Call it a passionate hobby. I don’t practice interior design by trade, but I’m most definitely an interiors addict who has spent many years studying the spaces that inspire me. Over time friends have come to lean on me for free decorating advice (which I love to give). As a result, I’ve noticed a few common pitfalls people struggle with in terms of decorating, and some of them I had to learn myself the hard way.

Read below for my list of the most common decorating mistakes and tips for how to avoid them.

image by Nicole LaMotte for one kings lane

image by Nicole LaMotte for one kings lane

Sin #1: Hanging Art Too High

This is one of the most common mistakes that I see in people’s homes. For some reason, it’s tempting to hang art high on the wall — maybe because it would seem more “important” up there. But art should be hung at eye level for optimal viewing and balance in a room. When creating a gallery wall, the group should be weighted at eye level like in the living room of Sara Ruffin Costello.

image by rose uniacke

Sin #2: Full Length Curtains That Are Too Short

Think of full-length curtains like you think of pants — they should “break” at the ankle. Are your curtains “flooding”? Make sure your full length drapes break and rest slightly on the floor, even if it’s just an inch. For a more elegant, formal look, they can even pool on the ground like in this room designed by Rose Uniacke.

image by rebecca fredriksson

Sin #3: Not Enough Negative Space

When it comes to furniture, remember this: just because it will fit doesn’t mean you should buy it! Always consider protecting a nice amount of “negative space” in a room for a more balanced look. For apartments and smaller spaces, settees and underscaled sofas often look best (like in this room by Rebecca Fredriksson.)

image by cheetah is the new black

Sin #4: Bad Lighting

Even the most beautiful space looks a bit scary under fluorescent overheads. Always consider both natural and artificial light sources when designing a space. You won’t regret the money you invest in the bulbs and fixtures that give off the most flattering light. We love the combination of bare windows with a statement pendant fixture in this dining room by Cheetah is the New Black.

image by miss mara

Sin #5: Hanging Curtains Too Low

Don’t be afraid to hang curtains much higher than the tops of your windows to add elegance and drama to a room, like in this white space from Miss Mara.


image by virginia rollison for lonny

Sin #6: Awkwardly Sized Rugs

As a general rule, all four legs of a piece of furniture should be able to fit on the rug beneath it, with breathing room on all sides. That said, we’ve seen some clever ways to break this rule that really work. For instance, it’s an advanced move but (if you’re feeling daring) you could try layering several smaller rugs together to create a larger patchwork rug space for underneath a sofa and coffee table. But in the meantime, we always love seeing a perfectly sized rug underneath a table like in this kitchen designed by Elizabeth Cooper.


image by Lesley Unruh for one kings lane

Sin #7: Decorating from the Details Up

When I took a sketching class in college, our professor taught us to “draw the whole thing first”. What he meant was taking time to establish scale before honing in on the details. I’ve found that the same is true for interiors — the best spaces have a strong foundation of balance between the architecture and the furniture. When decorating a room start by establishing a good, functional arrangement of furniture before considering details like color and theme. Designer Michelle Adams was able to successfully use a wild combination of pattern, color, and subject matter in this small bedroom because she first established a strong overall balance to the space with the furniture. SO… before you start building that incredible taxidermy vignette, think about the room as a whole.

  1. 1
    thegirlswhobrunch | May 23, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Great post!

  2. 2
    Bob H | April 24, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    In #7 the wings on the headboard make reaching the end tables awkward and the lamp are so low that insufficient light if available for reading

  3. 3
    Kelly | May 19, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Legit re-thinking all of my decision decisions!

  4. 4
    Lauren Zielinski | May 20, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Loving all these ! Decorating a new house and definitely have run into EVERY one of these in the process but luckily only made 1 mistake that cost money so far ! Haha great article !

  5. 5
    Lewis | May 24, 2020 at 4:59 am

    My wife is trying to design her home so that it looks nicer and is kid-friendly so that the grandkids can visit anytime. She would love to get some really nice accessories that would help her home look gorgeous and add to the atmosphere. She should find her style vignette and buy things that match that feeling.

  6. 6
    Coral clarke | October 10, 2020 at 7:55 am

    My pet hate is finding myself seated with nowhere to set my glass.A shelf, table,stool , tray, within arms length is a must.The other cardinal sin is items in regular use that can’t be quickly and easily accessed, if you need a ladder to reach it, or is behind all the every day china, it better be something like seasonal decorations!

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