While rearranging the furniture in any room of your home is always a fun way to refresh your space, there is a plethora of layout mistakes that can be made along the way. We typically subscribe to the idea that there are no strict rules in interior design—after all, personalization is what makes a space special. But according to a few experts, there are a few common missteps that can make your home feel a bit off.
It could be something as simple as picking the wrong size of rug for the living room, or something as blaring as wasting precious square footage in the kitchen layout. Whatever your design challenges may be, there are plenty of designer tips to make the most of your space. All it takes is a little rearranging and perhaps a few small upgrades.
Ahead, find out 20 layout mistakes that make interior designers cringe, and learn how to remedy them to make your home look its best.
Choosing the Wrong Rug Size
According to Elite Decortist Designer Briana Nix, choosing the wrong rug size is a common problem for living room layouts. “You hear it time and again from all designers: Don’t buy too small for your room," Nix says. "If you’re floating your furniture, make sure both front and back legs of your sofa fit on the rug, with space left around the perimeter. If your sofa is against a wall, make sure the front legs of all your furniture are placed on the rug."
Forgetting All Angles
“In older homes, specifically, living rooms were often designed with equally important views of the front and back yard on one wall and a fireplace on another," Elite Decorist Designer Becky Leu explains. "Unsure of what to do with this, many families will focus their furniture layout on just one of those walls, ignoring the other direction." Leu's tip for balancing it out: Choose sectional sofas. "An L-shaped sectional can quickly frame the two opposite sides of the room, focusing the seating towards a dual focal point that features both the fireplace and the view to the outdoors."
Not Letting the Light In
A common layout mistake that interior designers discuss is the placement of curtains in relation to window size. To open up your space and frame your windows to look their best, hang your curtain rods several inches above the top of the window. You'll also want to extend the edges of the hardware out past the edges. When your curtains are fully open, they'll let in the maximum amount of natural light. An added bonus: This placement also makes your windows look larger than they actually are (which helps keep large furniture from overwhelming small windows).
Placing Furniture Against Walls
“A common layout mistake I see people making with their living room is having all the furniture pushed up against the walls,” says Elite Decorist Designer Mikayla Keating. “While there are certain furniture pieces that need to be near the wall, floating your sofa or accent chairs more towards the center of the room will help the space feel more inviting," Keating says. "Your sofa can create another wall in the room, which can give the illusion that your space is larger. Make sure you are choosing the correct size of furniture as well to give the room ample space for walking and everyday use."
Creating Design Imbalance
If your living room has symmetrical elements—like windows on either side of a wall, a fireplace in the center, or A-frame ceilings—arrange your furniture accordingly for a sleek look. Here, two matching sofas are placed parallel to the windows, while a coffee table lines up with the fireplace in the center. A pendant chandelier complements the cathedral ceilings, and two comfortable accent chairs add balance while keeping the design dynamic.
Wasting Valuable Kitchen Space
Wasting space in the kitchen is another common layout mistake, according to Nix. “Max out kitchen storage," she suggests. "Add narrow shelves in awkward nooks for cookbooks, or—if you’re lucky enough to design your own kitchen—install hidden storage in toe kicks at the bottom of your cabinets.” By adding extra storage, you'll create more walking space and counter space since extra necessities will be tucked away for a clean look.
For even more floor space, install a rolling trash can inside one cabinet to hide it from view and keep things feeling sleek.
Forgetting Space for Dish Towels
“Kitchen islands now commonly house the kitchen sink," Leu says. "But this doesn't bode well for the dish towel that has no wall space or upper cabinetry for a hook—no one wants to walk around the kitchen with dripping hands or lay the towel down on the counter.” Thanks to Leu, the fix is even easier than you may think: "Simply place a hook or bar on the interior of your sink cabinet to hang a dish towel, keeping it both accessible and out of the way."
Lacking Adequate Lighting
“A common layout mistake I see is not having adequate lighting," Keating points out. “While beautiful pendants over your island and sink look amazing, it is good to incorporate recessed and under-cabinet lighting to give the kitchen proper light when you are cooking or prepping food." Hide strips of LED lights underneath upper cabinets or over the sink for an easy switch-on when you need a boost of extra light.
Not Making Use of Walls
Using a pair of bulky lamps on each side of the bed is a layout faux pas, Nix says. “Make use of valuable wall space by adding sconces as an alternative to lamps," the designer encourages. "There are terrific choices out right now—even plugins when hardwiring isn’t an option." If you're a fan of reading in bed or keeping extra glasses of water on your bedside tables, you'll be surprised how much of a difference the bit of extra space can make.
Picking Small Bedroom Rugs
“About 90 percent of the rugs I see used under beds are much too small for the bed they're under," Leu says. “If you have a queen bed, I recommend at least an 8'x10' rug underneath, and a 9'x12' rug for a king bed," Leu notes. It's also important to measure your room's size and address its shape when choosing rugs: "Lay the rug perpendicular to the length of bed—no more than one foot away from the nightstands. There should be plenty of soft, cozy rug for you to step onto from the second you get of bed, all throughout your walk to the other side when you're re-positioning pillows and blankets.”
Choosing a Huge Bed
In the same vein, the size of your bed itself can make a big difference in the flow of your bedroom. “The most common layout mistake I see in bedrooms is having too large of bed for the room," Keating says. “When purchasing a bed for your space, make sure there will be ample walking room on either side as well as space for storage furniture. Having too large of a bed makes your room feel cramped, even if the room is a good size."
Not Styling by Shape
If your bedroom layout is built with specific architectural details—like angled or cathedral ceilings—it's also important to take the room's permanent design into account. For example, in spaces with angled ceilings, it can feel awkward to have the bed placed along one of the side walls. Choose a spot for your bed either against the main angled wall or directly opposite it for a balanced finish. Here, two bedside tables with matching lamps placed in front of the windows add an extra element of symmetry in this fresh, airy space.
Overlooking Empty Corners
If your bedroom or living room has an awkward corner that looks particularly bare, use it as an opportunity for an added space of function. Living room corners are great places for small desks, added seating, or even creative bar carts for those who can make use of them. In bedrooms, a seating area for dressing and putting on shoes can be both stylish and helpful each day. Here, a bedroom chair with hat racks styled above it on the wall creates a place for daily items while adding a flair of character to the simple corner.
Taking up Space With a Vanity
According to Nix, especially in a smaller bathroom, installing a vanity can take up too much floor space. “If possible, design your bathroom with a wall-mounted sink to keep the floor space clear. A floating sink will help the room appear larger,” the designer says. Additional upper cabinets can add more space for bathroom necessities without making your walking room feel crowded.
If you're short on counter space, try adding floating shelves along either side of the sink at the same height to create extra storage.
Making Rooms Seem Smaller
Another designer trick for small bathrooms is to extend visual height when usable space is already maximized. Rather than hanging all of your décor at eye level, try to incorporate decorative items, tall curtains, or lighting fixtures higher up. The effect draws the eye up toward the ceiling, making the room feel larger than it actually is. If you have large windows in your bathroom, keeping the blinds and curtains open as often as possible also helps to extend the space further by drawing attention outdoors.
Squeezing Too Much Into Small Spaces
“The most common mistake I see with bathroom layouts is trying to squeeze too much into the space," says Keating. “When designing a bathroom, make sure you think about having easy access to all the amenities and that it is easy to maneuver,” she recommends. It's helpful to downsize additional items you don't need: Toss out the half-used bottles of hairspray or shampoo that you'll never use again, and use the newfound cabinet space to organize any extra items cluttering your countertops.
“Homeowners will often place towel bars, rings, and hooks where they look best, rather than in a spot that's convenient when using the space,” Leu points out. "Luckily, towel bars, etcetera, are simple and easy to add, remove, or move. So once you've lived in the space long enough to know where you need your towels most, you can make quick changes to fix this problem."
Overdoing the Furniture
Having too much furniture in your dining room can be a major layout mistake, Nix points out. "Keep the room minimal but exciting by using dynamic art, a table, and chairs, and a fun light fixture," the designer suggests. "We rarely need a buffet to house china or a hutch to store linens—we can get away with much less in a dining room."
Creating a Cramped Dining Room
“It's very common to underestimate how much space there needs to be for traffic around a dining table,” according to Leu. “To avoid this issue, consider the width of your dining set when all the chairs are pulled out from the table—not when they are pushed in,” she advises. When it's time to entertain, you'll find that the extra space around the table makes it much easier to serve dishes, clean up, and for guests to get up and down from the table as needed.
Choosing Small Rugs for Dining Areas
“A common mistake I see people making in their dining rooms is choosing the wrong rug size,” says Keating. “When choosing a rug for your dining room, make sure all chairs can fully sit on the rug even when pulled out a bit. Having too small of a rug can make your dining set look not proportionate. Plus, it can get in the way when scooting the chairs in and out," she points out.