The Don’ts of Living Room Design

Your living room urgently needs a revamp, but you’re not sure of the best way to decorate it. Once you know the living room design mistakes to avoid, it should be plain sailing.

The first big mistake you can make is to rush out and impulse buy. Make sure that you have a plan (measure the room!) and some ideas about what you want your living room design to look like when you’re finished.

Other areas where the most common blunders are made include:


  • Painting walls white. Go for gentle neutral shades or mid-tones on your walls, rather than pure white. A white background can be harsh, and it tends to make the furniture in front of it “float” rather than integrate into a cohesive whole.
  • Painting first. If you to introduce a particular color, buy your soft furnishings first. Matching paint to sofa fabric, pillows, and throws is easy; finding the correct color materials to go with your paint is tricky. Get full-size paint swatches from your supplier, and attach them to your walls to see how they look at different times of the day and night.
  • Placement of dark and light hues. You may know the color that you want, but you can’t decide which hue (brightness or darkness). Dark colors are positioned low; baseboards should be dark, walls lighter, and ceilings the lightest hue.
  • Unintended stripes. Narrow baseboards and trim look better when painted the same color as the walls or you’ll end up with an unattractive stripy effect. One color for walls, crown moldings, and baseboards will also visually raise the height of your ceilings.


  • Furniture placed around the walls is boring and unfriendly. Place your furniture in natural conversation clusters, and don’t worry if you have a sofa in the middle of the room as it can form a convenient dividing line.
  • Underwhelming can be as bad as overwhelming. Keep the size of your furniture in proportion to the square-footage of your living room. If you have a large room, don’t be afraid to furnish it with big, comfy chairs, but don’t squash an enormous sofa into a tiny room.

Soft Furnishings and Accessories

  • Nothing looks worse than a rug that is too small for the space it occupies. There should be a 12- to 16-inch border of floor around a living room rug, and the front legs of your chairs and sofa need to be resting on the rug.
  • Beautiful, elegant fabric made into skimpy curtains. Window dressings are an important part of your living room design, so choose materials with care, and be generous.
  • Artwork that is hung too high. The bottom line of your artwork should sit between 8 and 10 inches above furniture. Anything higher than that tends to make eyes drift away from the visually pleasing groupings that that you want to create in your living room.

An additional mistake you may make when creating your living room design is not checking the green antecedents of the products that you are going to purchase. The American Society of American Designers (ASID) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have drawn up a green product checklist so you know what to look for and what questions to ask before you buy.

Finally, don’t be scared to ask for professional advice. Most interior designers charge on an hourly basis, and if you know you’ve got expert backup it’ll make your living room design project fun!


Interior Design for the DIYer

If you have the budget, hiring a professional interior designer is an ideal way to achieve an interior design that integrates your personal tastes with the savvy know-how of a professional. However, there are times where the budget doesn’t allow for a professional’s assistance, or when you just want to tackle an interior design project on your own. There are plenty of online resources for DIY interior design inspiration, tips, and tricks. In the meantime, here are some pointers for the beginning DIY interior designer to enhance any living space.


Define your goals. What are your goals for your upcoming DIY interior design project? Are you changing a single room or tackling the whole house? Are you going all out, replacing carpet, window treatments, and furniture? Or, are you simply rearranging and sprucing things up for a refreshed look? What do you have on hand and what things do you need to acquire for the project? This can help you to create a schedule, boundaries, your budget, and a list of things to do.

What’s your style? Unless you are going for an eclectic or bohemian approach, in which case virtually anything goes, you may want to sit down and think about your style. Do you prefer bold colors, clean lines, and metallic finishes? If so, you are a modernist. Is your ideal home a Cape Cod cottage, decorated with heirloom antiques or French country accents? If so, you are a traditionalist. Are you someone who enjoys a nice modern leather couch and stainless steel appliances, but also loves to display homemade quilts and your few, high-quality antiques? That means you are a fan of transitional designs, blending the best of modern and traditional motifs. Within these three basic ideas, there are infinite other design styles that have ebbed and flowed throughout the ages.

Understand the color wheel. The colors you select for your walls, furnishings, and accents play a huge role in the energy, mood, and even a feeling of spaciousness. For example, light colors and cool colors tend to make a room feel larger and more spacious than it is. Darker or warmer colors will pull elements in a room together. Get familiar with the color wheel, and the relationships between various colors, to create a room that is harmonious and creates the energy you desire.

  • Complementary colors. These colors are directly opposite one another on the wheel. They are sort of the color equivalent of “opposites attract.” They may not seem to have much in common, but when placed together, they bring out the best in one another and create visual stimulation.
  • Harmonious colors. These colors sit between the primary colors, and have a soothing or harmonious effect.

What is your light availability? Lighting is a critical part of DIY interior design because it has a major effect on how your colors relate to one another and whether or not a room appears open or closed in. Windows are the most obvious source of light, and you will want to take the view outside of your windows into consideration as well. This is especially true if your view is one you are happy with. You can use the outside landscape as a part of your color scheme and patterning. Understanding how light plays around in your space (or how it doesn’t!) can help you create an attractive interior lighting design.

Once you have these DIY interior design basics down, you will be ready to decorate your space like a true professional. Who knows? You could be embarking on a whole new career.