There are rules to Interior Decorating. Many of them can be broken, but some of the deadly sins of decor I’ve listed here shouldn’t be. These ideas are here to get you to think more deeply about your design choices and prevent amateur mistakes.
My Top 10 Deadly Sins of Decorating are:
#1 – Lighting
Lack of lighting is the biggest problem I see in homes I work on. Every room should strive to have 3 light sources. Overhead lights allow you to brighten the entire room from a switch at the door. But don’t overlook dark corners, highlighting art or other features in the room, task lighting for doing activities like reading, or other cozy lighting to set a mood. In my experience, 9 times out of 10 you don’t have enough lights.
#2 – Everything is Shoved Against the Wall
Unless you’re hosting a dance party this weekend, you shouldn’t be pushing your furniture all the way to the wall. Moving your large sofas off the wall adds more visual interest, more dimension, makes the room actually feel larger, but at the same time promotes more intimate conversations. “But Crystal, my furniture only fits if it’s shoved all the way back!” you shout from across the dance hall. If that’s the case, your furniture is probably too big. Time to rethink or remove some of the pieces from the room.
#3 – Too Matchy-Matchy
Ugh, that’s soooo 80’s. I despise “Bed-In-A-Bag” kits, full living rooms suites that are sold in sets, and too much repetition of pattern. It shows that you aren’t confident in making design choices. If you’ve invested in said furnishings, let’s try moving half of them to the family room and breaking up the set. Try pillows on the sofa that didn’t come with the set the furniture store was selling. Unless you bought the set solely based on the pillows, then let’s add some others to bring more interest. If you truly want to work with just your design colors, let me help you learn to mix and match patterns and styles with confidence. I will teach you to LAYER prints and patterns, not just MATCH.
#4 – The Wrong Size Rug for the Job
This is very common. Rugs can get quite expensive, and sometimes we make do with what we already have. Your rug should (at a minimum) be able to go under the front feet of your living room furniture. In a space like a dining room, it should extend 3 feet on either side of the table so that when the chairs are pulled out and someone is sitting, all 4 legs of the chair should stay on the rug. When measuring for a new space with hardwood floors, I try to take the rugs to 18″ off the wall, and also 18″ inside major traffic flow areas. If the size necessary to achieve that isn’t possible with the budget, we can go down a size-or-two rug from standard.
#5 – Windows that Don’t Wow
Have you changed your curtains from your floral poufy valance? Those were so pretty 30 years ago. It’s time to modernize. Think of windows as the icing on the cake of your decorated rooms. They not only block light and allow you privacy, but they frame your views and add more interest and personality to your rooms.
The trend right now is to hang them high and wide. I love this. This gives the visual appearance that the windows are larger than what they may actually be. It’s a great interior designer trick and I love doing it when the space allows. Today’s standard ceiling heights are 8 feet (96 inches). Most standard curtains are 84″. If you want to hang them high, and have them brush within an inch of the floor, you need at least 90″ (depends on any crown moulding and whether your ceilings are actually 8 feet). So what do you do? I love designing custom window treatments, and I have an amazing seamstress, but a more budget-friendly option can be to purchase 102″ length and hem them to the proper length. If you want your curtains to fully close and maintain a fullness, then measure the window and purchase panels 2.5-3 times the width of the actual window opening. Hang your rods about 4″ from the ceiling and if you can find standard rods wide enough, try to gain 12+” on either side of the window.
#6 – You Fail to Let Your Home “Make an Entrance”
When was the last time you entered your house through the front door, as your guests may do? I know I use the garage 99.9% of the time. Perhaps you have a side door that is more convenient to where you park.
Your entryway makes that First Impression. Does it say “You’re Charming and I feel Welcome here”, or is it more like a First Date Disaster? Don’t overlook this part of your home just because you rarely see it the same way others do. Spend some time thinking about your Foyer and what it can do to make your guests feel intrigued to come in and spend time with you. If you don’t have a foyer, it’s easy enough to arrange furniture to define an entry area. Stand just inside your door and look at the statement your home is making. Is that you? Do we need to make some changes?
#7 – Your Home Lacks Character and Architectural Interest
Most homes today have this problem. Unless you custom built your house and added features such as crown moulding, wainscoting, or other trim details, you may be lacking visual interest in the home. Many older homes, such as Craftsman styles, have these unique features in them. Current build styles dictate “make it cheap and vanilla”. I’m sorry, but I have yet to work with a client who is just vanilla. My peeps are Moose Tracks, Mint Chocolate Chip, Strawberry Cheesecake, or other awesome flavors.
Can you add ceiling medallions around fabulous chandeliers? Crown moulding? Fluting on wood trim? Beefed-up baseboards? Wood panels in the dining room? I’m all about the dramatic details that can easily be added to a home that take it from Vanilla to Moose Tracks (Can you tell I love Moose Tracks? Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Caramel… little surprises in every bite. Mmmm, just like I like a house – it’s the little things as a whole that make it yummy.)
#8 – Your Collection makes TOO Strong a Statement
What do you collect? Tiny elephants? Oversized helicopters? Porcelain dolls? Someone gives you an Angel as a gift every year, and so the word on the street is that you collect Angels? Are you starting to look like an Angel or Elephant Hoarder because they’re taking over every room of your house?
It’s time to cull the collection. Only display the items that are most meaningful to you, and limit that display to one area. By condensing your collection to one bookcase or cabinet, it will make a bigger impact and you can enjoy it. Perhaps you’re using green as an accent color – try only displaying your Helicopters that work with your green color palette. But having an Angel or Helicopter or Elephant tucked into every nook and cranny in your home can cross the line from collection to creepy.
#9 – Your Home Feels Like a Fun House Adventure
Does each living area of your home flow to the next? Or does it feel like a carnival Fun House, where there’s a new surprise around each corner? You can actually make your home feel larger and more cohesive by working with a stable color palette.
I’ve seen posts on Pinterest about “Whole House Color Schemes”. I do them differently. I don’t choose a different paint color that coordinates for every room in the house. I like to figure out a 4-color palette (haha – I’m a rule breaker, the norm is 3 colors) and use each of them in the rooms that flow together.
Example: You have a navy blue living room. We use olive green, candy apple red, and a creamy ivory as the secondary colors in here. Your living room opens to the dining room. We use the same candy apple red as the main color here, and then add navy, olive and ivory accent colors. In the kitchen, the ivory becomes the star of the show, with navy, red, and olive pieces to pick up the flow. Then perhaps the foyer is done in olive, and again we use the other three colors in art or accessories. Do you see what I’ve done here? Another benefit – the accessories from one room can easily be used in the next room, yet you’ve maintained your color scheme. And somewhere along the line, you’ve got paint left over to do the powder room, or we choose a fantastic wallpaper for that small space that picks up all or most of the colors in your palette. The whole house feels cohesive. And your cute dishes can easily be displayed in the kitchen and served in the dining room.
#10 – You Copied Someone Else’s Look, and it Flopped
You are YOU. You are not a catalog layout or a magazine article. Your home needs to reflect the amazing peeps that live there. You’re not the Joneses (well, you might be, if your last name is truly Jones).
Imitation is a great starting point, but in the end, your home needs to function for how your family lives in it, your lifestyle, your entertaining habits, your pets if you have fur babies, and it will evolve as your family grows or your nest empties. Your taste will change over time. Did your family have the mauve and hunter green plaid sofa? Yeah, mine did too, in the 90’s (those were our hand-me-down-from-the-in-laws-days). It became dated quickly and had to be replaced before it was completely worn out. Large purchases should be classic and timeless. Accessories are much easier and inexpensive to change out when they start feeling dated.
Two years ago Chevron patterns were the rage. I feel for the poor peeps who painted entire walls in that pattern. Then it became Arabesque patterns. You can’t try to keep up that level of change on fixed items, like walls, tile, or large furnishings. Stop copying others or jumping on the latest fad just because you can. Let’s design a space for YOU, something that expresses your style and personality.
There’s Hope for Ye Sinners!
You can incorporate any of these tips into your own design, or if you are struggling to pull your own personal look together, I’m available for Consultations or ReDesigns to help you take your home from Sinner to Saint. Contact me to schedule an appointment and let’s get you out of Decorating Hell.