1. Hanging artwork too high. I see it all the time and I’m afraid I will go to my friends’ homes and point this out (they thank me for it, most of the time). There must be something in human nature that says hang it up high, but think about it: art is there to look at, so it should be at eye level. Stick to this rule and you’ll find it all works much better. Go and have a look at where your art is. Is it too high? Does it make sense?
2. Buying rugs too small and placing furniture around them, not on them. My rule is this: buy rugs as big as you can afford. Put your furniture ON them, not around them. There are always exceptions to every rule but, in general, this approach looks and feels much better, grounds your furniture and defines spaces within multi-use open plan areas like living/dining rooms.
3. Forgetting about lighting. Lighting is key. It’s so important when it comes to creating a layered interior. It’s another layer all on its own. Overhead lighting, in most living areas, sucks. It might work in kitchens and bathrooms but it is often too harsh in living areas and does little to create ambience. Consider table and floor lamps at different heights and brightnesses to mix it up. Install dimmer switches where you can.
4. Thinking you can’t/it’s not worth making an effort in a rental home. This one REALLY bugs me and probably deserves its own post. Most of the homes I’ve lived in in the last ten years have been rented. In fact, I think I did the least with the one I owned! A home is a home, whether you own it or not and there is plenty you can do without making permanent or structural changes. Furniture, rugs, soft furnishings and art (hello, 3M hooks!) can all be taken with you when you leave. Don’t be afraid to invest in them. PLEASE don’t deny yourself the pleasure of living in a stylish, comfortable home that reflects you as its occupant until you grow up/buy your first home. That would make me really sad.
5. Too many rectangles. It’s easily done. Think about it: lounge, coffee table, rug, dining table, TV unit, doors, bookcase. All rectangular? All at right angles or against walls? It happens! Try adding a circle here and there, whether it’s a rug, a juju feather hat on the wall, a couple of round cushions, an ottoman, a round coffee table… Thanks for the lightbulb moment, Megan Morton!
6. No flow because every room in a home is completely different. While it is tempting to use every room in your home as a fresh palette to experiment with the latest trend/colour/style, try and avoid it. It will make your home feel like a collection of small spaces, not one larger, flowing whole that all ties together nicely and feels like it all belongs together. I don’t mean make everything match, but think about some common elements between all your rooms, whether they be colour, furniture style or overall look.
7. A dominating sofa. Again, this happens a lot. People choose HUGE, masculine-looking couches in dark colours like chocolate brown or black and they completely take over a room and become the feature. Try and pick something a little more subtle, maybe go for a smaller couch and a couple of arm chairs, break it up a bit with throw cushions in lighter colours. Consider colours like tan, stone and grey rather than black and dark brown. A couch is usually a big investment piece. Give it some real thought before handing over the credit card. And while you’re at it, your lounge doesn’t have to be right up against a wall. Try pulling it out a few inches, let it breathe, see what happens. If you don’t like it, push it back!
8. Rushing into big purchases. Try not to, it never ends well. If you really want that Jardan lounge, maybe you should wait 6 months and save up until you can (almost) afford it rather than buying the cheaper one. You’ll probably keep it for years. Moved house and want it all looking perfect within two weeks so you can have the housewarming so rush out to buy everything in one shop? Recipe for disaster. Don’t do it! Simply sit and consider your purchases for a bit longer and see what happens. If you still really want something after two or three months, you’re probably on the right track. I’ve blogged about taking your time before.
9. Being scared of colour. Don’t be! Colour is awesome and it doesn’t have to be OUT THERE, it can be subtle. You may really like creams and browns and that’s ok, they’re colours too. But don’t go neutral just because colour scares you. Use it in little accent pops here and there with a largely neutral scheme. Be brave and experiment. Pick up a colour wheel from your paint store to see which colours go together (or contrast) well. Look to your wardrobe, and nature, for inspiration. Have fun with it.
10. Forgetting texture. When you feel like you’ve done all of the above but your room still doesn’t quite come together it may be that you’ve forgotten to add texture. Or to have more than one texture. It’s amazing the difference the addition of a chunky knit throw, a linen cushion, a leather ottoman, natural basket, sisal rug or velvet cushion can make. If you’re still scared of colour (see above), play up your texture instead to stop a room looking and feeling flat.
I have so many more but you have to stop somewhere! What would you add to this list?
Thanks to all the interiors experts I may have picked some of these up from over the years! In the interests of my readership I am going to refrain from commenting on feature walls, recliner chairs or too much plastic kids’ stuff 😉
Good list! I think I’d add using undersized artwork to the list of no-nos – so often in estate agents’ particulars you see a tiny picture marooned on its own in a sea of wall. They get lonely! They need company! Or at least to be so huge they form a club on their own.
And why hold back on plastic stuff, feature walls and recliners? I think you should go for it, hell for leather!
I’ll think about it 😉 Thanks and glad you enjoyed this list.
Great post! Some great tips……. Don’t feel the need to hold back, I would love to hear your thoughts on the bits you missed lol!
It is a brave woman without kids who comments on kids stuff 😉 I’ll think about it….
Love this list… It’s a bible for decorating really..
Don’t be scared of Colour. It can be so fun to play with and easy to change.. Cushions, rug, even paint!
Lucia van Gerwen says
Great points…I will be sharing. Artwork hung too low does my head in as well. I recently visited a display home and it looked as if the artwork had been hung by little people!!!
Now that is bizarre?!
Corinna Musgrave says
Yes, yes, yes and yes! Great list 🙂
Joey Thomas says
Fantastic post as usual Jen. Just love the concept. The rug thing is my pet peeve. I still live at home and my parents drive me nuts with their design choices. They usually ask me but when left to their own devices they have no idea!
Lauren Ashlea says
Great list Jen!! I think being scared of colour is such a common thing and so sad! Its such a joyous thing to live amongst colour (if you don’t go overboard 😉 !) I think that display homes often reinforce the belief that a stylish home is a beige home…
PLEASE don’t hold back on recliner chairs – my husband thinks they’re the absolute height of luxury – But they ain’t coming anywhere near my house!!!! Haha
Thanks Lauren! What is it with men and recliners?!
Why do men even need recliner? They can sleep standing up (well mine can!). Recliner was the first thing to go whenwe moved in together – a massive leather salmon thing.
Can I ask your thoughts on hides (as rugs) – ok not to be covered by furniture? I’ve got the legs lined up with the sofa.
So funny, Karly! A SALMON recliner? Oh my goodness, the horror! Cow hides can be a bit tricker with placement sometimes. There’s no right or wrong but I think they tend to look better on an angle rather than on a straight line if that makes sense? I have one under my dining table and chairs! Whatever FEELS right is a good guide 🙂
Bbbbut, I LOVE feature walls… what’s so wrong with them?
I got so sick of my all cream walls for 30 years so have painted 2 feature walls in the bedrooms so far, and will be doing so with the rest of the house … it WILL look awesome, if I may say so. 🙂
Good for you Kazzie. If you love them, you have them, it is YOUR home after all 🙂
Nicky (BedNest) says
Great list. Soooooo true about texture – such an easy, low-cost way to add to any room. I laughed out loud when I read your comment about rugs – one of my absolute “bug-bears” too!
Cheers to this!
Being an opinionated lass & all, Ive got myself into awkward situations by pointing out to friends that their artwork is hung to high! I’ve learnt to keep it to myself unless I have been asked!
Great list Jen!. If I were to add one thing, it would be window coverings. Even rentals usually have curtain rods with (usually) ugly curtains. Lovely fabric makes such a difference even if you just hang with alligator clips so you can reuse fabric later.
Art work – doesn’t need to match walls either. I agree it is often too high and too small. Also cheap art/bad art. I know friends who will spend $3000 on a Tv but think $400-1000 is a lot for an artwork which will appreciate where as the TV will end up on the nature-strip. Personally i would reverse the budget.
I would also say over-cushioning the bed and not understanding the value of different shape, texture and colours in cushions in the lounge. Too much matchy matchy is also cardinal sin.
I also think understanding flowers/plants/nature in a room would be a great blog topic…see so many people getting this wrong.
OK, and if we are naming and shaming recliners can we talk about vertical blinds….. worst design crime ever?
Vertical blinds! AGH! NEVER okay! Good points, well made, Kate, thanks! 🙂
The vertical blinds from the 90’s (or earlier?) were horrendous. I kept tripping over the chain connecting them at the bottom.
Im with you Jen, I hate too much plastic kids toys…I have two kids and whilst you can’t avoid them having the plastic (gifts from friends and relatives…) you can at least stash them in some stylish storage at the end of each day and tame their dominance somewhat! And put the gorgeous wooden toys and character soft toys on display 😉
Charmaine (Charmant Interiors) says
Good list of peeves, Jen. I agree with the comments about vertical blinds but a good decorator would be able to blend them into the overall scheme so that they would contribute to the ambience of the room
Rebecca Newman says
Fabulous headline tips… Thank you.
anne-maree sargeant says
HI Jen – yes loved the points above, I believe, however, they were listed by Megan Morton at her workshops?
Can’t wait to read Megan’s new book as well!!
see you soon – AMS x
Hi Anne-Maree 🙂 I go to lots of workshops and am lucky enough to pick up lots of things from different stylists and share them with my readers. I have credited MM’s tip about circles in this post and noted at the end that I get a lot of things from a lot of people. I make sure not to put myself out there as an expert. I am not sure if you are suggesting I have passed off someone’s work as my own? I am a big supporter of MM’s work and would never knowingly rip off her ideas. You can read my write-up of one of her workshops here: https://theinteriorsaddict.com/putting-the-love-in-your-home-with-megan-morton I think there will always be some similarities between what different interiors enthusiasts have to say and unfortunately it is not always possible to remember exactly where or from whom I first heard something but I always try to credit where possible and appropriate. I am however human and often juggling a lot of things! Hanging pictures at eye height for example, is something that has always been one of my things, but a lot of people also agree and who is to say who said it first? This blog is not about me claiming to have all the answers or to be an expert, simply to share what is shared with me. One of the main purposes of my blog of course is to highlight and applaud the great talent in our interiors industry; an industry I am not in, but that I simply report on. I hope that clarifies. Jen
anne-maree sargeant says
thank you for the clarification Jen – & to qualify – it wasn’t a dig at you personally – more that it felt Megan’s voice (tips) were being relayed.
MM’s an industry expert we all acknowledge, love & treasure 🙂
You know well I’m a stickler re copyright! My own blog content has consistently been syphoned (note to other readers – NOT by Jen) – & as a journalist you would acknowledge citing sources is paramount, & with the advent of digital communication – the issue is even more important than ever. Citing sources adds depth to the information via the additional information.
I think when I first read the post – the post script wasn’t there (I may be wrong I read many blogs, usually at 6.30 am & pre coffee!! – apologies if I have that info skewed.
all the best – AMS xox
Buying ‘suites’ of furniture for a room…no creativity or imagination!