12 Decorating Mistakes to Avoid

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Even with books and magazines, TV shows, online articles, and decorating showhouses offering advice and inspiration, it can still be hard to avoid decorating mistakes. That's because it's easy to get excited and leap into purchases before carefully considering what you really want, need, and can afford. You can avoid buyer's remorse and overspending, though, by avoiding these common mistakes.

Don't Let Someone Make Choices for You

Your home is your personal space. Don't let someone else tell you what you should do. If you need help, ask for suggestions and, of course, consider the preferences of your family or housemates. But when the time comes to make decisions, they should be yours. It's your home, and you should feel comfortable with the choices.

Don't Paint First

You can buy paint in every color under the sun. In fact, you can have paint mixed in any imaginable color you might want. Choose fabric, carpet, wallpaper, and upholstery first, then take a sample to the paint store with you. That way, you can sure your colors match perfectly.

Don't Choose Paint From a Paint Chip

A small chip of a paint sample might look great in the fluorescent light in the paint store, but a whole wall of it might be overpowering. When you've decided on a color, purchase a quart of the color and paint a small section to see how the color looks in the room with natural light. If you don't want to mess up the walls, paint a piece of cardboard and tape it on the walls in the room where you plan to use the color. Another option is to buy a quart of several of your favorite colors and then compare the possibilities.

Don't Decide on Colors in a Store

Never buy fabric, flooring, or paint on your first visit. Ask for samples of paint and carpet and swatches of fabric so you can see what they look like in your home. Check them out in natural light and in the evening with lamps. Remember that colors do look completely different in different light; incandescent bulbs, for example, have a yellowish glow while halogens may look bluish. Similarly, a wall will look very different in bright sunshine than in shadow.

Don't Settle for Blah If You Love Bold

A gallon of red paint doesn't cost any more than a gallon of white. If you love the color, find a way to use your favorite colors in your home. Choose colors that express your personality and coordinate with things you love—while bearing in mind that you will have to live with your choices day in and day out for quite a while.

Don't Make Your Favorite Color the Main Color

Bright colors can be fun, but too much of a good thing can be overwhelming. Instead of painting entire walls in bright, saturated colors, choose a more subtle shade to provide a background that will let items in your favorite color really "pop."

Don't Ignore the Psychology of Color

Don't expect to create a relaxing sanctuary in a room with red walls. Blue and green are more calming and relaxing. Choose red and orange for playrooms or family rooms where the action is. Select a color scheme to create the atmosphere you want in the room.

Don't Forget Color Undertones

Not all blue is blue. Not all whites are identical. Look beyond the main color to see if the hue is light or dark, crisp or dull. Subtle differences can make all the difference when you're intending to set a mood.

Choose coordinating colors with the same intensity. This is easy to do in many cases because paint manufacturers provide color swatch cards with varying shades of the same hue—so you can select a family of colors that will work well together.

Don't Force a Color Scheme

Many home decorators assume that their colors must match to work well together. But there are many ways to use a variety of colors to create a coordinated look. Choose your color family, identify the major pieces that will have a place in the room, and then recover, repaint, and coordinate all the elements. Find another place for or get rid of anything that doesn't fit your plan.

Don't Ignore the Focal Point of Your Room

Focal points are elements that draw the attention and focus of anyone who walks into a room. Common focal points include windows, fireplaces, and French doors. Not every room has a focal point, but if yours does, make it important. Arrange the artwork and furniture around this important element.

Don't Let Your Furniture Hug the Walls

It's easy to make the mistake of placing every piece of furniture up against a wall—but that can make it difficult to use the furniture comfortably. Don't arrange the chairs, sofa, and tables all around the perimeter of the room unless the size or layout of the room make no other choice possible. Make groupings of furniture for conversations and pull pieces into the center of the room for a warmer feeling of comfort. It can be fun to experiment with different configurations of furnishings, and it's easy to make changes if you don't like the results.

Don't Build Barriers

Homes are intended for relaxing and entertaining, and that can be tough to do when you're constantly bumping into pieces of furniture. To make your home more accessible and welcoming avoiding putting chairs or tables in front of doorways or archways. Leave room for easy access and movement into and within the room.