Interior design mistakes to avoid

Interior design mistakes to avoid

Making interior design mistakes can be costly and time-consuming to fix. Fortunately, many common decorating errors can be easily avoided with a bit of planning and forethought. This guide will outline some of the most frequent interior design mistakes to avoid so you can create a stylish, functional and comfortable home environment.


Decorating and designing your home's interior is an exciting endeavor, but it's easy to get carried away in the process. Clashing styles, poor lighting, and other rookie errors can detract from your home's aesthetic appeal and comfort. By learning what pitfalls to avoid, you can sidestep costly mistakes and get your interior design project off to the right start.

In this article, we will cover the 10 most common interior design mistakes, ranging from ineffective lighting to cluttered spaces. We'll provide tips on how to avoid these errors so you can create a polished, cohesive look in your home. With some strategic planning and intentional design choices, you can design an interior space you'll be proud of.

Mistake #1: Choosing the Wrong Lighting

One of the most frequent interior design mistakes is improper or inadequate lighting. Lighting has a profound impact on both the aesthetics and function of a space. The wrong lighting choices can leave a room feeling dark, dated, or cold. Avoid lighting mistakes with these tips:

  • Install layers of light: Overhead fixtures alone create shadows. Layer table lamps, sconces and accent lighting.
  • Mind the temperature: Choose bulbs with a warm 2700-3000K color temperature to avoid a clinical, stark vibe.
  • Play with dimmers: Dimmers allow you to control the mood and adapt lighting as needed.
  • Consider task lighting: Supplement general lighting with task lamps for reading nooks, work desks, and more.
  • Highlight architectural details: Use accent lighting on architectural details, artwork, and focal points.
  • Beware of glare: Position fixtures to avoid glare that strains the eyes. Use dimmers, shades and indirect lighting as needed.

Mistake #2: Neglecting Scale and Proportion

Playing with scale and proportion is key to interior design. Furnishings that are too large or small for a space look visually jarring and disrupt cohesiveness. Avoid scale mistakes with these guidelines:

➤ Stick to a 60-30-10 proportion rule for visual interest. This involves:

  • 60% larger furnishing pieces like sofas and beds that ground the space.
  • 30% medium-sized furnishings like chairs, coffee tables and desks.
  • 10% accent furniture and accessories.

➤ Choose furniture and rugs that are 75-85% the length and width of the room's dimensions. Oversized pieces make rooms feel smaller.

➤ Maintain proportions between furnishings. Coffee tables should be 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 the length of sofas. Nightstands should be within a few inches of the bed height.

➤ Use a furniture size chart to check ideal dimensions relative to room size.

Mistake #3: Clashing Design Styles

One of the fastest ways to undermine your interior design is mixing clashing styles. Eclectic looks can work beautifully, but haphazardly throwing together furnishings from different eras and aesthetics is a recipe for a disjointed look. Avoid clashing design styles with these tips:

  • Study design styles like modern, traditional, coastal, industrial, midcentury modern to identify their defining traits before choosing statement pieces.
  • Curate a cohesive style palette of colors, textures, materials, silhouettes before purchasing.
  • Incorporate funky accent pieces but anchor them with foundational furnishings in the same style family.
  • Browse interior design magazines and Pinterest for inspiration on blending styles harmoniously.
  • Work with a small section of a room first to perfect your style direction before expanding room-wide.

Mistake #4: Inadequate Texture and Materials

Playing with different textures and materials brings visual richness to a space. Relying solely on similar smooth and shiny surfaces creates a flat, uninteresting look. Avoid this mistake by:

  • Incorporate natural fiber rugs and window treatments for organic texture.
  • Display artwork with varied frames, from sleek metal to hand-carved wood.
  • Choose furnishings with tactile upholstered fabric, exposed wood grain, and antiqued metals.
  • Use pillows, throws, and accessories in cable knits, nubby weaves, leather and more.
  • Contrast matte and glossy surfaces. Glass coffee tables work nicely with nubby sofas, for example.

Mistake #5: Clutter Everywhere

Clutter is one of the biggest culprits of interior design mistakes. From cluttered counters to overflowing closets, disorganization makes rooms feel messy and cramped. Banish clutter with these organizational tips:

  • Institute a regular cleaning and decluttering routine. Donate unused items, file paper piles.
  • Store items conveniently near where you use them. Add coat hooks near doors, shelving in the entryway.
  • Use concealed storage like ottomans and built-in cabinetry to tuck items out of sight.
  • Avoid surface clutter. Keep counters and desks clear except for essential daily items.
  • Edit your belongings and adopt a minimalist mentality of only keeping items you use and love.

Mistake #6: Hanging Artwork Too High

You want to be able to enjoy your beautiful artwork, not crane your neck to view it. But hanging artwork too high is an all-too-commondecorating mistake. Avoid artwork placed too high by following these tips:

  • Center artwork 60-66 inches above the floor - around eye level - for most pieces.
  • Larger wall art can be hung slightly higher, up to 74 inches.
  • Arrange grouped gallery wall pieces with the center artwork at the standard 60-66 inch height.
  • Favor leaning artwork against the wall over hanging too high.
  • Check sight lines by sitting and standing to ensure the artwork is viewable at different vantage points.

Mistake #7: Underestimating Rugs

Rugs are often treated as an afterthought in interior design but they are foundational in defining a space. Avoid rug mistakes with the following:

  • Select a rug large enough for the furnishings. Front legs of sofas and chairs should rest atop the rug.
  • In dining areas, choose a rug that can fit chairs when pulled out from the table.
  • Rugs should be centered in a room with equal margins of flooring exposed around the edges.
  • Use padding under rugs to prevent sliding.
  • Rotate rugs seasonally to mitigate uneven fading and wear patterns in high traffic areas.

Mistake #8: Forgetting the Fifth Wall (Ceiling!)

It's easy to overlook the ceiling as an integral part of interior design. But painted, wallpapered, or lighted ceilings can make a dramatic stylistic statement. Avoid overlooking this fifth wall by:

  • Installing recessed can lighting to visually expand a room.
  • Using a color on the ceiling that complements the room’s color palette.
  • Adding architectural interest like crown molding, beams or coffering.
  • Applying wallpaper or colorful paint to create interest if your ceilings are on the shorter side.
  • Embracing rustic wood plank ceilings to warm up modern spaces.
  • Suspending statement light fixtures as artwork.

Mistake #9: Forgetting Room Flow and Traffic Patterns

How you situate furnishings dramatically impacts ease of navigation and flow in a room. Ill-placed pieces that obstruct pathways will make a room feel smaller. Avoid flow and traffic pattern mistakes with these layout tips:

  • Map out natural traffic pathways between entrances, seating areas and doors. Leave open sight lines.
  • Arrange furniture to foster socializing like facing chairs toward one another and centering furniture on focal points.
  • Ensure ample clearance around pieces - at least 18 inches - for easy circulation. More for high traffic areas.
  • Use area rugs to define sitting spaces while keeping pathways rug-free.
  • Establish communal areas near entrances and tuck private spaces and TV areas further away.

Mistake #10: Going DIY Without a Plan

Embarking on DIY interior design projects without a solid plan in place can lead to mistakes, delays and frustration. Map out your DIY projects to avoid issues:

  • Consult interior design books and resources to formulate a cohesive design plan.
  • Make measured drawings of the space including windows, doors and fixtures. Indicate furnishings.
  • Select paint colors, fabrics and finishes in advance so everything coordinates.
  • Research the steps and time requirements for projects like refinishing floors, installing wallpaper and painting.
  • Consider consulting a professional designer for guidance on complex lighting, wiring and installation challenges.

With proper planning and mindful furniture placement, you can avoid expensive errors and create a polished interior design even on a budget. Patience, organization and research will pay off handsomely.

Frequently Asked Questions About Interior Design Mistakes

What are the three most common interior design mistakes?

The most frequent mistakes involve poor lighting, improper scale, and clashing styles. Inadequate lighting can make a room feel dark and gloomy. Furniture that looks undersized or oversized creates awkward proportions. Mixing furnishings from incompatible styles appears disjointed.

How can I make a small room look bigger?

Use lighter paint colors, elevated ceiling treatments like coffering, large wall mirrors and glass furnishings to visually expand a small space. Also avoid oversized furniture that overwhelms and go for leggy, transparent pieces.

What are things to avoid above a bed?

Avoid placing artwork, mirrors or shelving right above head level over a bed. This creates visual clutter and discomfort. Leave negative space above a headboard and position bedside lamps, art and floating shelves a foot or more above mattresses.

Where should living room furniture be placed?

Arrange the primary seating area near the focal point like a fireplace or TV. Leave open sight lines to doorways and pathways. Place ancillary seating like accent chairs near the main arrangement for easy conversation flow.

How do I choose the right area rug size?

Choose an area rug large enough for front legs of main furniture to rest atop it. In dining rooms, the rug should accommodate pulled-out chairs. Proper clearance around the edges is key for room flow.


By being mindful of common interior design mistakes involving lighting, scale, clutter and more, you can thoughtfully craft an inviting living space. Careful planning and furniture placement will help you avoiddecorators' pitfalls. Invest time researching principles of attractive, functional design before embarking on projects. With an intentional approach, you can design an aesthetically pleasing, comfortable interior reflective of your personal style.

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