Designers say you should never do these things around your home — & here's what to do instead

Looking at yellowed light switches or a too-small area rug? It’s probably time for an update.

ByK. Megan Lawrence
Originally Published: 
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When trends move so quickly — and prices get so high — decorating your home can be a feat of blending timeless pieces (aka furniture that won’t look dated in two years) with accents that feel fresh and fun. And especially if you’re renting, sometimes you have only so much control over how much carpet there is or what kind of appliances you have.

Luckily, there are a lot of updates you can make that aren’t cost-prohibitive and will make a big difference without major design overhauls. Interior designers from London to Los Angeles reveal below some of their best tips to correct common design mistakes. Read on to learn more.


Mistake: Not measuring your room prior to purchasing furniture

Solution: This laser measure that quickly & accurately sizes up a room

Karen Gray-Plaisted, owner of Design Solutions KGP, cautions against rushing to fill a room with furniture before properly measuring it. With this digital laser measure, precision is the name of the game. Two bubble levels provide accurate readings, measuring distances up to 165 feet (there’s another, slightly costlier 328-feet option), and you can toggle between meters, inches, and feet. A large LCD display is easily readable in low-vision spaces, and it’s built to measure large areas such as apartments, homes, and more. “Take your time to find the perfect couch, side tables, chairs, etc.” Gray-Plaisted says. “Sketch out a floor plan, add pieces that work, and stick to that plan.”


Mistake: Painting or wallpapering just one accent wall

Solution: This pretty wallpaper that looks expensive — but is affordable

“Don't: Paint or wallpaper only an accent wall,” interior designer Lori Shaw, who specializes in vacation rental design, tells Mic. “Do: Paint all of the walls — and include the trim and baseboards! Wallpaper the whole room!” If it’s a Wes Anderson movie set look you’re after, this bluebird wallpaper that you can apply yourself will give a room that playful vintage mood. Paper your powder room or any kind of smaller room to create a world within a world. Application is fairly simple; just peel and stick, no paste or other kind of adhesive needed.


Mistake: Not considering color and texture in a space

Solution: Adding in texture with pieces like this rich, understated throw

It’s a common refrain from designers for a reason — varying a room’s textures can transform an otherwise too-uniform room. But, as Simone warns, while maximalism may be trending, it’s important to keep it cohesive. “Adding block-colored throws and throw pillows to your sofa, chairs, or kitchen car stools can draw your style together throughout your home,” she says. This knit throw is not only elevated hippie-chic, it’s made from recycled cotton. “Very beautiful lightweight throw,” one reviewer wrote.


Mistake: Accumulating unneeded items & not having proper storage

Solution: Making the most of storage in a room

“As an interior designer with a decade of experience, I've seen that one of the most common and easily made mistakes is accumulating unneeded items or even hoarding them,” Julio Arco, architect, interior designer, and founder of Bark and Chase, tells Mic. Arco explains that this often results in makeshift storage spaces that are underutilized. “Invest in suitable storage solutions such as bookshelves, wardrobes, and organizing containers,” he advises. With this four-pack of clear plastic storage bins, you’ll be able to easily see what’s under your cabinet or in your pantry. This will help prevent buying doubles of products or forgetting what you have already.


Mistake: Hanging art too high or too low

Solution: Using adjustable wall strips to hang art

Hanging wall art can be a tricky endeavor — framing, where to hang, how to arrange the art — it’s a lot. A common mistake is, as UK-based interior designer and design blogger Emily Brookes says, “hanging your art at the wrong height” which can “make your room look disjointed and disharmonious”. Brookes recommends these hanging strips, which come with 16 pairs of medium and large strips that are easy to use — and easy on walls. “If you use hanging strips rather than wall fixings, you will be able to easily adjust the height if necessary without causing any damage to your walls,” she says.


Mistake: Hanging your curtains too low

Solution: Hang curtains closer to the ceiling

Rudolph Diesel, an interior designer in London, says that one common mistake is hanging curtains too low. “Hang curtains close to the ceiling to create the illusion of taller ceilings and a larger room,” he says. The extra length on these linen curtains will also increase the drama, giving the illusion of even more height. Coming in a set of two panels, the weave creates a semi-sheer effect, letting in some light while offering privacy. “I bought a pair of the 96’ natural, and let me tell you, they’re perfect!” one reviewer raved. “It still lets the sunlight through, while blocking the glow at night.”


Mistake: Following trends too closely

Solution: Choosing classic pieces that match your style

“The first thing to avoid in your home is following trends too closely,” Carlin Van Noppen, CEO and head interior designer of Fig Linens & Home, says. Instead of relying too much on the trends of TikTok and Instagram, she recommends “look[ing] to trends for inspiration while relying on your own personal style.” These throw pillow covers are an example of a classic, thanks to the linen-blend fabric and color options that include neutrals like coffee and navy, as well as shades like sky blue and apple green. Woven burlap trim adds a rustic touch.


Mistake: Using wall art with words

Solution: Buying art that’s more personal & displaying with this bamboo frame

Art and home decor with words can quickly feel outdated after everyone has “live, laugh, love” in their homes. Van Noppen warns against this, saying that “this kind of art can make your home look generic or give it a dorm-room-like quality.” Consider, instead, buying art from a small Etsy shop or from an up-and-coming artist — or even making a piece yourself — and framing it in these vintage-inspired gold bamboo frames.


Mistake: Keeping too many knickknacks or too much clutter visible

Solution: These discreet storage baskets

“Organize your daily items through smart storage solutions, and you can keep your surfaces and display areas designated for your favorite decor pieces,” Teri Simone, head of design and marketing at Nieu Cabinet Doors, says. Simone recommends using drawer organizers, baskets, boxes, or glass jars (“for kitchen pantry items that you use all the time”) to elevate your home storage. This set of three cotton baskets is useful for gathering stuffed animals, blankets, magazines, etc. “It works great for both hard and soft items,” one reviewer shared.


Mistake: Drawers with dingy, outdated pulls

Solution: Updating your pulls with these sleek gold handles

Hardware on cabinets and furniture can be easy to overlook — and it can really look outdated in a space or dingy if it’s started to tarnish. “Handles, knobs, and pulls that suit your current style aesthetic can be purchased online and attached in an afternoon,” Simone says. “New hardware is a small detail that can give your kitchen a new lease on life.” This 10-pack of sleek gold cabinet handles upgrades any cabinet or drawer while also sporting a timeless brassy finish.


Mistake: Being too matchy-matchy with your furniture

Solution: Mixing it up with unexpected pieces

“Don’t own matching sets of furniture,” Chris Jovanelly, senior interior designer at Est Est Interior Design, tells Mic. Jovanelly suggests mixing and matching the sizes and colors of your seating, and one wallet-friendly way to do that is with a soft piece like this textured pouf. While this is just the cover, it can be easily filled with fluff, wool, or even old clothing, blankets, and pillows.


Mistake: Using furniture that's too big for the space

Solution: Opting for a smaller sofa and adding chairs like these

“Don’t put a sectional in your house that’s too big,” Jovanelly warns. “Use smaller sofas/ottomans/chairs to create a space and make the room feel bigger and more easily accessible.” This velvet armchair is a perfect example of his advice — it has a slim profile with upscale Hollywood Regency flair that will add some eye-catching appeal to your room’s seating.


Mistake: Not getting creative with lighting

Solution: A floor lamp that gives off a warm glow

There’s a whole world of lighting possibilities beyond your standard overhead fixture, and particularly in the evening, an assortment of lamps can create a soothing ambiance. “Employ various lighting sources to establish a well-lit and inviting environment,” Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight, advises. This floor lamp has that mid-century appeal, and best of all, it’s dimmable to match any mood, from reading a book to cozying up with a glass of wine and some music.


Mistake: Forgetting to add greenery

Solution: Using realistic-looking fake plants if you don’t have a green thumb

Growing plants indoors can be tricky – particularly if you travel a lot — which is why this artificial palm tree is an appealing option. It not only looks lush and tropical, it’ll always be green. “Adding plants to your home can inject vibrancy and life,” Kropovinsky says. Standing at five feet, one reviewer suggested putting it in an elevated pot to “give the illusion of higher ceilings”.


Mistake: Realizing your color scheme is uncoordinated

Solution: Starting with a neutral base and building from there

Chris Alexakis, interior designer and founder of CabinetSelect, advises: “Use color palettes that are not too contrasting, but still allows the colors to build off each other. I would also suggest using a neutral tone as the base color, and then adding pops of other colors to brighten up the room.” This BACKDROP semi-gloss finish paint is a smooth neutral that will play well with other brighter colors or darker leathers in the room. Refresh walls, cabinets, or doors with a coat of this warm white paint that is also formulated to dry quickly.


Mistake: Not utilizing wall space

Solution: Adding your favorite knickknacks to these shelves

“Another common mistake is not utilizing the wall space in a room,” Alexakis says. “This can create an unbalanced look and feel to the room.” With this set of two floating shelves, the unique shape stands out — and allows for room to display a few well-chosen decor pieces. An antique box, a small sculpture or succulent, and a few framed photos could work well here.


Mistake: Opting for all neutral colors

Solution: Adding in pattern & color where you can

“One of the most common mistakes is choosing all-white or gray interiors,” Mariya Snisar, Head of Interior Design at Renowell, tells Mic. She says that these sorts of interiors can look “outdated, too polished, and unwelcoming”. Instead, Snisar suggests adding colorful artwork to white walls or choosing a piece of patterned furniture. With this Beverly Hills Hotel-inspired tropical print chair cover, your old armchair can have a new, glamorous lease on life. Made from stretchy polyester spandex, the cover is designed to stretch tightly over chairs and sofas for a snug fit.


Mistake: Sticking to white bed sheets

Solution: Choosing sheets with rich, sumptuous color

Linen bedding — particularly in striking colors — is really having a moment, and it’s clear why. “They can make the bedroom look more playful and trendy without too much effort,” Snisar says. She suggests that instead of sticking to white bedding, opt for colorful options like these 100% linen sheets. With 14-inch deep pockets, this fitted sheet is naturally soft and breathable. It also comes in other chic, earthy neutrals, like dusty blue and purple.


Mistake: Displaying only mass-produced artwork

Solution: Make your own art

“Mass-produced artwork and triptych-style paintings can also make the interior look dated,” Snisar warns. “Instead, you can search for unique pieces at thrift stores or even make an abstract painting yourself.” With this pack of 10 canvases, you’ll be able to hone your art skills and have enough left over to experiment with. They’re individually wrapped and suitable for using almost any kind of common paint, such as acrylic, oil, and tempera.


Mistake: Not getting creative with your lamp choices

Solution: This floor lamp that doubles as a table

“Instead of just one overhead light, why not add cool table lamps to your space?” says Joy Aumann, realtor and founder of Luxury So Cal Realty. She recommends this floor lamp with a nifty built-in table — and two shelves of storage underneath for magazines and more. This lamp even takes it a step further with two built-in USB charging ports and one power socket to charge your iPad or phone while you watch TV. The lighting can also be customized with three dimmable color options: white daylight, yellow, and a warmer light tone.


Mistake: Being timid with wall art

Solution: These prints that create a focal point

“A big piece of wall art can work wonders if you wanna add some character to your space without too much decor,” Aumann adds. For simple, thoughtful prints that add understated flair to a room, this set of minimalist wall art is it. It’s also a great base layer for a room’s artwork — neutral colors mean you can experiment with a hot pink vase or brightly hued sculpture that won’t clash with what’s on the walls.


Mistake: Having an area rug that’s too small

Solution: This rug that covers a lot of ground

“Along with measuring your room, consider the size of rugs in the room,” Gray-Plaisted advises. “If you are using an area rug make sure it is large enough for at least the front furniture legs to be on it.” This on-trend jute rug works for so many decor styles, from farmhouse to beach house. It’s made from 100% jute fibers, and one reviewer wrote, “It’s nubby, yet soft, and instantly added coziness to the room.”


Mistake: Keeping outdated dome lights on your ceiling

Solution: This elegant flush mount fixture

Shaw recommends replacing the standard dome lights that many homes and apartments have “with one of the zillion options of actual cool flush mount ceiling fixtures”. With a fixture like this black-and-gold ceiling light, your home’s lighting becomes instantly more sophisticated. At an affordable price point, this light would look good in any room in your house; you may even want to buy a few for a harmonious design scheme.


Mistake: Living with boring wall-to-wall carpet

Solution: Adding texture with a rug over carpet

So many apartments come with carpeted rooms, which can feel a bit claustrophobic when it comes to design flexibility. But Shaw says that layering a flat rug over carpet is the way to go. “Trust me, it will give your room a whole new look,” she says. With this cotton runner rug, both texture and pattern break up dull carpet while giving your space a chic vibe. Choose from five different colors, from dark gray to pink.


Mistake: Keeping dingy outlet covers

Solution: Upgrading all of your switch plates

It’s time to check those switch plates, which can easily get yellow and grimy — especially in the kitchen or bathroom. “Upgrade to white or even black,” Shaw recommends. “Nothing dates a house quicker than those blah yellowish outlets.” A light switch cover like this white wall plate has antique flair, while also giving the wall a facelift with its traditional, clean style. “These look much more expensive than what they are,” a reviewer shared. “I will buy more as I continue to remodel my home.”


Mistake: Overcrowding a room with decor

Solution: Place smaller items in a decorative tray

“Too many decor items can make a room feel cluttered and chaotic, as well as make it difficult to clean and maintain, so edit down your decor and then corral them using items like decorative trays,” David Lindley, CEO of By Design, says. This serving tray is a heritage piece built from thick acacia wood, which helps make it sturdy and durable with metal handles that accent it. Whether you want breakfast on the couch or a place to display a few photos or coffee table books, this tray looks good for any job.


Mistake: Using too many different patterns in a room

Solution: Sticking to one or two patterns

Shanade McAllister-Fisher, a West London-based interior designer, warns against having too many patterns in one area, which can be easy to do once the throw pillows and blankets start to accumulate. “A set of neutral-colored throw pillows can add a subtle pop of color and indulgence to a room without overwhelming it with patterns and will look far more chic,” McAllister-Fisher says. “Look for pillows in soft fabrics like linen or velvet to add texture and stop them from looking flat.” This set of two throw pillow covers come in luxurious velvet with tassels that give even more texture. Choose from a ton of lovely colors.


Mistake: Not using a rug pad

Solution: Placing this noise-silencing rug pad under your area rugs

As another designer mentioned previously, Cameron Shepherd and Jill Norman of STUDIO MESA suggest making sure that your area rug is the right size for a room’s furniture. They suggest trying to have at least the front two legs of a sofa on a rug, “if not all four.” It’s also key to make sure you’re using a rug pad. “Not only will your rug feel better under foot and not slide around, your floors will also be protected,” they say. Their go-to is Gorilla Grip’s felt rug pad, cost-effective and with a slip-resistant rubber backing.


Mistake: Choosing only angular furniture

Solution: Incorporating rounded accents

“Soft curves and natural features relax the brain,” San Diego-area interior designer Stephanie Parisi says. “Indulge yourself with rounded forms of sofas and tables.” This round metal table should do the trick, with a pleasing-to-the-eye simple design and rich color combination. With a lightweight look, it’s a light-but-decadent addition to any room — and it looks like it was made by a high-end designer.


Mistake: Forgetting to add some natural materials to your decor

Solution: This wooden knot that accents your coffee table

“Anything that mimics nature improves our mood,” Parisi adds. This wood sculpture is a blend of both of the designer’s tips: incorporating natural materials and soothing curves. Place it on your coffee table, mantle, bookshelf, or any place that could use a rustic touch. The knot is also a versatile piece, fitting in with farmhouse chic, beachy decor, or a cottagecore-inspired look.