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Four common design mistakes ... and easy ways to fix them!

Color, texture and scale are three of the most important factors that go into planning a room. And there are many pitfalls to executing each one! Do you ever wonder why your room just doesn't feel like things are arranged correctly, or that things feel "off" somehow? To help, I've compiled four of the most common mistakes that I often see, and give you the answers on exactly how to fix them!

COMMON MISTAKE #1: Pushing your furniture against the walls of your living room

THE PROBLEM: When your sofa and chairs are pushed up against the walls of your living room, it makes it feel smaller than it really is, and doesn’t make your room feel cozy and inviting.

THE FIX: Move your furniture into “conversational groupings.” What does that mean? Imagine that you and your friends are at home on a Friday evening, talking about all of the happenings from your week, perhaps over your favorite beverage. You’re chatting away and having a great conversation.

To best accomplish this feeling of connection, arrange your furniture so that there is a focal point, like a fireplace or coffee table. Pull your furniture away from the wall, and closer together around that focal point. Rather than your furniture holding up your walls, you’re creating defined areas so that everyone can socialize and talk comfortably.

And if you’re lucky enough to have 2 focal points, that’s OK too! Just create two conversational groupings. Don’t forget to make use of ottomans, stools, and floor pillows, too, to add even more seating to your spaces when you’re entertaining.

Bonus Points: Use a floor planning software tool (I use for space planning, and to model furniture groupings – it’s especially helpful before you invest in new furniture, but also allows you to re-imagine your current furnishings and placements!

COMMON MISTAKE #2: Using a rug that’s too small

THE PROBLEM: Let’s say you have a 5’ X 8’ rug underneath your coffee table In the middle of your living room, but it’s not touching any other furniture. A too-small rug makes the space feel disjointed, and looks like an afterthought.

THE FIX: Place an area rug that is large enough for your room. Area rugs ground and define a space (remember that principle of “conversational groupings”?) so it’s important that they are large enough to include all of the furniture pieces that make up that grouping. Through color, pattern and texture, a great area rug can pull together the design elements in a room.

Here are a few rules of thumb when choosing the size of your rug:

1. Your furnishings should all fit (at least partially) on the rug. At a minimum, the front legs and the majority of the rest of the piece. This means that your sofa’s and accent chair’s front legs, your coffee table, and your accent tables should ALL fit on the rug. Most living rooms will need a rug that is at least an 8’ X 10’ area rug to accomplish this, but for larger rooms, a rug the size of 9’ X 12’ or 12’ X 15’ will define the space much better. In a dining room, the area rug should be large enough to accommodate the entire table and chairs, even when the chairs are pulled out.

2. Remember that you’re not limited to commonly sold rug sizes! Sure, most “large” rugs come in standard sizes of 8’ X 10’, 9’ X 12’ and 12’ X 15’. But if those don’t work for your room, don’t settle for a rug that is too small! Visit a reputable flooring store that has a wide variety of carpet selections, and select a pattern, color and texture that you like. They can create a custom size area rug that will perfectly fit your space.

Bonus Points: Use painters tape or string to map out your area rug size before you buy. Sometimes its hard to visualize how a certain size will look in your home, so don’t guess – map it on the floor, then go find a rug that you love!

COMMON MISTAKE #3: You’ve hung your wall art too high

THE PROBLEM: You’re out shopping and find a framed print that you love. You rush home, tear open the packaging, and hold it up above your sofa. You hammer your nail into the wall and hang your print. Unfortunately, when you step back to admire your work, you notice it’s way too high and looks like it’s floating in the atmosphere above your sofa.

THE FIX: Hang wall décor at eye level. If you have some wall spackle, you can fix this one easily. In general, a piece of art should be hung at “eye level.” Now, being a rather tall person myself, my exact idea of “eye level” may be a little different than my friend who is 5’2”. However, we again have some guiding principles that use a few quick calculations. (Who knew that decorating had so much math involved?)

1. The gold standard for how high a large piece should be hung is this: the center of the piece is 60” from the ground. This is what is considered “eye level” for most people. Of course other factors play into this, including the size and what exactly it’s hanging over, so read on. But generally, if it’s a piece on a wall with nothing that’s relatively close by underneath, use this rule.

2. If you have a grouping of prints, you should treat them collectively as a single piece when you’re determining where to place them.

3. When hanging a large piece of art above furniture like a sectional or sofa, the bottom of it should be about 6 - 8 inches from the top of the furniture. This makes it feel connected to that piece of furniture, like it belongs there, rather than our example above where it’s awkwardly floating above the sofa.

Bonus Points: One of my favorite tricks is to get a roll of craft paper, trace the outline of your piece(s) and cut them out. Then, tape them to the wall with some easily removable painters tape and viola! Instant preview, with no nail holes! This works especially well for gallery walls that have a variety of frame shapes and sizes.

COMMON MISTAKE #4: Your space feels unfinished, cold or flat

THE PROBLEM: You’ve purchased new furniture, a few new pieces of art, a new mirror and even a few accessories, but your space still feels unfinished, cold, or flat.

THE FIX: Don’t forget your greens! Organic life warms up a space, and makes it feel alive! Even the coziest of spaces feel cold without any signs of life, so bring on the greenery! As with all things design, layer in a combination of trees or large scale floor plants, potted greenery on tabletops and book shelves, bowls of fresh fruit, and even fresh flowers.

1. I love having something living in a space, not to mention that there are real air-purifying benefits that houseplants bring! Realizing that not everyone wants to take on the task of keeping something alive, I also do use faux plants in my designs too, as long as they’re well made. (I’m sure you can conjure up a vision of Aunt Hilda’s unfortunate plastic-y ficus tree in the corner).

Magnolia has a fantastic selection of unique greenery, flowers and branches that you can have shipped to your home. I'm eyeing these thistle stems!

2. Speaking of branches, don’t think that you have to stick to "traditional" plants! A few branches in a large container can serve as a lovely focal point, and bring life to your space. Wander around your yard (especially in the spring, when many shrubs are in bloom) and clip away! Here’s a picture of some mock orange branches from my garden. And of course, you can always use faux branches too.

Bonus Points: Be seasonal with your plants selections! In the winter time, I love using evergreen branches, juniper and holly. In the spring, flowering cherry tree and forsythia branches remind us that warmer weather is on the way. Change out a few of your arrangements as the seasons change in your area to make your home feel even more cozy (and seasonally appropriate 😉).

Do you have any design tips that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

If this collection of design tips are making you feel confused or overwhelmed, let me help you! One of my favorite parts of design is the last step of accessorizing and styling – bringing all of these elements together truly makes the space feel personalized and alive. Even if you have your furnishings, I can add the accessories and style your room to bring in all of these important elements! Connect with me today at and let's get started on your project!

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