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Living Room Design Ideas Monochromatic Cushions on Grey Sofa

9 of the Biggest Decorating Mistakes I’ve Made (and How to Avoid Them)

Before I started this blog, and before I trained to become an interior stylist, I was the king of rookie decorating mistakes. I made so many that I can barely count them all. In today’s post I’m going to do it though, because I’d like to stop you making these decor errors too.

Making such mistakes, I’ve come to learn, can set you back so much time and money, not to mention the stress that’s involved with realising you’ve purchased something you now loathe the sight of.

Some of these mistakes might have you completely p*ssed off with the sight of your home, which is a headspace you don’t want to be in, so I’m going to list some of the big ones I’ve made along the way – and invite you to do the same in the comments below.

Let’s live and learn…

Decorating Mistakes I’ve made (and how to Avoid them)

marble candle and small flower vase on stack of books on small round grey side table

Buying homewares on a whim

I used to go into stores to ‘browse’ all the time, which is just code for ‘I’m bored and I want to buy some stuff’. I’d see a lamp on sale, and buy it. I’d see a cushion in a hot neon hue and buy it. I’d come across a coastal cushion reduced by 50% and convince myself I had to have it – and buy it.

The result; none of the pieces worked together because I’d put no thought into the bigger picture of what I wanted my room to look like.

Buying smaller, more affordable pieces – like candles – is an exception to the rule, because they’re not large enough to make major impact (and I’m a candle addict, so I can’t say anything against them). But larger pieces like lamps, bedding, any furniture, large and/or expensive art… it all needs careful consideration. Which brings me onto my next decorating mistake…

TLC Interiors Interiors - Scandi Mood Boards

Not Mood Boarding your Space

I’ve written about this before on the blog, and I’m sure some of you might write it off as an unnecessary exercise. But trust me, it works!

I’ve hosted a few interior styling events with Metricon Homes down here in Melbourne, actually, and attendees who’ve mood boarded rooms at the workshop have walked away saying just how much the process helped them. It allowed them to hone in on what they love, discover if it works in the space, and more importantly, what pieces didn’t fit into the scheme they were going for.

You can make a mood board on Pinterest, on your computer using Word/Pages, or create a physical one on a cork or magnetic board using images from magazines. But trust me, it helps.

Purchasing Bright Furniture

Been there, done that. A few years back I purchased a bright yellow armchair from Freedom. At the time, in my living room, I was going for a triadic colour scheme of blue, red and yellow, so I thought it was a genius idea that was going to rock my room for years to come.

Inevitably, of course, I ended up wanting to change up the look of my space as the years went on, but yellow doesn’t work with everything, does it? Now, I’m stuck with a large and bright piece of furniture I can’t just throw away and replace (without spending a fair bit of cash).

My advice is to always purchase base pieces of furniture in neutral tones. And I don’t mean all-beige. Explore brown, black, white, deep blues, greys and other tones that will work with a variety of cushions, throws and other soft furnishing colours. It’ll save you a lot of cash!


Not thinking about Function

Sometimes you see furniture you love, it gives you butterflies and you dream of spending the rest of your life with it. This love can be blind, though; all too often you buy a piece that looks great but doesn’t function well in your home or suit the space.

I’ve done this myself with a gorgeous bed that is actually quite dominating in our reasonably small master bedroom. I also see it happen often with chairs. They can often look sublime, but to sit at a table on them ends up being a literal pain in the A. Desk chairs need even more careful consideration because you could be spending eight hours a day on them (or sometimes more).

Always ask yourself – especially if it’s an expensive purchase – if the item looks good and if it’ll serve you well for a while to come.

Not measuring your room

I’ve done this too in the past. You see an amazing piece of furniture in a showroom or store (in my case, it was a rug) and you trust your eye that it’ll fit perfectly. You get it home, like I did, lay it under the dining table and discover that when you pull out the chair to sit on it, half is on the rug and half is on the floorboards. Epic fail.

It’s not wise to trust your eye. I’ve seen this mistake made with dining table purchases too, where they’ve been brought home and they are just way too big for the space and the room now feels cramped.

Always measure the room, measure the furniture, map out those measurements at home pre-purchase and consider if it truly fits. I know that doing this kills the ‘I want it now’ excitement when you’re in-store, but it will save you a lot of time and money in the long-run.

Living Room Ideas from Choices Flooring

Being afraid of Colour

I love colour now, and I always have, but I’ve been through stages – especially a few years back – where it all felt too hard to make colours work at home. So I attempted to tone it all done with whites and beiges, only to feel like my home was lifeless and boring. Has this happened to you?

Colour conjures up such a variety of feelings and emotions that I think it’s imperative to use it in your home to evoke mood. You’ll discover, along the way, that you find your feet with it, too. Trying to explain how colours best work together is an entire blog post in itself, (here’s a post I wrote on combining colour that may help) but do try and experiment with different tones.

If you’re unsure, use paint cards/chips from the hardware store and sit them beside one another on the wall of the room you want to use colour in. Live with them for a week or so and see what look and mood they bring to the space.

Also, all-white can be as equally challenging as colour to pull off successfully, so don’t think it’s the easier, safer option for your home.

TLC Interiors

Going for All-Budget Options

You know me, I am all about affordability and creating a look for less, but often if you try to create an entire room with furniture and homewares that are at the super-budget end of the spectrum, it can not only start to feel and look a little juvenile, but some of the pieces won’t last very long (because often, budget means that corners that been cut in terms of quality – more on that here).

I operate under the rule that you should invest more in base pieces of furniture and adorn those with the budget accessories. But do understand that the budget accessories might only last a season. I like to rotate and change up my accessories all the time anyway, which is why I often don’t mind if I buy something from KMart or Typo and it doesn’t last me a year.

Any room is a good mix of statement and budget pieces, which brings me onto my next point…

Coastal and Geometric Rugs from Choices Flooring

Not having statement Pieces

The difference between a room being merely functional and a space feeling ‘wow’ is a statement piece in the room. This could be a piece of art, a cushion, bedding, you name it! But it’s the piece in the room that makes people talk, catches your eye and often brings a sense of drama to a space.

It could be a cushion you’ve forked out some money on, it could be an artwork you’ve been coveting for years, or it might be a piece you collected on holiday that cost next to nothing but looks utterly amazing.

Every room can do with a statement piece, so take a look at your home now and see if each of your rooms has one. Every experience in a room is a visual journey of wow moments (high impact) and then calm moments (negative space for the eye to rest). So, what’s creating the wow in your room right now?

IKEA Outoor Furniture - Cushions

Throwing out Homewares

I’m all for a good declutter at home; I’ve written about hoarding on the blog before. But you need to avoid the mistake of constantly throwing out old homewares because you’re bored with them.

Not only is it a waste of money, but sometimes those old homewares are amazing. You just need a visual rest from them. I used to be the worst at this. I would throw away old homewares all the time, and then later regret doing so.

To avoid doing the same, consider rotating your homewares each season. I have a box of homewares in the garage and things go in and out of it all the time. Sometimes, I go through it and realise there’s a homewares piece I forgot I owned, which will work wonders with something new that I’ve purchased.

And if you really can’t bare to keep a piece, give it to a friend or family member.

What are some of the decorating mistakes you’ve made and learned from? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below – and let me know if you’ve fallen into any of the traps mentioned here too!


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Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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7 Responses

  1. Great article Chris, I’m a collector not quite a hoarder of accessories, we will be moving soon, so I have collected a few things I would like in the new home. Oh did I mention I’m a bit addicted to cushion covers I have um a few but I can always change it up with seasons,

  2. Hi Chris,
    This is a little off-topic. While reading through your old posts ( which i always do ), I saw some pics of your blue industrial coffee table. I have seen some shots of your living and dining room, but i was wondering if you have a home tour? I did a quick search and I didn’t immediately find anything. I would loooooove to see more of your house cos i obviously love your style, (which is why I am here) 😀
    And I’m so sorry if I am one of those annoying readers who can’t find anything for themselves .But I did try looking in the Home tours category and went back a few pages.

  3. Great tips! I am 100% with you on colour. I love the simplicity of the scandi style but when it is all black and white, well it all looks the same after a while. I kept the feel of it and threw in some Rachel Castle tea towel art, my fabulous go to homewares store let me borrow a mix of cushions so I could get the feel right and I ended up buying this gorgeous reversible cushion – and cottoned on to how good a feather filled insert is (brand escapes me but it is stunning) and the difference it has made to my living area is huge. I feel happy in there rather than feeling a bit, flat.

    We totally have done the non measure as well…….and if you are buying a couch that is an L shape….make sure the L goes on the right side!!!

    Agh, I have still got so many homewares I need to buy but the biggest one is art work. Saving up for some statement pieces 🙂

  4. Great great article Chris; some of those I can be guilty of myself TBH..
    But you left ‘ONE’ really important rule out and that is ‘KEEP EVERYTHING’
    If you do purchase things that are not right or just won’t fit. Pack it away with a label on the box. I cannot count the many & myriad of ‘looks’ I’ve transitioned through with my decor & because I rent, these things have to be fairly portable. I’ve made the mistake of ‘getting rid of’ or ‘garage selling’ it. MY TIP: ‘KEEP IT’ pack it away & just wait. Inevetibly one day you may re-use it. Please Note: be a bit selective as we don’t want you NOT to be able to get in your front door or have sleeping on boxes of packed cushions & throws… Jus sayin’

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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