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Avoid these 7 biggest home design faux pas

Interior design can get complicated. Part general contractor, part creative genius—there is a reason there's an entire profession dedicated to making rooms look and feel great. Here's a little secret, though: even the pros use cheat codes, little tips and tricks they've learned along the way about what to avoid. Sometimes, the best way to figure out what to do in a room is to first figure out what not to do. Addition by subtraction. 

Before you embark on your next home design project, consider—then consider how to avoid—these seven faux pas. And make sure your budget is in good shape so you can afford to invest in your home decor.

1. Ignoring proportion and shape

When eating a meal, you want a variety of texture, color and feel on the plate. The same is true when designing a space. Too many rooms feature uniform furniture that all have the same feel and emotional response. Don't pair a huge couch with a large side table. Mixing and matching will be a bit more work, but it will help avoid an easy trap of mundane uniformity.

2. A light situation

Different types of lights—and light fixtures—serve different functions. This is a common and avoidable design faux pas. Too much of one type of light throws off any sense of balance. Don't over index on lamps, trust an overhead light fixture to do all the work, or rely entirely on recessed lighting. If anything, consider lighting early and often. The lighting fixtures are just as important as the couch, the vintage Persian rugs you found at estate sales, and the paint on the walls. Don’t make lighting an afterthought.

3. Too many patterns

Multiple, conflicting patterns have their place. They can work in a small bathroom, for example, to ensure the focus stays away from the size of the space. But in larger rooms, two or more patterns can become overwhelming. In larger spaces, like your living room, kitchen, or bedroom, it's better to play with a single pattern that can serve as emphasis. Anything more gets confusing—and clashes—quickly.

4. Elevating art

That picture is probably too high up the wall. When hanging art, the goal is to have the midpoint of the picture or photo somewhere around eye level or slightly below—think about five feet off the ground. Your guests shouldn't have to crane their necks. 

A related mistake is to put pieces all around a room when grouping them together, especially a handful of smaller works in a gallery wall, can be far more powerful and effective. (In keeping with the height rules, the midpoint of the gallery wall should be about eye level.)

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5. Curtains that are too low

Another common mistake is thinking that curtains are just about covering the window. That's their primary job and function, yes, but they can do so much more. If curtains are hung too low, they'll create a sense that the space is smaller than it is. Curtains that are too short at the bottom will have the same negative effect. Hang the curtains high, make them long—floor length if you can—and thrive in a space that feels just right.

6. The wall isn't always your friend

There's a natural inclination to put all large pieces of furniture against the wall. This is the simplest and easiest route, the path of least resistance. It's also boring. Give yourself liberty and creative license: put two chairs in front of the fireplace, move that daybed away from the window. A space is about feel and flow, you don’t need to have your furniture flush against the perimeter of every room.

7. Picking aesthetics over comfort

We get it: You want your space to look cool. But a home is meant to be lived in, not observed from afar. If you have to choose between how something looks and how something feels, prioritize the latter. When you're sitting down after a long, tough day, you'll thank us. That kooky vintage lamp you've been eyeing, though? You should probably spring for it.

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