7 Mistakes DIY Decorators Make

Amateur Decorating Mistakes and How Not to Make Them

Couple planning decor in apartment
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Do-it-yourself decorators agonize over color schemes, fabric swatches, and furniture shapes, but they frequently do it while making amateur decorating mistakes that detract from their long-considered selections. There's no shame in that; interior design isn't always intuitive. Here are seven mistakes DIY decorators make, as well as what you should do instead:

1. Hanging Curtains That Don't Fit

Curtains for your windows are like clothing for your body. If your clothing doesn't fit, your body doesn't look its best. If your curtains don't fit your window, your window won't look good either - no matter how lovely the shape or the molding. In fact, a $10 vinyl mini-blind that fits looks better than poorly fitted curtains made from $100-a-yard fabric.

Curtains that aren't wide enough for the window look skimpy when you close them. Ideally, your curtain width -- or the combined width of all the panels if you use more than one -- should equal two to three times the width of the curtain rod.

Curtains that are too long look sloppy, unless you have a super-formal space that calls for a puddled hem. Curtains that are too short look silly. They just flap around somewhere between the apron and the floor. Unless you're deliberately hemming them short because of an obstruction beneath the window, such as a radiator or built-in bookcase, most rooms look best with floor-length curtains if you're hanging them from a rod mounted outside of the window frame. If you hang curtains from a rod installed inside the window frame, hem them to sill length.

2. Using Too Many Accessories

Displaying too many accessories looks just as bad as wearing all of your jewelry at once -- and I say that as someone who will never embrace minimalist decor for my own home. I like stuff, and having lots of stuff can look quite striking. Having too much stuff just looks cluttered. You don't have to display everything you own at the same time. Rotate it, just as you would your jewelry.

3. Letting Your Cords Show

Many people don't notice their power and cable cords until they take a photo of their room. Cords are a fact of modern living. You don't have to hire an electrician to install floor outlets, but you do need to hide them as best you can. Run them under rugs if possible. Use twist ties to affix lamp cords to the backs of table legs, or use scrap fabric to make decorative cord covers. Staple cords to walls and along baseboards, carefully, and then paint them with your wall or trim color to disguise them. Tie multiple computer or television cords into a tidy bundle, and then tuck the bundle behind the desk or television cabinet.

4. Using Lamps That Are Too Short or Too Tall

Choosing the right lamp height is just as important as choosing an attractive lamp. If you can see the harp or bulb of a lamp on your end table or nightstand, the lamp is too tall or the shade is too short. If a table lamp doesn't illuminate your book, knitting, or whatever you do in that spot, it's too short. If a buffet or entry table lamp only casts light on the piece of furniture it sits on, it's too short. Your interior lighting must be functional as well as beautiful.

5. Laying Rugs That Are Too Small

If an area rug looks like an island in the center of your room, it's too small. In a living room or den, a rug should be at least large enough to anchor the front legs of all the furniture in your primary seating area. If the rug is just slightly larger than your cocktail table, it's way too small. In the dining room, the rug under your table should be large enough to sit down or get up without pushing the backs of the chair legs off of the edges of the rug. That usually means you need a rug that's at least 24 inches larger than your dining table all the way around.

6. Using Too Much Symmetry

Using some symmetry adds order and balance to a space. Using too much just makes the room look boring and bland. It also looks amateurish, as if the decorator didn't know how to create visual balance without using a matching set. And frequently that is the case. 

How much symmetry is too much? If you've bought two of more than two things, you're probably bordering on too much. If you create a completely symmetrical mantlescape and flank the fireplace with a matching set of chairs, it's too much unless you're planning something unusual for the rest of the room. If you pull matching end tables up to the matching chairs and top them with matching lamps, it's way, way too much. 

7. Placing the Pieces Too Far Apart

If the seating in your living room or den isn't close enough for quiet conversation, you've placed the pieces too far apart. Draw them closer until the seating area functions as a unit -- not as a bunch of individual places to sit you've spread throughout the room. If that leaves too much empty space in your room, consider adding secondary seating area, a game table with chairs, or a reading nook.

For more decorating mistakes: