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  • Lauren Bennett

Mistakes You are Making when Decorating Your Home (and How to Fix Them)

Let’s face it. After 5 years in the Interior Design industry, I’ve seen my fair share of poorly decorated homes. In almost every case, these poorly decorated homes can be easily made into well designed spaces by making a few small adjustments. To an interior designer, most of these small adjustments feel as simple as straightening a crooked piece of art on the wall, and it’s second nature to straighten it out, so we can all get on with our lives. I sometimes have a hard time focusing on much else when I know how I would tweak a few things to make the space feel more comfortable, proportionate, and well decorated. I’m not one of those OCD people that will make a scene if you invite me over to your house, but if I’m watching a TV show that takes place in a room where the lamp is too small, you better believe I’m not focusing on the dialogue! So, this is me not making a scene and writing a blog post that can hopefully help to fix some classic decorating missteps and elevate your home from “livable” to your favorite place to be.

Life is Short, Get the Bigger Rug.

This is a classic mistake that I see all of the time, and I completely understand the reasoning behind it. Most rugs sold in stores are already crazy expensive, and who wants to spend more money on the bigger size, when you’re pretty sure the 5x7’ will be just fine for your living room? I’m here to tell you that in the average sized home, the starting size for a rug in your living room should be around 8x10’. A great rule of thumb is that when all the furniture is in its proper place, the front legs of all the furniture pieces should be on top of the rug (of course, if you can get away with all of your furniture’s legs sitting on the rug, go for that!). This allows for the rug to define the space, and visually separate your living room from the rest of your home. The larger scale creates correct proportions in relation to your furniture. If the Ancient Romans taught us anything, it’s that correct proportions just look good, and feel very comfortable and generous. It allows your family and guests to feel at ease in the space, and that all the parts that make up your living room have been carefully considered and thought through. You might be thinking, “all this from a bigger rug size?” YES! I myself am included in the struggle for a good-sized rug without paying an arm and a leg for it. However, if you take your time, check the sales, screen through Facebook marketplace, and even thrift stores in your area, you can often find gently used, and sometimes even brand-new rugs that are the right size, color scheme, and pattern for almost no money! It’s worth the hunt and time spent; I guarantee it.

Be Brave, Hang it Lower!

Just like with rugs, proportion is so very important when it comes to art, and other wall décor. Art is very specific to each individual, and I’m not here to tell you what kind of art to put on your wall. I will however tell you how big or small your art should be, based on the place where you would like to hang it. I have a few basic rules to follow when it comes to art. We’ll use this wall in my own home as an example….

1. Consider the entire wall space

This is the largest wall in our home, and in our main living area. This wall space has the chaise side of a sectional pushed up against it, and a few collected things sitting in the corner to the left. I needed a piece of art that could fill the visual space proportionate to the sectional piece below, while keeping the overall image clean, so as not to compete with the smaller collected items to the left.

2. Bigger is Better

Need I say much more? Large scale art elevates the sophistication of a room and brings in a whole new attitude to the space. It’s generous, and pulls you in. We couldn’t find a large-scale piece of art we liked that didn’t cost a fortune, so we decided to make this piece ourselves. That’s a story for another day!

3. Be Brave, Hang it Lower

As a rule of thumb, whenever possible, the center of the art piece should be at eye level with the main user of the space, or around 5’ from the floor on average. The effect allows the viewer of the art to look at it at a comfortable vantage point, without craning their neck slightly upward, which is like a psychological nudge to only look at the art for a little while, before your body gets tired. Hanging the art at the general eye level often brings the art much lower to the ground than most of us are naturally inclined to hang it. Of course, when furniture like my sectional makes that less than feasible, do your best to float the art just above the furniture, without removing the usability from that side of the sectional. Floating it just above the furniture creates a visual relationship between the furniture and the art, which suggests that the art was hung with careful consideration to the rest of the space, making you look like a proud home decorator (wink). In my case, we hung this piece about 8” above the sectional back cushion to allow clearance for your head. Happily, even with the furniture obstruction, the art piece is only two or three inches above eye level for us, so it has worked out rather nicely.

Turn all the Lights On

Is it just me, or do the Victoria’s Secret dressing rooms have some of the most flattering lighting situations in the whole world? This is because in every dressing room, there are absolutely no overhead lights! All of their lighting is at eye level, and wrapped behind layers of warm, light-softening ribbon that casts a warm, and youthful glow onto your image in the mirror, allowing you to see yourself in the most flattering light (literally) while you try on their clothes and underwear.

This exact same effect can be achieved in your own home. In your own space, those overhead recessed lights may offer you enough lighting to see at night, but this “one size fits all” lighting scheme is rarely catered to exactly how you and other users will use your space. These lights rarely have that same warm and cozy “changing room” glow, but all you have to do is introduce more eye level lighting into the space!

Table lamps and floor lamps are your friend. You should have around two to three lamps in all the main living areas of your home. The golden number is three lamps per room, and sometimes I like to push the envelope and go for four in a space. This isn’t always possible in every space, so just do the best with what your rooms will allow. You can try lamps in your living room, bedrooms, office, etc. Don’t worry as much about the kitchen or bathrooms, although if you have the space, an extra lamp can be a fun surprise in these areas. I like to place them anywhere natural light is not already present. Easy spots are near the arm of a sofa or lounge chair, on a side or console table, and anywhere else it might be advantageous to have a little extra light. Table and floor lamps will take even the most stark and cold interiors and help them to seem warmer, and more comfortable. Here’s a fun idea- try some lamps in your dining room, see what happens.

Please Stop Putting your TV Over the Fireplace.

I know that even having an opinion about this can be controversial, and before I proceed further, I want to point out that this is not an unbreakable rule. However, in 90% of the cases I’ve seen, the TV does not NEED to be hung over the living room fireplace.

One reason to keep your TV away from the fireplace is because of the potential heat damage your TV could sustain. They are not built to be roasted over a roaring fire for years on end, and for that reason, should be installed in an area closer to room temperature.

You may say, “Lauren, my fireplace isn’t working, or is just for show. We haven’t had a real fire burning in years.” That’s great! However, the most important reason not to install your TV above the fireplace is for the sake of your poor family’s necks. Have you ever sat in the first or second row of a movie theater, craning your neck to look up at the screen for an entire two hours? Can you imagine watching all of your TV shows and movies at home in that same posture for years and years? That is essentially the situation you are creating for yourself when you place the TV much higher than your natural sitting eye level. Your head can’t crane up in that posture for too long before becoming fatigued, and then changing the rest of your body’s posture to compensate for the discomfort. You may not notice it right away, but you will over time, and it’s not worth it!

Instead, install your TV over a console on an adjoining wall, built in cabinets, or even resting in a piece of antique furniture, in a lower cabinet where your eyes and the rest of your body can naturally rest. If none of these options work for your living room with the fireplace, consider moving the TV to a different room. There are so many other great options other than the fireplace, it just takes a bit of careful planning to make it a reality!

At the end of the day, how you decorate your home is completely up to you. These rules are by no means final, or without any wiggle room. However, if you use these tips as a guide, you’ll find it much easier to make your home your favorite place to be.



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