17 Interior Design Mistakes You Can Easily Fix

December 8, 2022

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Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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Interior Design Mistakes that can be easily fixed

I don’t have an eye for decorating. I don’t know what looks good together. It’s too overwhelming. Does this tend to be your mantra when it comes to creating a space you love within your home? Decorating can be scary and intimidating. Especially when there’s a constant little voice in our head doubting everything we try. But like anything in life, if we follow some simple guidelines, we can decorate with confidence and maybe even enjoy the process.

Today I’m sharing 17 interior design mistakes and how to easily fix them. So, let’s get to it…

Canva header image of a beautiful staircase. Black and white; open stairs; wooden railing; unique lighting

17 Interior Design Mistakes You Can Easily Fix

Interior Design Mistake #1: No plan for the space

Before jumping in with both feet, it’s always good to have a plan. This is true for interior design too and avoiding common interior design mistakes. Find a starting point. For example, a piece of artwork that you love; a rug you have to have; a statement piece that will have everyone in the room talking. Something that gives you a place to jump off from. I like to start with a color palette.

What colors are you wanting to bring into the space? A good rule of thumb is 3. Following the 60-30-10 Rule makes this very easy. Choose one color that will be your dominant color and will take up approximately 60% of the room. A neutral color works best for this. A color that doesn’t feel too overwhelming.

Next choose a little bit of a bolder color and apply this to 30% of the room. For example, through your furniture, flooring, light fixtures. Whatever you would like, just keep it less than the dominant color.

And lastly, choose an accent color. This will be your boldest color in the room and will only account for the remaining 10%.

Keep in mind that you are not bound to one shade of each of these colors. Venture outside the lines and grab colors that are still within the spectrum of your three colors, but differ enough to add dimension and character to a room.

Let’s take the picture below as an example. The dominant color is white. But notice how there are different shades of white. And even some pops of light light gray, which are very close to white. The secondary color is brown. The wooden beams, the flooring, the picture above the fireplace, the coffee table. These all bring in that 30%, while also adding warmth to the dominant cooler color–white. This brings us to the remaining 10%. Can you guess what it is? Yep! Black. Isn’t it stunning how there’s just enough black in the room to make it pop? Black window muntins. Black fireplace insert. Black legs on the chair and coffee table. And we can’t miss the statement that black chandelier makes against the dominant white walls…

Family room painted white with high beam ceilings and a sitting space. Without any interior design mistakes

What about the green in the picture, you might ask? I don’t believe you can ever go wrong with adding green to any space in the way of live plants. Green adds more warmth and life to a room–literally. Studies show that adding live plants to a space boosts people’s moods and reduces stress…among other benefits.

All of this said, I would like to mention that the 60-30-10 Rule is a guide to help make decorating easier. There is absolutely nothing wrong with adding another color or two into a space. You just want to make sure it is cohesive with the 3 main colors of the room.

Design Mistake #2: No focal point

In the realm of interior design mistakes, this one can go either way. Either there’s no focal point or too many focal points. Ideally, a room should have ONE focal point. The only exception to this rule is if it is an extremely large room. In this case, the room should be arranged in such a way that more than one focal point feels natural to the eye. For example, in a basement living area with lots of space, break up the room into sections: a sitting area; bar area; game area. Having one focal point in each of these sections will not be distracting because the eye is able to compartmentalize each space.

For a regular size room, stick to one focal point only. For example, in a living room, the fireplace is most often the focal point. In a bedroom–the headboard. In a dining room–the table. And so on.

In the picture below, those windows scream, “Look at me!”….

Living room area with large picture windows and spacious sitting space

Sometimes it’s a dedicated space that draws our attention to it, rather than just one piece….

Bedroom with dresser. Circle mirror above dresser and tall green plant next to dresser. Avoiding all of the interior design mistakes

Find that space or piece within the room that commands your attention. Don’t allow other items to pull the eye away from that statement piece. This will encourage a sense of calm within the room.

Interior Design Mistake #3: Believing everything must be matchy-matchy

Everything does not have to match! Ahhhh! Thankfully! Gone are the days of bedroom suits and living room suits. If you already have matching furniture in a room, don’t panic. Another one of the easy, interior design mistakes to fix….just disperse the pieces throughout your home, in other rooms. When looking for furniture, look for pieces that complement one another rather than a set that matches perfectly.

flat screen monitor inside room

The days of matching curtains and pillows to one another are in the past. Bring in 2 or 3 different patterns and colors. Break them up by placing solids and neutrals between them….

assorted throw pillows on gray couch. Following the rules of alternating pillows to avoid common interior design mistakes

Ok, this one may come as a shock to some, but it’s ok to mix metals. As a matter of fact, it’s encouraged. When mixing metals within a room, try to be as intentional as possible. To the point where it LOOKS intentional. To do this, think: opposites attract. Mix opposite tones. For example, brass and bronze or satin nickel and polished brass. Remember, make it obvious that the intention was to create a contrast. A good rule of thumb is for each type of metal to show up in at least two places within a room. Mixing metals gives a space depth and interest…

Mood board for a kitchen; hardware, faucet, appliances, paint swatches. A common misconception in interior design mistakes..mixing metals

Photo Credit: Amerock 

Interior Design Mistake #4: Too much clutter!

If it’s not aesthetically pleasing to the eye, hide it away. Everything should have a home. This is a very simple way to elevate your space. Find a place to house the remote controls, magazines, shoes, excess blankets, and the list goes on. Baskets are a great way to hide things that do not add interest to a room. This one change can make all the difference in making a room feel curated and inviting. Which would you rather hang out in?

two brown sofa chairs beside glass window

Or this….

Family room nicely organized and avoiding most common interior design mistakes

In the first picture above, the furniture is way too big for the space, making the room feel cluttered. White space is a good thing…choose furniture that allows for open space. This will help the room to not feel overcrowded and will actually make it feel bigger.

Design Mistake #5: Holding onto heirlooms

I give you full permission to get rid of the ugly, falling apart sofa your grandma passed down to you. This is a piece that might be adding interest to your room, but not in a good way. Holding onto these old heirlooms passed down by our ancestors can really make a room feel cluttered and confused. The entire room feels in touch with the 21st century except this tattered old furniture piece that has no hope for revival…no matter how hard we try.  It’s ok to let it go….

sofa beside accordion on floor. Sofa is tattered and a big interior design mistakes

Interior Design Mistake #6: Refusing to edit

While we’re on the topic of cluttered spaces, let’s talk about over-cluttering shelves. I prefer to use big items on shelves. For example a large vase or bowl is going to fill the space and feel more connected than a bunch of tiny decor items. The eye will struggle to find a landing place when too many pieces are calling for its attention.

If you have smaller items you want to use, be sure to ground them with a larger item. It’s also helpful to work in three’s. An example of this would be a small orb placed on top of 1 or 2 large books. Add in a large vase and possibly a potted plant. Working in three’s like this pulls everything together and makes it cohesive and not overwhelming. The eye knows where it’s supposed to look.

I heard someone say recently, “Less is more and contrast is far more interesting.” I wish I could remember who said this. It’s so very true.

A great rule of thumb, I tend to follow is: If it feels off, it probably is. If you decorate a space and it just doesn’t feel right, something is making it feel odd. The look is all in the edit. Begin taking things away until it feels right….

Modern shelves decorated with modern black and white vases

Design Mistake #7: Gallery walls

Ok, I’m probably going to step on some toes here. But I am not a fan of gallery walls. To be honest, I never have been. So, take my opinion on this one, as you will. I’ve always felt like they are just too cluttered. Are you seeing a theme here? Haha! Yep! I’m all about cohesive, symmetrical spaces. It truly is personal preference. But to me, a gallery wall has no where for the eye to land. It feels like it’s in chaos. And that, in my books, is at the top of the list in interior design mistakes.

That being said, I have seen gallery walls “done right”. When done with large canvases, where the artwork complements one another and the frames are all the same, a gallery wall can be stunning. This one by Jaime at Jaime By Design, stopped me in my tracks over on Instagram. Gorgeous!

3 large square pics stacked on a black wall vertically. With a wooden bench sitting below them. Gallery wall done well and avoiding interior design mistakes

Photo Credit: @Jaimebydesign and @JuliaChristine.photoco

Interior Design Mistake #8: Add something unique

I’m a big believer in adding a unique piece to each room. Something that will get them talking. This could be a statement art piece or a unique mirror or possibly a unique style or color of furniture. Add the unexpected to bring in character and conversation….

Beautiful green leather couch with a floor lamp, rug, pillows and ficus plant

Photo Credit: Jenna @jonathanandjenna

Interior Design Mistake #9: Choosing the wrong area rug size

Interior designers will tell you, this is one of (if not the biggest) in the realm of interior design mistakes, they come across in home decorating. A rug that is too small will make a space feel uninviting. An area rug should ground the furniture. It should declare, this is where the conversation takes place. Therefore, when choosing an area rug, make sure it’s at least 6 to 8 inches wider than your sofa on all sides. And ensure that at least two legs of all main furniture pieces are sitting on the rug.

Just like you can have too small of an area rug, an area rug can also be too big. This, in turn, will make the room actually feel small. When it comes to area rugs, size matters. 🙂 Finding the right sized area rug for the space, will bring warmth and balance to a room. This is important in creating the perfect finishing touch. My friend Taryn does this really well in her living room space….

family room with a rug grounding the furniture

Photo Credit: Taryn @tarynfalconerdesignstudio

Interior Design Mistake #10: One light source

Don’t hold back on lighting. Lighting in a room is everything! It can truly make or break any room. So, let’s first address the biggest faux pas in lighting–fluorescent lights. I’m talking those lights that put off a stark white hue. No warmth whatsoever. When choosing the correct bulb, make sure it is serving the function you intend for it. For example, cool white and daylight bulbs are great for work space areas. However, to bring a cozy, inviting feel to a room be sure to use warm temperature lights. 2000-3000 Kelvin light bulbs are in the “warm white” range. Perfect for living spaces. Such as a family room, bedroom, dining room, etc.

Don’t stop at one light source. So many times people will install one overhead light and call it a day. Layering lighting throughout the room in the way of floor lamps and table lamps is a great way to make the living space feel warm and comfortable. For extra coziness, especially during short winter days, add an accent lamp or two to a room.

It’s amazing what lighting will do for a room. I keep accent lights on in our family room, kitchen, dining room, foyer and hallways. The only time they really ever get turned off, is when someone comes to house-sit and they don’t realize we keep them on all the time. 🙂 I love the ambiance that these accent lights provide.

Of course, a light fixture can also serve as a statement piece…

empty brown bar chairs

Design Mistake #11: Hanging pictures too high

This is by far my biggest pet peeve. There’s a house I pass before turning into my neighborhood that has a small picture hanging super high in their family room and uncentered with anything. It literally looks like it’s floating in space. It grabs my attention all the time. Yes, I’m one of those people, who loves to see into people’s homes at night and how they have it decorated. Not in a creepy peeping Tom kind of way, I promise. I’m just drawn to interior design and love to see people’s styles. Anyone else? 🙂

Ok, so here’s the rule of thumb: the center of a picture should be at eye level. This makes the standard height for wall art to be hung at 57″ from the floor to the center of the picture. It’s actually called the Rule of 57….

brown wooden framed yellow padded chair...a pop of color. Perfect for avoiding interior design mistakes

Interior Design Mistake #12: Hanging curtains too low

Hanging curtains too low from the ceiling will make the ceiling feel lower and the room feel smaller. A good rule of thumb is for the curtain rod to be hung at least 4-6 inches above the window frame. This will trick the eye into believing that the windows are actually taller than they are. Which in turn, will make the room feel more open and airy.

But don’t neglect the floor length of the curtains too. When deciding on curtains, make sure they touch the floor. When windows are longer, curtains look best when they pool somewhat at the bottom.

round white and black pendant lamp

Interior Design Mistake #13: Pushing all the furniture up against the walls

Pushing all the furniture against the walls leaves a room feeling very uninviting and cold. Not to mention a large awkward dead space is left in the middle of the room. Furniture should be pulled away from the walls at least 12 inches. This will encourage conversation and make the room feel nice and cozy. Of all the interior design mistakes, this one is the easiest to fix right away. 🙂

Dark, moody room with a sofa and love seat

Interior Design Mistake #14: Not varying height in decor and furniture

Interior design mistake #13 leads perfectly into 14. When the furniture is pulled away from the wall it opens up space behind the sofa for a sofa table. This is a great way to add height and dimension to a room. By adding decor pieces to the sofa table, it brings the eye up from the sofa to another level and helps move the eye through the room. When all the furniture and decor are at the same level, the room becomes very boring. Bring balance into a room very easily by incorporating furniture pieces and decor of varying heights….

brown wooden table with chairs

Interior Design Mistake #15: Don’t be afraid to add color

This one falls along the lines of the “expect the unexpected” tip. I love neutrals and can get very stuck on an all neutral color palette. However, adding a pop of color in each of my rooms makes such an impact. In my family room, I do this through my throw pillows. In my kitchen, through colorful vases. In my bedroom, through a quilt that drapes the foot of our bed.

Adding color isn’t scary when you stay within your color palette. For example, the colors throughout my home are very muted and neutral. So, when I bring in a pop of color it too is going to be muted and fall close to neutral. In my bedroom it’s a muted dusty rose pink quilt. In my family room, it may be muted green-toned pillows. In my kitchen, I like to add vases that have texture and are a muted orange or green. All of these colors nicely complement one another and nothing feels out of place.

green plant on white ceramic pot

Interior Design Mistake #16: Faux Plants

I mention this one with an exception. A mixture of faux and real greenery is good. As long as the greenery looks real. I used to be afraid of bringing live plants into my home. A green thumb, I do not have. And so, I pictured dead plants throughout my house. But a couple years ago, I stepped out on a limb and slowly started adding real plants. Happy to say, I have only killed a couple of them. With more than 10 live plants currently, I would say my track record is pretty good.

Plants are such an important part of decorating any space. Along with boosting moods and increasing creativity, adding green brings life to a room. Not to mention another pop of color. The best way to do this is with green plants.

In the summer, I love to add fresh flowers too. This is one area where I will not buy anything but real. I have yet to find faux flowers that look real. If you’ve found some that look real, please let me know in the comments below….

An array of live plants in white planters against a white wall

Design Mistake #17: Overly karate chopped pillows

Gone are the days of black belt karate chopped pillows. If you must, a gentle chop is all they need. To give them a natural, unstaged look, simply fluff them up and let them be. After all, what did they ever do to you? The key is, pillows that look inviting, not ones that look like they just came off the shelf at the store….

3 neutral color pillows stacked on top of one another

I hope you found this post to be helpful and easy to implement. I tried to focus on interior design mistakes that are easy to fix and won’t break the bank. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Drop your questions and comments below. I promise to get back to you.

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

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Large shelves with black and white vases in a family room with a sofa and two chairs

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