7 Mistakes You’re Probably Making
Minor decorating decisions can have a major impact on how your home looks and feels. For example, it isn’t just the quality of the art on your walls that matters, but also how that art is hung. And it isn’t just how bright a room is, but also the number of lamps that are providing the light.
Seven seemingly small decorating mistakes that can greatly diminish a room’s visual appeal…
Mistake: Hanging art too high. When people hang art on their walls, they tend to position it at their eye height when standing. But at that height, the art looms uncomfortably above them when they’re seated. It also feels disconnected from the furniture below, and it makes rooms feel top heavy and unbalanced, as if they might tip over.
Professional decorators have discovered that the ideal height to hang art is 57 inches from the floor to the center of the artwork (the hook will be positioned higher). This might seem too low when you’re hanging the art—because you’re standing when you hang it and you’re probably used to hanging art higher—but once you live with it a while, the whole room will feel more cohesive.
Hanging all the art in a room so that the center points are at the same height allows the eye to move comfortably around the room. When the center points of hanging art are at different heights, the eye bounces around as it scans the room, creating a sensation of clutter and disorder.
Keep in mind that this is a guideline. Ceiling height, size of furniture, intensity of color and amount of pattern all will affect the height and position of where your art looks best.
Mistake: An insufficient number of light sources. The secret to a well-lit room isn’t just having a sufficient amount of light. Having a sufficient number of different light sources is crucial, too—every room should have at least three. A room with fewer than three light sources tends to have shadows. The eye does not venture easily into shadowy areas, so shadowy rooms usually feel small, tight and depressing. Well-lit rooms with few shadows, on the other hand, feel happy and stimulating.
Tip: Arrange the three lights in a room to form a triangle, with two on or near one wall (such as on either side of a bed or sofa) and a third on or near the opposite wall.
Table and floor lamps tend to be preferable to overhead lighting, which can cast harsh, unflattering shadows. The light produced by incandescent and LED bulbs tends to have a more appealing tone than that from fluorescents such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Cree LED bulbs, available at The Home Depot, are excellent and less expensive than most other brands. Use lamps with lamp shades whenever possible—indirect light is less harsh than direct light.
Mistake: Distributed collections. If you have lots of one type of thing—hundreds of books or dozens of collectible plates, for example—bring them all together into a single location. Cover an entire wall with shelves to display this collection if necessary—but do not let the collection trickle out into other rooms in the house. A collection housed in a single space feels special. That same collection spread throughout a home feels like clutter.
Mistake: Fearing bright colors. Most people lean heavily on tans, beiges and whites when painting and decorating. They fear that they lack the decorating savvy to make aggressive colors work well and think that they’re playing it safe by using neutral tones. Trouble is, decorating entirely with tans, beiges and whites guarantees their homes will look dull.
If you fear bright colors when decorating and still want to decorate mainly with tans, beiges and whites, make around 20% of each room’s paint and/or decor bright and bold.
Add a colorful rug…paint one wall in a room a bright color to create a unique design element (often called an accent wall)…place a colorful throw on a bed or over a sofa. Because only 20% of the room is decorated in a bright color, there’s little reason to fear-the splash of color will be visually interesting, not overwhelming.
Tip: Choose “warm” colors including reds, yellows or oranges as your bright colors in most rooms in the house, including any room where the main color is tan or beige. “Cool” colors such as blues or greens tend to feel less inviting but are an option as a pop of color or in private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms. Choose different accent colors for different rooms in your home—our eyes appreciate variety.
Mistake: Skipping the rug. Rugs are worth having even if you love the beauty of your hardwood or tile floors. Not only will a rug add color and texture, it will dampen sound. Much of how we perceive a space depends on its “aural feel”-how our minds interpret the way the space sounds. Rooms with rugs or carpets tend to have a cozy, comfortable aural feel—while those without them often seem harsh and unpleasant.
Tip: Rugs should be nearly as big as the rooms they are in. Smaller rugs are acceptable if large rugs are cost prohibitive. A rug in a living room won’t seem badly undersized as long as the front legs of the room’s seating are on it, even if the back legs of those seats are not.
Mistake: Skipping the window treatments. Some home owners don’t bother with curtains or shades these days—they don’t want anything to block their home’s natural light. But a room without any window coverings feels unfinished, and uncovered rectangular window frames look hard and harsh.
If you don’t want window coverings that block your natural light, install sheer curtains or shades. Sheer fabric can filter incoming sunlight rather than blocking it, giving sunlight an appealingly soft, varied feel.
Mistake: Putting all the furniture against the wall. Not every sofa and chair needs to be pushed back against a wall. In fact, if all the seating in a large room is up against a wall, that seating is likely to be too far apart—someone seated on a sofa against one wall will be too far from someone seated against the opposite wall to have a comfortable conversation. The seats in a seating group should be no more than eight feet apart, even if that means that all or some of them are not against a wall.