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!


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