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20 Common Decorating Mistakes to Avoid

No one wants to make a decorating mistake, but decorating is a pretty tough project and mistakes can happen, so start your projects with a little help from your friends, Matt and Shari, then check out the latest decorating faux pas! What I’d like to do is point out 20 […]

No one wants to make a decorating mistake, but decorating is a pretty tough project and mistakes can happen, so start your projects with a little help from your friends, Matt and Shari, then check out the latest decorating faux pas!

What I’d like to do is point out 20 of the most common mistakes so you can have them in mind while you are decorating.  Some of them might be obvious to you but to others they are a new idea.  I think what happens is we get so used to having some things around that we keep repeating them even though styles have changed and decorating trends have moved on.  Many of the things I’ll mention are just ideas that have had their time and there are new options for your home that you should try just in the name of – progress.

Decorating Mistake #1

Old Fashioned Ficus Tree - MattandShari.comSo let’s get started with Matt’s pet peeve and decorating mistake number 1; Faux Greenery.  Some is good, too much is bad, and the style of faux greenery you are using makes a difference as well. The style of faux greenery has changed in the past few years, and large ficus and palm trees like this one need to go.  Especially when they are covering up windows that look out to live evergreens! Move plants like this to lesser rooms in your home like the basement rec room or a screened in porch – that way a decorating mistake isn’t a costly mistake.

Newer Style Faux Greens -

However, faux greenery like these small leafed shrubs are fine because they are smaller scale and contained, not vining all over the place like many of the baskets of ivy and other vines we used to stash on top of armoires and kitchen cabinets.

Remember, there is a place for greenery, but it has to be done right.

If you insist on using faux greenery, here are some examples that we think are worth taking a look at:

Decorating Mistake #2

Get Rid of Visual Clutter - MattandShari.comVisual Clutter.  Unfortunately, this is another one of Matt’s pet peeves! But if there is one thing that really puts a damper on a beautiful room, it’s clutter.  It’s the stuff that should just be put away, like magazines, books, projects and shoes.  If you want these items in the room, create a storage piece for them.

Visual clutter can also be just having too many accessories that bog a room down.  For instance, sometimes there is just too much going on at a coffee table.  Generally, if you can’t see the table…you have too many things on it.  The same goes for collections of things. I understand the idea of a grouping of ceramic vases, but if they don’t really co-ordinate very well and they don’t do anything for the room – except make it look cluttered- take them away, or at least some of them!

When you remove some of these things you are going feel a big weight off your chest – I promise.  It feels so good to have space to breathe and it’s calming to have less stuff to take in visually.

Use these books to help you get rid of clutter in your life:

Decorating Mistake #3

Don't Use Too Many Pillows - MattandShari.comAnd decorating mistake number 3 fits right in with the clutter. It’s Too Many Pillows!!!  I know, I said it! But just look at this sectional, there’s hardly any place to sit down! A few are nice to add color and pattern and to be functional.  I know my Mom always needs one behind her back because she is short, but she only needs one, not fourteen! A good rule of thumb here is to remove the pillows that MATCH the sofa or sectional because they do nothing for the look.  Add decorative pillows that express and support your design style.

Decorating Mistake # 4

deals with the Size of your Area Rugs.  I don’t mind an area rug over carpeting at all, but when it extends way past the furniture and into the middle of the traffic pattern, then I start having problems.  Area rugs that aren’t positioned correctly can be dangerous and cause trips and falls.  The rug should either be within the limits of the sectional or seating arrangement or large enough to go past the traffic pattern.  We suggest you make these changes right away!

Decorating Mistake #5

OK, take a look at the combination of art used in this room.  It’s interesting.

Small Town Street Scene -

There is a small town street scene…

A Tuscan Landscape -…a Tuscan landscape…

Pair of Reclining Women -…and a couple of reclining women.

Let’s take a moment to bring them all together and look at them.  I do think it’s important for your artwork to make sense together.  Too many mismatched pieces start looking like an art show.  Usually in your home, you have a certain taste for art pieces and you purchase according to your taste.  Even if you have a very eclectic taste in art, you still need to group pieces that make sense together.

I don’t like these together because they don’t make any sense at all. The subject matter isn’t the same, the colors aren’t the same and the styles don’t match either. So decorating mistake number 5 is using …hmmm I hate to say “Mismatched” Pieces of Art because I don’t want people to start matching everything.  I guess it’s more the style of the art.  Try to select styles that go well together, where here we have three distinctly different things going on.

Now, here’s an example of art that does go together.

Pretty Tuscan Landscape -

Go right back to the Tuscan landscape that is the focal piece in the family room we’ve been talking about…

Miniature Landscape Print -…and combine it with a miniature landscape that is very similar, but surrounded by a dramatic colorful painted matte.  They are very different art pieces, but work very well together.  You could combine an abstract of leaves if they were in similar colors or a vase of flowers in oranges and golds.  They would complement each other and support the color story for the room.

Decorating Mistake #6

Old Fashioned Themed Chair -

Themed Upholstery Pieces. I know in the past, Matt and I have decorated using a chair with a book patterned fabric on it for in a library, and we have done a golf themed chair like this one, but this home isn’t on a golf course, there is no one in the house that plays golf, and without really supporting this as a theme, (You might be able to see the fish pillows?) I think a chair like this just gets you into trouble because it isn’t very versatile.

May I suggest that if you are into golfing or books or fishing, and you find a fabric with that theme on it that you walk right past.  Support your themes with inexpensive pillows, borders, artwork and accessories instead of using items that are difficult to change, like upholstered pieces. Then, if one day you are tired of the fishing or golfing look, you simple change the accessories and you’re done.

Decorating mistake #7

…comes directly from Matt.  I’m not saying I disagree, I actually can find ways to take his idea and apply it to other areas of the house and have it make sense; here it is. “Nothing dates a room more than an old TV.”  Is this just a guy thing meant to get us thinking about it and eventually giving in to updated electronics?  Well, I suggested that if the TV is working fine, why would you get rid of it?  His reply? “Then it can go up to the office or in the garage by our shop.”  But if you are talking about the main area for TV viewing – you need to be up to date.

Hanging on to Old Appliances is decorating mistake number 7.

I justified his call as soon as he used the word “appliances” because I thought if we were in the kitchen and the refrigerator was 15 years old, it would do the same to the kitchen, just sort of bring it down a notch. Matt was thrilled with this, saying, “And that old refrigerator could be a blessing in the garage near the shop… Of course, I was starting to get it.  All the old stuff brings the man cave up a couple of notches…maybe I’ll donate the golfing chair and old ficus tree too!

Well, decorating mistakes happen all around the house, and the master bedroom is a place I usually find a lot.  I think it’s because when we are decorating our homes, we think about the public areas first, you know, the kitchen, living room, family room, and dining room too.  Then we move upstairs.  I was always one to make sure my kid’s rooms were in shape before even thinking about the master bedroom.  So, it’s time to put yourself first and see if you have any of these decorating mistakes in your master bedroom!

Decorating Mistake #8

Boring Master Bedroom - MattandShari.comI’d like to start with an Overall Fear of Color as number 8.  Yes, neutrals are fine and are certainly colors, but to do nothing with the walls….just look at all the pretty neutrals that would really dress this room up.  I would probably select a gray or a darker taupe since this room is large enough to handle a darker color.  Remember, it’s only paint.  It will take a couple hours to get enough paint on the wall for you to experience it and if you really don’t like it – paint it back, or better yet, try a different color.  Don’t be afraid, it’s your home and you should experience the joy of color!!

If you feel unsure about your color decorating skills, these great resources will get you started down the right path:

Decorating Mistake #9

Poor Combination of Pillows - MattandShari.comAnd right away, I see that I don’t like the combination of patterns on the pillows and how they go with the bedding.  The two floral pillows don’t make any sense at all.  I guess the plum shams are an accent color for the room, though it isn’t picked up anywhere else, and although the cherub pillow is in a neutral, the bedspread is a contemporary pattern, so the two don’t mix very well.  So Incorrect Mixing of Patterns would probably have to be decorating mistake number 9.  Just eliminating the culprits will make this bed look right. Learn the right way to mix patterns in our Real Decorating for Real People Book.

Decorating Mistake #10

Improper Dust Ruffle Length- MattandShari.comStaying with the bed in the master bedroom, I’m going to make number 10 be about the Dust Ruffle Length. The dust ruffle on your bed should be about ½” above the flooring.  This allows it to lie properly, yet you can’t see underneath the bed.  So, if you are hiding things under there – your secret is still safe.  When a dust ruffle rests on the floor like this one, it looks messy and never hangs right.  All you have to do is either bring up the hem, or in the past, I have pulled the entire dust ruffle off the bed and pulled up the excess in the center.  I pinned and sewed it all the way down the center and through the ruffle at the end of the bed.  This will raise the dust ruffle up off the floor and you won’t even notice the seam at the end of the bed because the folds in the ruffle will hide it.  So if you have decorating mistake number 10, I expect to see that sewing machine out fixing it right away!

Decorating Mistake #11 

Night Stand Problems - MattandShari.comNow let’s take a look at the night stand and its contents.  Can you tell that the lamp on the night stand is way too small for the bulkiness of the night stand and of course for the queen sized bed?  This is nothing more than a night light in this room.  It might be fine on a chest or maybe on a small dressing table.  And, because it is a figure of a body, I’d almost thing it should be in the closet or near a ladies make-up area…something feminine, not out here as the main lamp in the room.  So decorating mistake number 11 is to make sure you have the Right Scale Lamp for your tables – night stands included.

Decorating Mistake #12 

…HAS to be the night stand itself!  I know we’ve told you for years that this in an inexpensive way to create a night stand until you save the money to buy a nice one with drawers and some storage.  But the point is you should eventually get rid of it!  This is one of those particle board tops on a set of lightweight legs.  If I brushed past this table and touched it with my leg, it would actually wobble.  Hahaha, maybe that’s why the lamp is so small!  But to top it off, the table cloth is too big as you can readily see as it bunches up horribly on the floor, and the throw that was added is trying to cover that up, but not quite doing it.  So, if you are going to have an inexpensive night stand, go the extra mile and hem up the table cloth!  Make it unique by selecting a dark gray or use the accent color, like the plum to cover the table and give it some outward pizzazz.  So number 12 is an Unsightly Night Stand, because it is possible to do an inexpensive one – well.  This just isn’t it!

Decorating Mistake #13

Totally Mismatched Furniture - MattandShari.comAnd you know how we talk about NOT matching all your furniture pieces? For instance in a bedroom it’s nice to have the bed be different from the nightstands, but the bed, chest and dresser match.  Or the bedroom suite is all the same but the armoire is a stand out piece.  This kind of variety gives interest to a room.  Well, in here, the armoire is contemporary, the bed is wrought iron, the night stand…well, is fabric, and the mirror is wicker…..TOTALLY Mismatched Furniture is decorating mistake number 13.  This room has really taken the idea of “mixing it up” – too far!

Decorating Mistake #14

Unbalanced Furniture Arrangement - MattandShari.comWe can keep the ball rolling with decorating mistake number 14 which is about furniture placement.  Sure, we found the mistake in a child’s room, but shouldn’t it follow some basic decorating rules too?  Well, the furniture that you see is ALL the furniture in this room and it is all jammed on one side of the space.  So, an Unbalanced Furniture Arrangement is decorating mistake number 14.

Misplaced Night Stand - MattandShari.comTo fix this, we could move the chest over to the wall to the right and I really think the bed should be just under this castle and painted floral arch…it just makes sense.  The headboard will cover up some of the road leading up to the castle, but the fence that is attached to the walls ends on either side of the painted arbor and it just seems like the arbor was meant to go over the headboard.  Then, with the headboard of the bed flat against the wall, the night stand will fit nicely right next to the bed where it should be.  Now I know we have shown you beds on angles before, but in bedrooms it can be difficult to accomplish and still have the night stands functioning for you.

Better Bed Placement - MattandShari.comBy moving the furniture, the room felt better. The bed is still one of the first things you see when you enter the room and it’s in a very prominent position now with the castle coming right out of the headboard.  And, the night stand makes more sense this way.  With the tall chest on the opposite wall along with the little child’s chair you can feel the difference in the balance of this room.  But, that doesn’t mean everything else is perfect.  Let’s talk about lighting for a minute.

Hide the Lamp Shade Seam Please - MattandShari.comI will give them kudos for having options to the overhead lighting.  Overhead lighting is simply general lighting used for getting around the room safely at night and perhaps for vacuuming.  It doesn’t create a nice ambiance in a room, rather a flat overall light.

The lamps in the room have a couple issues.  One is easy, the seam on the shade is showing and all you have to do to fix that is just turn the shade around. The seam is supposed to go to the back of the lamp where it can’t be seen.  When the lamp is lit, it shows up even more. I”m not going to count this one, but it does make a room look uncared for.

Decorating Mistake #15 

NEVER Lave on the Plastic - MattandShari.comThen this lamp has the biggest problem of all and that makes it decorating mistake number 15.  Never, never, never leave the Plastic Cover on a Lamp Shade.  For one thing, it looks terrible, you might think it is keeping the shade clean, but it is actually creating a fire hazard.  Think about how hot that light bulb is going to get and whether you would really want to put all that plastic that close to the light bulb.  The answer is NO.  Cut it off with scissors BEFORE you ever turn the light on.

Decorating Mistake #16

Determining Picture Height - MattandShari.comThe last issue I found in this room is something that changes depending on what room you are in, what the function of the room is, and who uses the room.  Its how high to hang a picture.  This seems to be a universal decorating mistake.  We see pictures hung way too high all the time and this one is no exception.

Hang Art Low in a Child's Room - MattandShari.comThe basic rule of thumb for hanging a picture is to put the middle of the picture at eye level.  In a dining room, your eye level would be while seated since you spend most of the time in that room seated.  In a hallway, it would be higher because your eye level is higher in a hallway.  In a child’s room, eye level is low, so hang their artwork lower so they can enjoy it! Decorating mistake number 16 is Hanging Artwork too High.

Now I should at least say something about how cute this room is decorated.  The hand painted mural really sets the theme of the room.  This is something you can try yourself by copying a picture out of your child’s favorite story book, or hire an artist who will get it finished in no time! The picket fence is a fun addition, it is actual wood pickets and posts that have been painted white and attached to the wall sort of surrounding the garden that has been painted.  Very nice, just needed a few tweaks!

Like I said, no room is left out when it comes to decorating mistakes, and the bathroom comes next.  So let’s see if you notice this one…..doesn’t it seem odd that you can see the shower head?  Not very attractive is it?

Decorating Mistake #17

Shower Curtain Hung Too Low - MattandShari.comWhen you add a shower curtain rod, make sure you mount it high enough on the wall that the shower head is covered.  Fortunately, what you see pictured is a tension shower rod, so it can easily be moved up to the right height and then tightened up again. But, there’s a problem.  When you raise up the shower rod, the shower curtain comes with it and now there is a problem near the floor.  The shower curtain is now too short.  This can be a real problem because any shower curtain that you purchase is going to be this height.

So, there are two options.  Well, really three I guess.  You can buy a shower curtain you like and add a co-coordinating fabric to the top or bottom to give it enough length to go just about to the bathroom floor.  Or, you can sew your own shower curtain out of a fabric that you select, and make it the correct length.  Or, you can forgo the shower curtain completely and just install sliding glass shower doors.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret, if you do shower doors – I’ll be suggesting that you add a shower curtain anyway because the shower doors make the room too cold and echoey.  So, Improperly Mounted Shower Curtains are decorating mistake number 17!

Decorating Mistake #18 

Don't Use Toilet Covers - MattandShari.comNow I hope mistake number 18 doesn’t make too many of you mad at me.  I know a lot of people use these, but they can be real germ catchers and are very hard to keep clean….they are toilet seat covers and their companion, the “U” shaped  or contour rug.  Listen, I understand if your toilet seat lid is a mess, but why not just replace it?  These lid covers and rugs collect germs like you wouldn’t believe, and then they hide them so you don’t clean this area as often as you should.  They are an all around bad idea, and they don’t look that great either!

Decorating Mistake #19 

Cover Ugly Extension Cords - MattandShari.comOk, we’re getting close to the end, great job hanging in there! Number 19 is Ugly Exposed Electrical Cords.  Don’t let yourself plug in a lamp, clock or appliance with a dark cord going across a white wall, or a white one against a dark wall.  If the outlet is too far away, add an extension cord so the cords can lie on the floor near the baseboard and travel up the wall from just below the outlet.

To make even those look more presentable, sew a cord cover which is simply a very long piece of fabric, folded in half and sewn into a tube.  You don’t even have to put a hem in the ends, just tuck them in. Or, if you’d rather not sew your own, you can always buy one online. Just make sure the cord cover is two times the length of the cord so it is gathered and more attractive.

If the plug on your lamp is too big for a cord cover, cut off the plug, slip on the cord cover and add a new plug to the cord.  New plugs come in a little kit and are very easy to do.  You’ll just need wire cutters, a wire stripper and the new plug.

Decorating Mistake #20

Decorating mistake number 20 is Too Many Family Photos jammed into one spot. Often times we see a shelf or table top covered in family photos.  They are in mismatched frames and of varying sizes and the front ones block the back ones and it really isn’t the best way to display them.  So how do we fix that?

Well, most of the fixes call for getting them into some order.  For instance, use all the same size photos with all the same frames and hang them in a grid collage on the wall in a hallway or above a table.  There are a variety of nice frames that will hold several at once that make sense together, and I’m not talking about those old frames with the different size holes cut out of the matte.  There are new versions of that idea that are much more sophisticated.

If you prefer to keep them on a table, choose one or maybe three that you especially like and give them prominence.  Maybe place one in the back on a plate stand or up on a couple of books to allow it to be seen.  Then, rotate the photos out so the display changes every month or two.  This makes it much more interesting for the family who sees the same photos day in and day out!

So, that should be the end of the story, but you know me, I can come up with lots of “don’ts”, but fortunately, there are “dos” that go right along with them!   Here are two more that we mentioned in the show to remind you.

Decorating Mistake #21

We had a pair of metal shoes sitting on our table with slots for hanging.  They were sitting on a coffee table in the home we were visiting and it struck us funny that there were metal shoes sitting on a coffee table.  This brought on decorating mistake number 21.

Don’t be tricked into buying stuff just to fill in a space.  Some accessories have no meaning to us or our families and they are just there taking up space.  I would much rather see you have a bare table and wait for just the right item to fill it than have you buy four items you could care less about just to have the project finished. Decorating is supposed to take time.  Your home is supposed to come together piece by piece, not all at once.  Let a space grow and change with you and your interests.  So, Buying Meaningless Accessories is decorating mistake number 21!

Decorating Mistake #22

And last, because my fingers are exhausted from typing….I know we mentioned the faux greenery before and this is somewhat along those lines; dried floral arrangements.  Did you know that these do eventually die and need to be thrown away?  “Die” meaning they get dusty and full of cob webs.  I don’t know what it is about dried floral arrangements, but they attract dust like nobody’s business.  I think as number 22 I’d almost say Forget Dried Arrangements completely!

Well, there you have it.  Sometimes it’s easier knowing what NOT to do than try to figure out WHAT to do.  Just consider these tips.  As you know, it’s your home and you should live in it the way that works best for you and your family.  As long as it makes you feel welcome, relaxed and comforted, your home is perfect – for YOU!


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