THE BLOG
11/24/2014 09:06 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The 8 Most Common Living Room Mistakes

Shutterstock / Dmitry Pistrov

We've been to enough houses to know what we do and don't like in other people's living rooms. While some have good taste, there are a few design mistakes we see folks making again and again.

Here's a list of the eight most egregious blunders 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.

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SOLUTION #1: 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.

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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.

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SOLUTION #2: 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.

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Photo credit: Donna Griffith

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.

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SOLUTION #3: 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.

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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).

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SOLUTION #4: 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.

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MISTAKE #5: Forgetting End Tables
You should never balance a glass of Malbec on a couch cushion. Never.

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SOLUTION #5: Get an end table.
Duh.

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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.)

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SOLUTION #6: 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.)

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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.

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SOLUTION #7: 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!

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Photo credit: Domino

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.

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SOLUTION #8: 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.

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