defines an area, and it looks weird when it’s small and floating out in the middle of nowhere.

Solution: Rugs That Fit the Space

As a general rule, a living-room rug should touch the front legs of every piece of nearby furniture--but it’s OK if it’s bigger!

Mistake #8: Buying Furniture You’ll Never Use

Yes, an antique writing desk would make you look so bookish and cool. But be honest with yourself. Are you ever going to use an antique writing desk? (Or a retro church pew? Or a giant farmhouse table if you haven’t entertained since the Clinton administration?) Don’t decorate for the person you want to be--decorate for the person you are.

Solution: Cop to the Stuff You Do Need (and Design Around It)

Maybe you watch a lot of Netflix. There’s no shame in making the (sleekly hung) TV the focal point of your living room. Maybe your 4-year-old has 9,000 Tonka trucks. Totally fine to build toy chests into your decor. If you make design choices that suit your lifestyle, we promise you won’t be disappointed.