Sorry, These 5 Design Mistakes Are Making Your Living Room Look Cheap

Updated 06/10/19

 Sara Tramp; DESIGN: Emily Henderson

We've spilled a lot of ink on small-space design mistakes here at MyDomaine. From the egregious entryway errors that make designers cringe to the slightest dining room faux pas designers would never make, small-space decorating mistakes is a topic we'll never tire of. Because—although design discrepancies, like choosing the wrong rug size or hanging artwork too high may seem trivial—even the slightest misstep can have a surprising effect on a room, especially if it's lacking in square footage.

In order to find out exactly which common small living room design mistakes to avoid, we decided to consult an expert on the matter: Mandy Cheng, a talented Los Angeles-based interior designer, who has a penchant for pulling together impeccably styled small spaces. Case in point: Her charming, plant-filled Los Feliz apartment, which is also a rental btw, but you'd never know it. Ahead, the leading Homepolish designer shares five common small living room mistakes that make your space look cheap (and how to fix them).

Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong rug size.

Living room decorating tips
 Madeline Tolle for Homepolish; DESIGN: Mandy Cheng 

The right rug can completely transform a space, but only if it's the right size for your home, cautions Cheng. "I see a lot of living rooms where the rug is too small, and it makes the entire space feel like it's floating in the middle of the room," notes the designer. "Try to get a rug that envelops the entire space so all four legs of your sofa can fit on it, as well as any other furniture you're placing in the room," she advises.

However, if investing in a sizable rug isn't within your budget or doesn't work for your space, the interior designer suggests, as a rule of thumb, you opt for one that is large enough to at least accommodate the front two legs of your sofa as well as any adjacent armchairs. "If you have a rug that you love but it's too small, layer a second, larger rug underneath it," Cheng recommends.

West Elm Distressed Foliage Rug $799
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Mistake #2: Buying artwork that's too small.

Living room art ideas
 Sara Tramp; DESIGN: Emily Henderson

Just because you're decorating a small living room doesn't mean you have to opt for small-scale décor, says Cheng. "If you have open wall space above the sofa, it's a great place to hang a large piece of artwork," she explains. "I always see people hanging artwork that's too small, or getting two small pieces and spacing them really far apart to try and give the illusion that it's taking up more space."

Smaller artwork can accentuate an obvious lack of space in a room. "If you can't find a large enough piece to span the length of two-thirds of your sofa, get as large of a piece as you can, and then add smaller pieces on either side of the large piece, gallery wall-style," the interior designer offers. But be sure to "space the artwork appropriately and uniformly," she adds.

Mia Farrington Untitled $870
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Mistake #3: Overlooking light fixtures.

Small living room lighting ideas
 Tessa Neustadt; DESIGN: Emily Henderson

Selecting light fixtures is a practical part of the design process, but according to Cheng, it's an aspect of decorating a living room that people often overlook. "If your living room doesn't have nice lighting, don't just sit there in sad darkness," says the designer. "Wall sconces are a great way to add ambient light and there are a ton of plug-in wall sconce options out there," she adds. "If you have a side table, consider a small table lamp and just run the cord under the rug."

Rejuvenation Cylinder Task Telescoping Wall Light $219
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Mistake #4: Investing in décor that's all the same size.

Common small living room mistakes to avoid
  Sara Tramp; DESIGN: Jess Bunge for Emily Henderson

Finding décor with the right proportions for a small living room can be a serious design challenge. "There's a common misconception that small living rooms need to be minimalistic, otherwise it will feel even smaller," explains Cheng. "The focus should actually be on making sure that the furniture is the right size," she notes.

"If the scale of the big pieces is right, decorative objects like books and plants will only help to pull the look of the space together," Cheng tells MyDomaine. "Just because a typical living room setup includes a sofa, coffee table, armchairs, and a side table, doesn't mean that yours should have all these things so make sure to choose your pieces appropriately."

Skagerak Brut Table $669
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Mistake #5: Neglecting valuable wall space.

How to decorate a small living room
 Madeline Tolle for Homepolish; DESIGN: Mandy Cheng 

The designer's number one piece of advice for decorating a small living room? Utilize vertical wall space. "We're so used to furniture that sits on the floor that once things stop fitting on the floor we give up," points out the designer. "Consider floating shelves (like these corner ones) and hanging plants," she advises. "If you decorate up to the ceiling, it draws your eye up to the ceiling and gives the illusion of a bigger space."

Urban Outfitters Dakota Corner Wall Shelf $39
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