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10 Design Mistakes That Designers Always Notice in a Living Room

Living room with large fiddle leaf fig.

Design: Haley Weidenbaum; Photo: Jessica Alexander

Your living room is one of the most high-traffic areas of your home. Not only is it the space where you relax and unwind at the end of the day, but it’s also the place where you host and entertain guests—that’s why it’s important to make it a functional and aesthetically appealing space that you will actually want to spend time in.

Unfortunately, no matter how stylish the furnishings may be in your living room, there are certain decor missteps that designers say stick out like a sore thumb. From bad lighting to the wrong size area rug and more, here are 10 decorating mistakes designers notice right away in a living room—and what to do instead.

01 of 10

Bad Lighting

Living room with moody accent wall.

We Three Design

Nothing spoils the ambiance of a space faster than bad lighting, which is why interior designer Kirsten Grove of We Three Design says it’s crucial to be strategic about how you employ various light fixtures throughout your living room.

“I've been in beautiful homes with too harsh lighting or not enough lighting, and it completely ruins the mood and look of the space,” she explains. “It's important to spread lighting around your room: table lamps, picture lights, and floor lamps are great ways to add soft lighting throughout.”

02 of 10

The Wrong Rug

Traditional living room with large brown sectional sofa.

Design: Marea Clark Interiors; Photo: Brad Knipstein

If you aren’t picking the right size of area rug for your living room, interior designer Marea Clark of Marea Clark Interiors says it can impact the entire space.

“Having the correct size rug immediately makes a room feel more comfortable and spacious,” she explains. “I suggest choosing one large enough so that your sofa is at least partially over it, and that it extends under your coffee table and other seating in the room.”

03 of 10

Too Many Throw Pillows

Sofa with mustard throw blanket and velvet pillows.

Jenelle Lovings

 If your living room sofa is covered in throw pillows, interior designer Jenelle Lovings says it might be time to scale it back a bit.

“All too often, I find the sofa is cluttered with oversized or too many pillows,” she explains. “When accessorizing a sofa, I recommend sticking to just three pillows in three different styles to help create visual interest without overpowering the other décor elements in the room.”

04 of 10

Uncomfortable Sofas

Luxurious living space with feathers and chaise.

Design: Tiffany René Interior Design; Photo: Jeff Garland Photography

When it comes to your living room sofa, interior designer Tiffany Cobb of Tiffany René Interior Design says you should never sacrifice comfort for style.

“One living room design mistake that I often see is when someone allows the function to follow form when selecting a sofa,” she explains. “Sure, you may love the look of a super sleek and streamlined sofa, but trying to lounge on it might be another story. It’s important to think about your lifestyle needs and design your living room with that idea in mind.”

05 of 10

Crowded Furniture Arrangements

Tiger rug near TV console.

DBF Interiors

If you haven’t arranged your living room furniture in a spatially sound way, interior designer Dominique Fluker of DBF Interiors recommends moving some of it around.

“Bad spatial arrangements paired with large and clunky furniture can make your living room feel crowded,” she explains. “Focus on essential yet unique furnishings that speak to your personal style while maintaining an open feng shui floor plan that gives you and your furniture room to breathe.”

Focus on essential yet unique furnishings that speak to your personal style.

06 of 10

Furniture That Doesn’t Sit on the Rug

Bright sitting room with large indoor tree.

Design: Becky Shea; Photo: Sean Litchfield

While it might not seem like that big of a deal, interior designer Becky Shea says that ensuring that the legs of your furniture pieces actually sit on the rug is key to visual balance in a living room.

“I personally like to have all of the furniture sit on the rug if possible, but if you don't have the space for that, opt for having at least 50 percent of the furniture on the rug," she advises.

07 of 10

Bulky Furniture Pieces

Transitional living room with wooden beams.

Design: Michelle Lisac Interior Design; Photo: Jennie Corti

No matter how much you may love certain oversized furniture pieces, interior designer Michelle Lisac says that too many of them can quickly overcrowd your living room.

“Instead of piling on the pieces, I would suggest starting with the largest piece—most likely the sofa—and then building around that,” she says. “Add chairs, a table, and side tables, as well as a large area rug in the center, which can also be the landing spot for the furniture instead of pushing everything against the walls.”

08 of 10

TV Screen Focal Points

Rustic living room with blue velvet sofas.

Design: Justin DiPiero; Photo: Claire Esparros

If you design your entire living room around the location of your television, interior designer Justin DiPiero says it’s time to switch things up.

“In my opinion, the TV should never be the focal point of a room,” he says. “Instead, try layering the TV around a natural focal point like a gorgeous view or architectural fireplace, and arrange the furniture around that. This way, you’re still able to watch TV, but the layout is much more focused on the windows and allows for a great conversation setup if you're entertaining.”

09 of 10

No Natural Greenery

Modern living room with large steel doors.

Design: Christina Nielsen; Photo: Molly Culver

If you ask interior designer Christina Nielsen, a little foliage can go a long way in a living room.

“Greenery adds warmth and an organic feel to your décor,” she explains. “It can also be used to fill in empty areas of a living room—I love to place an oversized fern or myrtle on a pedestal to act as a filler in corners of a room.”

10 of 10

Thoughtless Window Treatments

Living room with large fiddle leaf fig.

Design: Haley Weidenbaum; Photo: Jessica Alexander

Window treatments often become an afterthought when designing a living room, but interior designer Haley Weidenbaum, the founder of Everhem, says they can make or break the ambiance of the space.

“It's important to remember window treatments provide more than privacy, they enhance the design of a space not only by adding texture but by creating a focal point or a statement surrounding the windows,” she explains. “Even if you are slowly adding furniture and objects to your space, starting with neutral window treatments can really warm and soften up the room in the meantime as you collect.”