10 common decorating mistakes to avoid

If you’ve ever wondered why you feel so comfortable in some homes, and just the opposite in others, there’s a very good reason: it’s all about the interior design – the furniture and furnishings and how these are placed.

It is not about whether or not these are new, or the latest trend. A new house can look contrived, which is guaranteed to make you feel ill at ease. Builder show homes fall into this category all too frequently.

Sometimes, getting it right is more about knowing what to avoid, so here’s our top tips on what not to do when redecorating.


Homes that have a spartan look, with bare walls and nothing to look at are not particularly welcoming. Ultra-modern homes can fall into this category. A cool, architectural house is not a home until you add that personal touch.
Don’t over think it, just put up something, preferably large, or introduce some decorative floor rugs. You can always change items at a later date. Which brings us to number two.


Artwork doesn’t need to hang on the wall – it can be propped up on a side table. This interior, designed by Trendzseater, groups interesting black-and-white items with a splash of colour for maximum visual impact.

Prints and paintings hung too high are perhaps the most common decorating mistake. Bring them back down to eye level and lower. Artworks don’t necessarily have to hang on the walls. Consider propping them up on a mantelpiece, extended hearth or a trunk leaning against the wall.


Furniture backed up around the walls in a decent-sized living room looks a bit too much like a doctor’s waiting room, or a funeral wake. This look is half a century too late – pass around the tea and bikkies.

If you have the room, pull the furniture in from the walls and group it conversationally. And keep proportion and visual balance in mind at all times. Don’t make the mistake of always choosing small items because you don’t have a huge room.


Is the television is the centre of attention in your home? If so, we suggest you rethink your room layout. You need a focal point that is not the television – maybe a fireplace, or the view out through large glass sliders or French doors.

This doesn’t mean have to swivel your head 180 degrees or move everything to watch your favourite show. Just put the television to one side – you can always angle it if need be. Or consider hiding it in a cabinet or, if you are feeling flush, check out one of those ultra-modern TVs that double as a mirror when not in use. Brilliant.


The three-piece lounge suite is an anachronism – does it still exist? Today it’s all about mis-matched pieces, teaming vintage or antique with new, and furniture that tells a story.

Don’t worry if you are sitting on one of these right now. You can always move the chairs out to the bedrooms (garage?) and the problem is solved. Investing in new chairs with fresh fabrics will completely transform your room. Alternatively, consider reupholstering.


Matching furniture and furnishings too closely is not advised, because it can make an interior look very contrived. And never choose art work because it matches the furniture. Choose art because you like it.


Extend a warm welcome to guests. Too often guest rooms are completely overlooked – they can easily become a repository for those unwanted gifts that accumulate over the years.

At the very least, provide a mirror, interesting art, bedside table and lamps. Posters and maps are only OK if they are framed.


A home without books is a body without soul, said Cicero, and that was more than 2000 years ago.

Books make a room lively. They tell us a lot about who you are and what interests you. Yes, electronic readers have a place, but sometimes you just want to pick up an old favourite from a bookshelf. And no, wallpaper that looks like books doesn’t cut it.


These are to be avoided at all costs. Decorating cliches include throws in the living room deliberated arranged in disarray (no-one is fooled), quotes and silly sayings on the walls, and block letters that spell out the purpose of a room. Nobody needs to be reminded to EAT in the kitchen or SLEEP in the bedroom.

Other decorating cliches that come to mind include wall decals, which are fine for children’s rooms and student flats, but nowhere else. Far better to have a real chandelier than a two-dimensional sticker. But be wary of chandeliers in inappropriate places – they look out of place in the kitchen area of an open-plan room.


A colour accent should be just that – an accent, not a colour that pops up all over the room. A splash of bright red is great for bar stools and maybe the toaster and jug, but not when it also appears on small items all over the kitchen, on the floor and in the cushions, curtains and light fixtures. Limit it to three well-defined accents and resist the temptation to add more.


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