Decorating Don’ts

  • Toilet Rugs – Don’t use them.  Use a regular rectangular rug placed just in front of the john instead of the contour toilet-hugging rug.  And my rule for the-color-the-rug-should-be in a bath…the same color as the flooring.  Decorating with colored bath mats in a bath is pretty stupid if you stop to think about it.  I don’t have a problem with placing a colorful rug in a bath, such as a Persian rug, particularly if the floor is wood.

    Too many personal photos – Put your old photos in photo albums instead.  And keep them in a personal space, not public spaces of your home.   Multiple photos of yourself is actually pretty creepy regardless of where you place them.   Honestly photos are better preserved if they are kept in a dark, acid free box and not displayed.  Particularly colored photos will fade over time, so do be sure and keep your negatives or copies secured in a dark dry place. Better yet digitize your old photos and store them on disks.

    Don’t ignore your foyer – This is the first impression your guests have of your home.  It should make a statement.  The same is true for your front door.  At the least, it should be clean.

    Exposed cables and wires – Wire management goes a long way to tidy your home.  Wire conduit is a good idea.  Also use duct tape to secure wires to the back of a piece of furniture to conceal the wires.  For lamps on side tables, run the wire down the back of the table leg and you will only see a small amount of wire to the plug.

    Out of place themes – Such as a Caribbean beach-y theme in Alaska.  Patio furniture in a dining room…no. Texana in a bedroom, it just doesn’t work.

    Out dated accessories – Blue plastic flowers are out.  Keep your accessories current and do not be afraid to throw out things and buy new once in a while. For the things you cannot bare to part with, such as your Grandmas gold tulip vase, pack it away in a safe place, take it out once in a while and admire it, then pack it away again.

    Lop sided furniture arrangements – It’s all about balance. Imagine your room is a scale and with the sides of the room evenly balanced to the other.

    Too many pieces of furniture with legs – Step back and look at your room.  If all you see are legs in a room then you need some mass pieces.  Mass pieces are ones that go all the way to the floor, such as a sofa with a skirt or a solid legless cocktail table.

    Don’t keep things you hate. If Aunt Ester left you a hideous armoire do not keep it thinking you will do penance if you get rid of it.  Sell it.  Aunt Ester will not turn over in her grave.  And you just might bring someone else pleasure who really loves the thing.  Craig’s List and E-bay are great ways to dispose of “still good” stuff.  If you don’t care to hassle with selling yourself, have a consignment store sell it for you.  Or even better, donate it to a charity.  You just might make out better financially with the donation.

    Formal rooms are out. If you must have a formal room, try to make it a bit more casual and comfortable.  So in that formal dining room, opt for the fully upholstered plush dining chairs instead of the Chippendale chairs.  They will go just fine with the Chippendale table.  The dining room will be so inviting.  And your guests will be so much more comfortable. And that leads to the next don’t….

    Uncomfortable dining chairs are a big no-no.  Comfort should be first and foremost when selecting any seating.  If you cannot sit in a chair first, do not buy it. What is comfortable to me might not be comfortable to you.

    No clear designation of traffic pattern – Create contrived hallways to direct traffic through a room instead of directly through the center of a room.  An example would be to pull a sofa away from a wall and place a sofa table behind it, creating a hallway.

    Do not do matchy-matchy. The cocktail table and end table does not need to match.   They do not even have to be the same wood. The sofa and chair does not need to be in the same fabric.  Matchy-matchy is just boring.  For non-professionals, limit the number of wood tones in a room to a couple and the number of different fabrics to no more than 3.

    Stay away from fads or trends – We know you love that chrome and glass etagere but chrome and glass was a trend in the 70’s.  Now not so much unless you are doing a retro look.  Colors are probably the easiest trend to combat.  For example you are dying for a spa blue and chocolate brown bedroom.  But designers’ fear is that scheme is likely to date you someday as the mauve and blue scheme dates your mom.  Why not opt for a neutral scheme instead with a neutral paint and a few spa blue pillows.  The room will be very stylish now.  Pillows can easily be changed later to red or whatever your new favorite color is.

    Out of scale furniture – Make sure the scale of your furniture is appropriate for your room.  A large overstuffed sectional in a small apartment is just ridiculous.  Pay particular attention to the height of pieces and that their height is appropriate to the height of the room.

    Too many colors and patterns – It is best to keep colors and patterns to 3 or 4 in a room.  Wood counts as a color.  Metals also count as a color.  But if your woods and metals are close to  the same value, they only count as one color.

    Don’t float your rugs without anchoring. – Rugs should be anchored by the feet of furniture, such as the front feet of a sofa. A rug in the middle of a room with nothing on it is just silly looking.  It needs something to hold it down or it looks like it is about to fly away.

    Improper lighting is probably the biggest single mistake everyone makes.  Lighting in a room should be layered.  Layered lighting means light comes from many directions and for several different purposes.  Up-lights are great to use behind a plant or a chair.  Lamps are great particularly if you consider shades can be opaque or translucent.  Use both kinds in a room.  And overhead lighting should be complementary to the inhabitants.  Cove lighting and wall washers are great alternatives to overhead recessed lights. And don’t forget your task lighting in kitchens and work areas.

    Art hung for Andre the giant – Keep your artwork so that the center of the piece is between 5’ 2” to 5’ 8” depending on the height of the occupants.  If it is placed lower, it is a hazard.  If it is placed higher, it could cause neck pain to view.  And be wary of the height of any objects placed on a wall that project from the wall more than 4”.  If placed in a major traffic pattern, they could put an eye out if someone runs into them.

    Tacky couch covers – just don’t.

    All the furniture against the wall – Looks like we are preparing for musical chairs or a dance, very similar to the 18th century.  Pull the furniture away from the wall.  That can be your Renaissance. And by pulling the furniture away from the wall, you pull it closer together, encouraging conversation.

    Don’t ignore windows. If you dress a window it accentuates the window and creates more of a focal point of your view.  And if you don’t have a view, then create one with interesting plantings outside.  Window coverings should just frame the window if covering it completely isn’t acceptable.  And be sure your full-length draperies go to the floor.  If you do not want them touching the floor, fine. Puddled draperies are out anyway.  But 6 inches off the floor is not acceptable even if there is a windowsill at that height.  It looks like you’re expecting a flood any day.

    Fear of color – Don’t be afraid of color on your walls.  Paint is relatively cheap.  If you don’t like it, you can always paint over it.  A good rule for paint is look at muted colors, which are the ugliest colors on the paint deck.  They make a nice backdrop for more intense colors you might have for accessories.  But do not decorate simply with wall color.  If lime green is your favorite color, that’s not an excuse to paint the walls of your living room lime green.  Instead opt for a light khaki green and toss a couple of lime green pillows on the sofa. The room will read as green and be a lot more pleasing.

    Too many knick-knacks – Do not put everything out all at once.  That just looks like clutter.  You can circulate your chotchkies like you circulate your kids’ toys. All that stuff is too hard to keep clean anyway if kept out all the time.  For collections, display your favorites only.  For example if you have a couple of spectacular blue Delft pieces, don’t dilute them with many ordinary pieces.  Put the ordinary pieces away so the great ones stand out.

    Pillow explosion – Too many pillows are just a waste of space.  On a sofa, too many pillows say “Don’t sit on me”.  Or once the dog moves a mass of pillows, the sofa looks messy.  Just get rid of the pillows, or at least all but 2 or 3.

    And the biggest pet peeve of designers and the biggest don’t of all is….

    No fake flowers and plants. However I’m more of a pragmatist.  I believe fake has its place.  But you can take that too far.  I don’t like walking into a home that looks like a fake theme park jungle ride.  But a realistic silk tree placed here or there isn’t so bad.  Dried flowers and trees are excellent alternatives to the real thing if allergies prevent you from having real.  And you don’t have to wait for someone else to buy you flowers.   Treat yourself now and then and buy yourself fresh flowers.  Please remember, real or fake, plants get dusty.  Take the real plants outside and give them a bath now and then.  Do the same for silk plants.  A hosing off doesn’t hurt the silk plant occasionally.  Just let it dry thoroughly before bringing back into the house.  Cleaning dried plants is tricky.  Vacuuming works or just throw them away and start over.  There is also a spray solvent that is supposed dissolve dust.  It’s probably a good idea to try that outside, not inside, just in case of fumes and drips.

    What are your personal Don’ts?

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