Curious about what to avoid when decorating your home? “Domino” magazine asked the top designers, architects and stylists for the most common decorating mistakes and solutions. Here are the top 10 mistakes plus smart, simple tips on how to either fix or avoid them:
Curtains hung too low
Mistake: When curtain hardware is hung too low, it crowds the window and makes the ceiling appear lower and the room appear darker.
Solution: To make your ceilings appear taller and let more light in, “hang ’em high” by mounting the curtain rod 6 inches to 1 foot above the window molding. One other trick: Paint the curtain rod the same color as the wall and it will disappear into the wall (making it less obvious that the curtains are hung higher than the window).
Curtains too short
Mistake: Just like your pants, you don’t want your windows to wear floods! Curtains hemmed too short make your curtains look skimpy and cheap.
Solution: When buying curtains, it is better to buy them longer than you think you need rather than shorter — you can always hem them to the proper length. As far as length goes, measure your curtains from the height that you hang your curtain rod to the floor. Allow for an extra ½ inch to 1 inch of material to “puddle” on the floor for a gracious, designer look.
Too many throw pillows on the bed:Mistake: Too many throw pillows on a bed is not inviting (or sexy!). This is many men’s top pet peeve!
First of all, it could take you 20 minutes to remove them all just so you can get in bed. Secondly, it can make a room feel cluttered, overdone and boudoir-like (or bordello-like or too little girl-ish or too feminine).
Solution: If you must add a throw pillow, use no more than one per person sleeping on the bed.
Beds or sofas on the diagonal
Mistake: When arranging your furniture, avoid placing large pieces like beds or sofas on the diagonal. This is a decorator trick that is best left to the professionals — it makes too much of a statement. Also, it can be impractical as it takes up too much room and leaves odd pockets of dead space behind it. This makes it difficult to add lamps, side tables, etc. as most people don’t have outlets away from walls in the center of a room.
Solution: You can never go wrong placing large pieces like a bed or sofa flush to walls — it’s much better use of space, as it allows for a more comfortable and gracious arrangement of furniture with easy access to outlets for lighting, etc.
Theme roomsMistake: Theme rooms belong in an amusement park, not your home. Themes like “Safari Madness” — zebra-print wallpaper, leopard bedspread and various exotic animal-themed pillows, zebra rug, etc. — are simply of too much of a good thing being too much of a good thing!
Solution: Again, a little bit goes a long, long way! Choose one safari element and go with it — one element is plenty to achieve an exotic feel.
Art hung too highMistake: To ensure art appreciation, don’t make art difficult to see! Otherwise, your favorite painting will go unnoticed and/or resented. So avoid neck cricks from having to look up at art that is hung too high. Art hung too high also makes a room appear top-heavy and feel ungrounded.
Solution: Center the piece at eye level. Art is for the viewer, so make it comfortable and viewable. And stacking smaller pieces is a great way to hang art; just make sure that you start at eye level.
Stylish yet uncomfortable sofaMistake: Antique sofas can be pretty to look at but can also be uncomfortable. Sofas are for sitting! If you like to chill out and watch TV/movies/football on your sofa or you have a children, an uncomfortable antique sofa might not be the best choice for your family room.
Solution: If you like an Old World look, there are lots of options for sofas that have traditional lines and Old World details that are also super-comfortable. Consider your lifestyle before choosing a fragile and uncomfortable sofa for your living room.
Rug too small for the roomMistake: Nothing adds more comfort and warmth, or defines a space, quite like a rug, and rugs are a great opportunity to bring in a strong decorative element, like pattern or color. However, a rug that is too small does just the opposite — it calls attention to the fact that your floors are mostly bare and cold, and appears like a small raft in the middle of a pool
A small rug leaves one yearning for more and ends up looking skimpy, like a skirt that is too short.
Solution: Rugs should be large enough that either all of the furniture should sit on top of the rug, or all of the furniture should frame the rug and sit just off of it. Before buying a rug, measure the dimensions of your room and make sure that the rug is large enough that your furniture arrangement can fit easily (without crowding) on top or frame the rug graciously
Larger rugs can be expensive; an inexpensive trick you can try if you need to cover a large floor space is to sew two (or several!) affordable natural woven area rugs together to create one large rug (most carpet repairers can do this). Or, in some cases, you can even tape the backs of two rugs together using duct tape, or even just push two together.
Pairs of everything
Mistake: Duos are not necessarily bad by definition — but beware of the Noah’s ark look. Two of everything — like two matching chairs, two matching side tables, two matching throw pillows, two matching plates on the wall, two matching paintings, two matching vases, etc. — makes a room look too matchy-matchy and robs a room of its personality.
Solution: You don’t have to avoid pairs all together, but use pairs sparingly — mix it up! And if you have an abundance of pairs, don’t despair: Break up your pairs and put one chair in one room and take its twin to another.
Too-bright overhead lightingMistake: The light from an overhead light fixture can not only be harsh, but can be really unflattering.
Solution: Lighting can really set the mood and transform any room, so try using lamps with low-watt bulbs to create flattering and inviting light. It’s better to have several lamps or sconces with 25-watt bulbs than a single ceiling fixture with one 100-watt bulb. And to really up the ante, try a soft pink light bulb — they can be found at any grocery store for under $5, but will make you look like a million bucks. The highest-watt bulb you should use in your living room for a soft and warm light is 65 watts max.
Enter the “Domino” decorating contest!Show off your decorating skills by uploading a photo of your best-decorated room, and you could win $10,000 (only amateurs — no professionals, please)! You have till October 15 to enter and on Oct 23, “Domino” will post the five finalists online, and then you will choose the winner! The winner will be announced in January 2008 on the TODAY show. To enter, visit the