Pale green family room
Thibault Jeanson

Too Many Houseplants

A few living things add wonderful texture to your home and contribute to healthy air. Too many, and the space becomes a greenhouse with dead leaves littering the floor. If you’ve divided that spider plant excessively, share it with a friend.

White console with ornate mirror and white plates
Paul Whicheloe

Plastic on Lampshades

It’s there to protect the shade in the store. You’re supposed to pull it off when you get it home. Seriously.

opt for artwork instead of more shelving

Heirlooms Without a Cause

Just because you inherited it from Aunt Margaret doesn’t mean it has to occupy pride of place in your house.

Assess your gift honestly, and if it doesn’t suit your taste or decorating style, use it somewhere private, like the laundry room or a guest room -- both places that deserve a little “personality.”

brown velvet armchair in a living room

Pride and Portraits

Portraits are wonderful, just not over the living room mantel. Because they’re so costly, people tend to want to display them prominently, but the more proper (and modest) place for them is in the bedroom or the family sitting room.

Fireplace and two chairs
Paul Whicheloe

Matchy-Matchy Furniture

Nothing screams one-stop shopping so much as a perfectly matching set of furniture. Mix it up by adding contrasting textures, such as a glass-and-metal coffee table in a room with lots of wood or a pair of modern chairs with a low, tufted sofa. The art of design is in the mix.

Yellow, red and slate gray living room
Thibault Jeanson

Swiss Cheese Ceiling

Recessed lighting allows for so much versatility and doesn’t take up valuable table space. But the downside of it is the syndrome known as Swiss cheese ceiling, polka-dotted with fixtures.

Use recessed lighting strategically, and fill in with a range of other light sources -- table lamps, floor lamps, and sconces -- for a richly layered look.

Front entrance
Tria Giovan

La Door

An unfortunate side effect of the McMansion phase of American home building, these generic, European-style front doors -- bright with leaded glass and of monstrous proportion -- have afflicted neighborhoods everywhere. Just say no.

blue buffalo-check slipcovered chairs
Megan Thompson

Wallflower Furniture

Like a setting for a neighborhood watch meeting, this default style of furniture arrangement, where everything is lined up along the walls, is both unlovely and uncomfortable.

People need to face each other to talk. They need to be able to reach a table to put down a drink. Pieces of furniture should relate to each other, not to the television. Let your sofas face off across the coffee table. Pull a pair of chairs away from the wall and put a side table between them. You’ll look like a design genius.

Bright turquoise and brown bedroom
Erik Kvalsvik

Hotel Bedspread

Newsflash: There is no way to disguise a king-size bed as just another piece of furniture. That textured bedcover that matches the drapes and the shams is fooling no one.

Layer your bedding luxuriously instead. Fold back a duvet at the foot of the bed, and let the sheets peek out at the top. Let the pillows show. If you’ve got high thread-count sheets (even Costco sells great sheets), let them show. The sheen of a good white sheet is as pretty as any upholstery.

Green armoire and aqua ottoman
Jeremy Samuelson

Notre Dame Carving

The craft of woodcarving can lend lovely embellishment to furniture. But heavy handed, overly ornate carving just looks grotesque. Think of carved decoration like Tabasco sauce -- a little goes a long way.

Bunk beds
Colleen Duffley

Too Much Beige

People mistakenly believe that the safest choice in home decor is to cover everything in beige, including the walls and floors. However, it’s actually a health hazard -- you might die from boredom.

Spice up a neutral scheme with shots of color in accessories, like a pair of persimmon pillows on that sofa, or a rich Persian rug on the floor. Color covers a multitude of sins, too, making it a smart choice for family life and heavily trafficked rooms.

A porch with red wooden furniture.

Plastic Outdoor Chairs

Unless this is your first time living away from your parents, there’s simply no excuse for using those plastic outdoor chairs inside. Visit flea markets and yard sales -- even a mismatched set of four different chairs has miles more style than those rickety seats.

Framing pages from books adds spunk to a room
Roger Davies

Dinky Art

Unless it’s signed by Picasso, don’t hang a small painting by itself. Group several small artworks together for maximum impact. Consider a large mirror to take up empty wall space if you can’t afford art. Or have your kids go to town with paints on a large piece of craft paper -- chances are, they’ll eventually come up with something you like as much as that Picasso.

Blue walls and zebra-print chair
Dominique Vorillon

Pillow Profusion

Layering pillows, bolsters, and shams on the bed is fine. But don’t go overboard. You want your bedroom to be a restful, serene sanctuary, not a fussy, complicated memory game. Limit your pillows to one pair of European shams, one pair of standard shams, and one bolster.

A modern and open living room with a couch and chair.
Thomas J. Story

Too Many Shiny Surfaces

Always mix something organic or worn into a modern interior to soften it and add essential contrast. A decorator once told of being approached by a celebrity who wanted a house decorated only in glass and metal furniture. The decorator turned down the job, rightly predicting that it would be a pretty boring interior that wouldn’t live up to his reputation.

living room with built in shelves

Fake Books

A designer I had lots of respect for shocked me by lining a room in miles of those fake cardboard rows of books. I still haven’t recovered.

If you don’t have books, arrange souvenirs, framed photographs, trophies, and decorative boxes on your shelves. If you do have books, display them proudly. They don’t have to be leather-bound antique books -- it looks much more modern and fresh to display books you’ve actually read. Hardbacks are best -- reserve paperbacks for bedrooms or find an online book swap to keep them in circulation.

Blue lamp with orange roses
Brie Williams

Beds on an Angle

Even though I did this when I was 14, I hate seeing beds on angles now. It seems like a purely gratuitous move, done just to be different. Beds are too big to protrude so rudely into a room. even in a large, empty room pick a wall, and position the bed against it. You’ll sleep better, and so will I.

Animal-print pillow on a white couch
Brie Williams

Karate-Chopped Pillows

Who was the person who first raised his hand over a cushion and gave it that ubiquitous rabbit-eared shape? And why?

Leave your poor pillows alone. A well-made pillow will have a lovely shape without any threats from you.

Warm up a sleek surface with a punch of color

Stuffy Arrangements

Please don’t fan your magazines out on the coffee table. Your living room is not a doctor’s office! Bring warmth and personality to your arrangements with a bit of asymmetry, a mix of books and objects, and some visual surprise, whether that be a beaded headdress or a bowl of shells. Your house should reflect the richness of its residents’ lives.

Game table in corner
Jason Bernhaut

For-Show-Only Furniture

The worst sin in the design universe is filling a room with furniture you’re not allowed to sit on. If it’s too precious to be used, it should be in a museum. Houses are for living, for entertaining our friends, and loving our families.

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