Common Decorating Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them.

Good griefous, y’all. There are times I think about ALL of the doofus decorating mistakes I made when I first started attempting to beautify our house, and part of me wishes someone had warned me!

Like yes, the colors on the little paint chips in the paint store DO look totally different than they will painted onto the walls in your dark bedroom.

No, do not decorate around the piece of furniture you know you really hate.

Girl, listen, stop trying to make a postage stamp rug work in a giant living room. It’s not gonna happen.

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But apparently, sometimes you have to learn things the hard way. Or at least, I did!

This is a post I’ve been meaning to share for so long, and since some of them came up in the Bless’er House Budget Decorating Community recently (which you can sign up to join here), I thought now was a great time to spill ’em all. Friend to friend.

12 Common Decorating Mistakes and How to Avoid Them:

1. Not testing paint colors before buying.

We made this mistake in our last house all because I chose a paint color from a fan deck while sitting on my parents’ living room sofa at night by lamplight (just so you know, picking paint colors in bad lighting that isn’t even in your own house is a bad idea). And after Robert and my father-in-law painted our entire downstairs in that dark, yellowy beigey shade, I knew I’d made a huge mistake. But there was no turning back.

Lesson learned: Pick out a few favorite paint colors from paper swatches; get some sample pots of those colors; paint them on a piece of white foam board; tape them to your walls; and take a day or two to look at those paint colors throughout the day in all kinds of light to make your final decision. You’ll thank yourself later. If you need a leg up, here are some of my favorite go-to neutral shades. 

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips - Choosing paint colors in bad lighting

2. Decorating with too many small accessories

I used to cram 20 different little decor accents on a dresser or end table or shelf because I liked all of them individually. And I figured, well, hey it’ll all look cute together. But it ended up being a cluttery looking mess.

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips - Using too much clutter in decor

Lesson learned: Less is more. Vary heights and sizes of accents you use on tabletops. And follow these tips that might help.

Feast your eyes on one of my very first posts… Mmmhm. Yeah. Good stuff.

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips - Simplify vignettes

3. Not having plants

Before I figured this one out, I’d look at a room and think, “Something is… missing.” And I could never put my finger on it until that “ah ha” moment. Oh yeah! Life… living things.

See those shelves below? Put your fingers over those 3 little plants and what does it look like? Blah. That’s what.

Lesson learned:  Even if you have a black thumb and have to use the artificial kind instead, plants brighten a room and make the space feel alive.

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips - Add plants to decor for extra life and vibrance

4. Having too many picture frames on tabletops

Any time I see “decorating tips” articles telling me to hang art and stay away from displaying family photos, I think, “You have lost your dang mind. People live here, not robots.”

But back when I filled up entire console tables with picture frames of family, I realized it was crazy overwhelming, sort of like the knick-knacky problem in decorating mistake #2.

Lesson learned: Display family photos in a gallery wall, and if you’re extra particular about wanting it to look clean, simple, and modern, opt for simple black and white prints in black frames. Instant streamlined decor but still sentimental (and timeless).

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Replace tons of family photos in frames on tabletops with a streamlined gallery wall instead.

5. Having exposed cables and cords

When we first put up our TV in our old house, it was a tangled mess, but I didn’t really know how to resolve it, so we just lived with it for a while.

Lesson learned: Pick up some cord covers, wrap them around your cords, stick them to the wall, paint them the same color as your wall, and ta da! Cords are disguised.

Do you see our cords on the left side of our window seat? Cord covers, baby. They’re just barely noticeable.

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Use cord covers to hide wires from electronics.

6. Decorating around something you hate

If I had a dollar for every time I tried to decorate around a piece of furniture I hated instead of just selling it and using the money to buy something I actually liked, I’d have quite a few bucks. Decorating around something you hate to make it work = an entire room you’ll hate along with it.

See this corner? I absolutely despised this leather chair. (Also, that’s the infamous dreaded paint color from mistake #1.) I tried adding a million things to the wall behind that chair in hopes of distracting from it… and made the situation worse…

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Don't decorate around something you hate!  Clutter isn't the answer.

Lesson learned: You don’t have to have the money to buy a new replacement piece of furniture to swap out the piece you don’t like. Thrift stores, Facebook buy/sell/trade groups, consignment shops, yard sales, and Craigslist are packed full of potential (here are some of my best Craigslisting tips).

But sometimes, you’ll even get lucky with new. This IKEA Stocksund chair cost the same amount that we sold that old leather chair for on Craigslist.

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Don't decorate around something you hate.

7. Not decluttering before redecorating

You know those “Love It or List It” shows on HGTV? Half the time, when the homeowners are walking around talking about how much they dislike their house and how “dysfunctional” it is, most of their problems would be solved just by decluttering.

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Declutter before you decorate.

Lesson learned:  Before I can fully wrap my brain around how to decorate a space, I remove everything. EVERYTHING! Sort, donate, and come up with a way to organize what you do keep, and then the pretty decor can follow. (Here is a decluttering checklist that can help.)

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Always declutter before you decorate.

8. Having too much furniture

In our dining room in our old house, I tried to put way too many pieces of furniture in the space because I thought there was some kind of rule that a dining room just had to have a big table, 6 bulky dining chairs, a large buffet, wall decor, accent table… I mean jeez! There was no room to move in there.

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Don't cram a room with furniture.

Lesson learned:  Rooms crammed with furniture feel smaller. Figure out what pieces you use the most and try to scale back on the rest.

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips When it comes to furniture in a small space, less is more.

9. Using rugs that are too small

One time, I stuck a 4×6 rug underneath our dining room table because hey… it fit. But the chairs didn’t and it got in the way and looked awkward. And seriously… if it just creates an obstacle every day, why have it?

Lesson learned:  I discovered this handy little infographic one day and hello! Light bulb moment! Generally, I use a minimum of 8×10 rugs under beds and in living rooms (9×12 for larger spaces) and at least a 6×9 under a dining table (as long as all four chair legs fit on it too).

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Use 8x10 rugs or bigger under beds.

10. Too many patterns

I think I used to have a phobia of solid fabrics. Because at one point, every single rug, curtain, and pillow had some sort of print or pattern on it. And it was the busiest mess ever.

Lesson learned:  Stick to about three fabric patterns at a time. I like to use a vintage style rug because the print is fluid and very forgiving and combine it with a nature-inspired print, a geometric print, and a solid fabric or two that still have some sort of interesting texture.

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11. Picture frames hung too high

I used to hang photos way up high and level with door frames until I started flipping through magazines and realized I was doing it totally wrong.

Lesson learned: Hang wall decor and art at eye-level. (And not like Shaquille O’Neal eye-level.)

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Hang artwork at eye level.

12. Not using any color

When I first started decorating our last house, the basic premise was beige on brown on gray on greige, and it was a total snooze-fest! (Adding in tip #3 by incorporating a couple of plants helped at first though, until I figured that out.)

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips Don't be afraid of a little color. Too much neutral is boring.

Lesson learned:  I still love neutrals. Our current living room is totally white at the moment. BUT the fun part about neutral walls is you can have fun with color in the accents, if you’re scared to go too permanent.

I love incorporating blue and green for my color-timid self because both are widely found in nature and they don’t feel quite as shocking to the eye, if you’re shy about going too bold. Maybe eventually, your color phobic self will even find the courage to paint your kitchen cabinets a deep green. 😉

12 of the most common decorating mistakes most people make when choosing paint colors, furniture layouts, and styling, and tips on how to avoid them. #decorating #decoratingmistakes #decoratingtips If you're shy about color, try blues or greens as they are shades most widely found in nature and aren't quite as shocking to the eye.

If only I figured out all of these things before I started on this decorating journey…

But then again, that’s the fun part of the adventure. We all have to start somewhere. Make mistakes, figure out what speaks to you, and keep going with what you love. The rest will follow.

If you have any others you’d add, leave them in the comments! Maybe it’ll save me from other mistakes I might look back at and cringe. 😉

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21 Comments

  1. Your trying paint colors made me laugh. Our painter finished painting our bedroom and I loved the color. So when it was time to pick colors for the living room and kitchen. I hate picking color. I thought use the same color so I painted a swatch into living room. It was so bad. Well I tried it in the kitchen, it was even worse in a totally diffent shade. The same paint how could that be. I bought samples of different colors I loved in the store,rushed home so pleased with myself. Yep, they were all so totally wrong. Finally,went with the same color I had. I once bought carpet I saw in the store called elk tan. When they installed it there was such a pink hue to the carpet it made me sick. I had years of keeping all the light down just to keep the pink out. You are so right choose colors at home and in different light. Wish I read this many years ago.

  2. Love all these! I’ve made every mistake here and more! I still struggle with hanging wall decor and art too high. I try to use the 57” rule. I’m still staring at a blank expanse of marble subway backsplash behind my kitchen corner sink. I found a wine barrel stave wine rack I’m considering but it will involve drilling the marble (insert scary face). Love your tips and your ‘real life’ young family decorating blog!

  3. These are great tips! I love to decorate and have been told I’m good at it, but I totally cringe at some of the things I did in the past! (I’m looking at you, sponge painted walls!). But, in retrospect, I probably liked it at the time. The paint color selection tips would have been really helpful, as I painted my living room three times before I found a color I liked, and even now, because of lack of much natural light, I’m thinking of going a little lighter. I’m a total color and pattern girl, and I know my house probably looks pretty busy to some, but I like it. However, if I were staging it to sell, I would make a lot of changes. Your home is beautiful, and I must say your “before” pics of decorating mistakes are still way better than a lot of decorating attempts I have seen in people’s homes, lol! I follow several blogs, and I must say that yours is definitely one of my very favorites,; you are so funny and down to earth and I just love both your writing style and the ideas you share❤️

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