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13 Things a Designer Would Never Do in Their Living Room

Bright and airy living room with large area rug.

Design: Blue Copper Design; Photography: Life Created

When it comes to decorating, everyone has their own taste and aesthetic. And on many occasions, it almost seems like anything goes when styling a space. While many designers swear that they don’t follow the rules to a T, there are still a few design faux paus that even the most out-of-the-box individuals should avoid at all costs.

Without further ado, here are 13 design decisions that experts would never make in their own living rooms.

01 of 13

Install Grommet Drapes

“I'm not a fan of grommet drapes. When possible, opt for rings to match your drapery rod and hook your drapes through at an equal distance apart. The rings will instantly elevate the space and introduce another layer of sophistication—promise.” —Eneia White, owner, Eneia White Interiors

02 of 13

Underestimate Rug Size

Large area rug in neutral living room.

Ashley Webb

“One of my pet peeves in living rooms is rugs that are too small. As a golden rule, always go bigger. Your furniture should fit on the rug and not outside of it.”
—Hanne Gathe, co-owner and design director of Gathe + Gram 

“A rug is a must in my designs, as it not only grounds a living room and warms up the space, but truly defines it. Make sure it goes under all of your furniture. My big no-no and something to avoid is having an area rug that is not the correct size or proportion for the room just placed under the coffee table.” —Kate Davidson, owner and principal designer, Kate + Co Design  

“Sometimes, people want to save money or don’t want to cover a beautiful wood floor, but in the end, a rug that looks like a postage stamp floating in the middle of a living room will make everything feel poorly proportioned. To take the ‘floating’ metaphor one step further, think of it this way: an area rug acts as an anchor to your seating arrangement. You don’t want all the furniture half on the rug and half on the bare floor. If you find a beautiful rug that’s just not big enough, consider placing it on top of a solid sisal that fills the room.” —Tara McCauley, interior designer

03 of 13

Set Furniture Against the Wall

“The worst culprit I see in any living room is folks pushing all of their furniture up against walls without paying attention to the actual size of the room. This might work in some cases, but in most cases, it doesn’t. Don't be afraid to float your furniture off the walls–set it free.” —Michelle Berwick, principal and founder, Michelle Berwick Design 

“In almost every scenario, it can actually minimize the energy and flow in a space to push pieces away from the center. In general, you want to have seating and coffee tables in a cozy situation, with pathways to flow around them. You need very little room between a sofa and coffee table to keep things comfy.” —Noel Gatts, founder, Beam + Bloom Interiors 

04 of 13

Skimp on Artwork

Neutral sofa with blue and gold marbled artwork above.

If Walls Could Speak

“I’m adamant about not skimping on artwork anywhere, especially in a living room. I also believe it’s important that you work with a professional to frame and install works properly. None of this needs to kill your desired budget. Artwork at all levels has the ability to enhance—or destroy—an entire room. Be a stickler and spend less elsewhere if you must, but never leave the walls undone. You’ll thank me later.” —Kathleen Walsh, principal, Kathleen Walsh Interiors

05 of 13

Be Matchy-Matchy

“Avoid buying a matching living room set at all costs. While you’re at it, be sure to vary the leg styles on the seating. It’s much more interesting to pair a chair with exposed legs and a chunky sofa that is upholstered all the way to the floor than to have all of the same. The most interesting furniture set-ups have varied shapes, fabrics, and textures.” —Christina Kim, founder of Christina Kim Interior Design

06 of 13

Feature Family Photos

“I would never fill my living room with family photographs. Framed snapshots go in your more private spaces.” —Wesley Moon, founder of Wesley Moon Inc.

07 of 13

Pass Up Greenery

Bright living room with lots of plants.


“A snake plant or pothos are super affordable, will grow almost everywhere, and thrive on neglect—so no excuses. The splash of color and vibrancy are universally delightful.” —Noel Gatts, founder, Beam + Bloom Interiors 

08 of 13

Incorporate Motivational Décor

“You won’t find a ‘Live Laugh Love’ sign above my door. While I appreciate good mantras as much as the next person, I don’t feel the need to incorporate them into my daily décor, especially in a public space such as a living room. A fun compromise could be an ironic needlepoint pillow.” —Courtney Sempliner, founder, Courtney Sempliner Designs Inc. 

09 of 13

Hold On to a Piece Just Because

Soft living room with minimal furniture & purposeful accents.

Jessica Nelson Design

“I will never, not ever, use inherited furniture if I don’t like it or can’t put my own spin on it. I love the sentiment of furniture which belonged to a deceased family member, but if it is not pretty or I can’t paint, upholster, or refinish it in some way, I will not put it in my house.” —Isabel Ladd, founder, Isabel Ladd Interiors

10 of 13

Paint an Accent Wall

“I would never (again) try a singular painted accent wall. It's been done, a lot. And frankly, it's a little boring and obstructive to the flow of a space. If you like the appeal of an accent wall, try to get creative. Wrap your paint around the corner a little instead of stopping it there, paint the ceiling, install a wallpaper mural, or paint your interior doors and trim. But, let's just put the accent wall to bed.” —Teri Clar, owner and interior designer, NAFASI Interiors 

“I would never do an accent wall of paint or wallpaper. If you are wanting a moody vibe you have to just lean into it and go for it. That look can’t be achieved by doing it on only one wall.” —Sarah Stacey, lead interior designer, Sarah Stacey Interior Design

11 of 13

Forgo Flexibility

“I would never create a floor plan for one purpose. Instead, I would focus on developing a flexible floor plan and incorporate multi-functional furnishings. Given the events of the past year, working families adjusted quickly and created makeshift offices and study spaces to accommodate everyone. An adaptable layout and use of smart furniture would allow for homeowners to accommodate an alternate need at a moment’s notice.” —Cynthia Vallance, founder, Cynthia Vallance Design

12 of 13

Use the Wrong Lighting

Moody living room with unique lighting.

Coco Lapine Design

“A goal in a living room is to create ambient lighting to set a mood, which is best achieved with a combination of subtle overhead lights and stylish accent lamps. Going overboard on bright overhead, high hat lighting, or even track lighting should be avoided at all costs.” —Courtney Sempliner, founder, Courtney Sempliner Designs Inc. 

“I'm a big fan of ambient light, and though I absolutely utilize and appreciate recessed lighting, just don't overdo it. Spread the love enough to illuminate the necessary spots, then use some strategically and artfully placed floor lamps, table lamps, or sconces that add style and mood lighting to any scenario.” —Noel Gatts, founder, Beam + Bloom Interiors 

13 of 13

Display Too Many Accents

“Get rid of clutter. Often, there are too many accessories, too many items that have no purpose, and too many books. Everyone should edit what they have. Place books horizontal in stacks of three with an item on top, and leave some air between styling elements.” —Hanne Gathe, co-owner and design director of Gathe + Gram