The 8 Most Common Living Room Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

At this point, you’ve been to enough bridal showers and Thanksgiving dinners to know what you do and don’t like about other people’s living rooms. And while most of our friends have good taste, there are a few mistakes that nearly everyone makes. Here, eight of the most common living room design mistakes and what you can do to fix them.

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1. Mistake 1: Not Enough Color

We know, you’re going for minimalist. But zero color can easily look less modern and sleek and more boring and sterile.

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2. Solution: Baby Steps

Throw pillows! Art! You don’t have to paint the walls terra-cotta, but pops of color will give a room personality and liveliness.

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3. Mistake 2: Matchy-Matchy Furniture

Step away from the Price Is Right matching living-room set.

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4. Solution: Mix It Up

Instead, go for furniture that’s an eclectic mix of texture, size and time period. As long as the proportions are right and you have unifying elements (like color family), it’ll all tie together.

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5. Mistake 3: Only Overhead Lighting

This isn’t a dressing room, people.

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6. Solution: Area Lights

Play around with table and floor lamps, and install some dimmers, stat. Different sources, heights and brightness will yield a warm, flattering glow.

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7. Mistake 4: All Furniture Against Walls

You’re just trying to create the illusion of more space, but arranging everything flush against the wall creates an overly formal vibe.


8. Solution: Move to the Middle

Unless there’s something inherently embarrassing about the back of your couch, bring the pieces together to create cozy areas where guests can intimately chat.

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9. Mistake 5: No End Tables

You’re going to balance that glass of Malbec on your sofa cushion? Yeah, didn’t think so.

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10. Solution: End Tables


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11. Mistake 6: Art Hung Too High

Hanging photos and paintings mere centimeters from the ceiling doesn’t heighten the room, it just makes us crane our neck to get a good view.


12. Solution: Think Eye Level

Art should be hung so that the center of the piece is about 60 inches from the floor. (Psst, here’s a cheat sheet.)

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13. Mistake 7: Too-Small Rugs

Yes, rugs are expensive. But if the proportions are off, it can mess with the decor of the whole room.


14. Solution: Fill the Space

As a general rule, a living-room rug should touch the front legs of every piece of nearby furniture (but it’s OK to go bigger).


15. Mistake 8: Useless Furniture

A writing desk may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but are you ever actually going to use a writing desk?

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16. Solution: Buy What You Need, Then Design Around It

There’s no shame in having an office area in the living room, as long as you use it. Make design choices that suit your lifestyle.