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contemporary luxe living room with grey king living sofa and round marble coffee table

The 8 Biggest Interior Design Mistakes I see People Make

I’ve been working in the interior design world for almost a decade now. That’s given me many, many years to witness style highs and lows in people’s homes. So today I wanted to share some of the biggest decorating and interior design mistakes I’ve seen home owners make.

I’m also going to share the solutions, of course. This isn’t a bashing of anyone’s taste or style preferences, either. This is to help you figure out how to solve some of the design moments that might not be working at your place. So often I’ll point these out to clients and they didn’t even realise why the room wasn’t working. They just knew it didn’t feel right, but couldn’t articulate why.

For those of you working on your rooms at the moment, I hope this serves as a saving grace so you don’t buy the wrong thing. And the bonus is that a lot of these style mistakes can be easily corrected, without having to spend much money.

So let’s go through the top eight decorating and interior design mistakes I’ve seen in my travels.

lorraine lea nook white bedding in all white room with coastal bedside table lamp
Blonde tones are your friend in an all-white space.

1. The White Everything Effect

We’re kicking off my list of interior design mistakes with the biggest one: the all-white room. Now, I’m not saying white walls are bad. And I’m not saying white furniture is bad. But when you combine them in every room of your home without additional colours, it can be an issue.

And I totally get it. Your home came with white walls. And then you went shopping for furniture and the options were white, black or dark brown. It happens a lot. And you’re worried about the black and brown being too dark. So you get a white sideboard, a white shelf, a white table, and so on. 

Then comes time to decorate the tops of these pieces, and you don’t want to put black in there. You don’t want loud colours either. So you put more white. What ends up happening is the opposite of what you intended: the room doesn’t feel calm, it feels clinical. 

The Solution

Introduce beige tones through your accessories. Bring in some oak frames on walls. Blonde timbers can be your friend here. What was a sterile all-white space can start to feel like a more easy-on-the-eye oasis. The look can go in a coastal boho direction, which is super soothing but not at all colourful.

modern luxe living room with grey sofa tan leather cushions and marble coffee table
Pulling furniture into the middle of the room creates cosiness.

2. The Gauntlet Living Room Layout

So many people feel the need to have a thoroughfare through their living room. Because you might move through your living room to another room of the home (or the backyard), there’s an assumption that you have to leave the most obvious and quickest path open. But that’s not true. 

You don’t have to have your sofa pushed to one side of the room, and the TV unit on the other, with a huge corridor of nothing in the middle of the space. Not only does it not look nice, it doesn’t feel nice to be in either because everything is so far away from each other.

The Solution

Adding five seconds on your journey in and out of the room isn’t going to cause too much grief. So with that in mind, create a new path around furniture in the space. Pull your sofa off the wall, add in some armchairs, and create a conversation nook. It’s time to abandon this idea that furniture can’t sit in the middle of the room. Because truthfully, that’s where it looks the best!

house rules 2018 grand final home entryway
Family photos are lovely, they just need to be in the right configuration.

3. Small Frames Scattered Across Big Walls

Now this is one I see a lot. And I understand why it happens. Often you have these wonderful family photos you want to display, but you don’t know where to display them.

On top of that, you have a huge blank wall above your sofa or bed. And often, there’s no art above it. That can be because you haven’t found what you want yet, or you don’t have the budget for one large piece of art at the moment.

And so you end up hanging small frames on this large wall, with metres of room between them. Not only does it look odd, but it doesn’t showcase your memories in a meaningful way either.

The Solution

If you can’t afford one big piece of art (or two that can sit side by side above a sofa), then fully commit to a gallery wall of multiple frames. If you stick to a gallery wall with the same size frames (and same frame colour), and arrange them in a symmetrical configuration they can look amazing and give the wall a real focal point. 

House Rules 2018 Josh and Brandon living room

4. The Too-Small Living Room Rug

Small rugs in small spaces only make the space feel smaller. Trust me on this! I’ve been in many client apartments and witnessed living rooms with the smallest-size rug the store sold them, and it looks very out of place. 

I understand that budget can come into play here, because rugs can be pricey. And you don’t want to get it wrong, so it seems better to go smaller in case you buy the wrong thing (less money wasted, is how we justify it to ourselves right!?).

But the reality is, bigger is always better here. So fight all the urges you have to get the smallest size and upgrade to the medium (at the very least!).

The Solution

No need to worry about how to find the right rug for your space! I have the ultimate rug choosing guide here for you. It covers off size, shape, colour, pattern – you name it!

house rules 2018 kim and michelle grey and purple living room

5. The Collection of Flat Cushions

You know me; I’m obsessed with cushions. So out of all the items in this list I reckon this is possibly the biggest interior design mistake there is.

I say this because many people buy cheap cushions with flat inserts for their sofa. The sofa doesn’t feel full enough, so they buy more in the hopes the sofa will look resolved. But it doesn’t.

What you end up with is a collection of flat, lifeless cushion covers lying on your sofa. You’d be far better off buying one $80 cushion than four $20 ones that aren’t plump enough or that don’t have the ideal filling in them. If you get cushions with the right filling you’ll only need a few on your sofa. This is definitely a buy well, buy once scenario. 

The Solution

Simply buy less cushions but make sure you invest in ones with this type of filling in them, which will give you a super-sophisticated plush look and feel.

large sectional sofa in living room

6. The Room-Swallowing Sectional Sofa

I often see living rooms with mammoth sofas in them. They’re usually sectional sofas, they usually have puffy arms and they usually have high backs. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this style of sofa per se (they can be so so comfy), but you have to ensure it’s the right size for the room.

When it comes to sectional sofas, bigger is not always better. You need to factor in where your coffee table will go, where a rug will go, having space between the furniture to walk around, and more. Sometimes a room just won’t fit the amount of sofa seats you want it to. It’s a sad fact, I know, but a reality.

The Solution

I completely understand that most people aren’t doing full layouts and spatial planning for their rooms. But, you’d be really wise to at least stand in the room with a tape measure and measure out the length of the sofa you have your eye on. Most sofas take up more room than you think they will, so be cautious here.

hamptons style master bedroom with white bedside tables and mirror above bed
Upholstered headboards are great for breaking up timber in a bedroom.

7. Package Deal Bedroom Suites

A room is at its best when there is a medley of textures at play. The hard, the soft, the smooth, the rough, the shiny, the matte, and so on. This is why when I see package deal bedroom suites most of them feel very heavy and overwhelming.

Most of the time these are in timber. If the bed, bedside tables and tallboy are all the same colour and finish, you simply don’t have enough variance in the room in terms of material. That really only leaves carpet and bedding as the soft moments in the room. That’s usually not enough.

The Solution

I always specify beds that don’t exactly match bedside tables. In fact, in almost every bedroom I’ve designed the bed is upholstered and the bedsides are then timber or another material. If you need some fresh ideas on this front, here’s my roundup of amazing fabric bed frames.

black metal shelf with kmart vases west elm vases and fake plants and sheer curtain
Display books you love, photos of family, and keepsakes on shelves.

8. No Keepsakes or Photos Displayed

Last on my list of the biggest decorating and interior design mistakes is one I see a lot. I’ll walk into a home and have no idea who lives there, because there is not one personalised moment.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a clean home. I adore a tidy home. I’m all for a home looking chic and designed. But you also need to have the decor reflect who lives there. A home that’s absolutely void of personality, or that doesn’t showcase personal keepsakes and mementoes, is just a house.

The Solution

A gorgeous gallery wall is an amazing way to display photos on a dedicated wall of your home. Outside of that, also showcase things you’ve picked up on travels. Ornaments and objects that nobody else has are what make your home yours, so ensure you have these out on display on sideboard and shelves.

Are you guilty of committing any of these interior design mistakes? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 


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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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12 Responses

  1. Hi Chris

    New reader here and big fan already. Excellent points made all round, I have always followed no. 2 in particular with great results. However, we are about to move into our first non-rental (finally, we can buy avocado again!) and the lounge area is a little strange. There is no wall between the kitchen and the lounge so it is open in that respect, but the living area is in a relatively closed off space (almost like a bedroom but missing the wall that would have a doorway). So I am wondering if it will look a little odd having the couch off the wall in such a setup? There is no through way, just a window. What do you think?

    1. Hey Taryn, so good to see a new blog reader commenting – thank you! Now, this seems like quite the conundrum, and to be honest it’s hard to give good advice without seeing a photo of the room or the floorplan. Are you a member of my Facebook group? It’s full of design-loving members and they post photos of rooms all the time to get my advice and help one another. Come join us if you like a get some advice there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tlcdecoratingjunkies/

  2. This piece was beautiful to read. Sometimes remake mistakes without knowing but it was also a pat on the back for those us that arena the right track. Now, I can explain. to someone why I’m a lover of fluffy full cushions. Thanks for sharing this Chris

  3. I’m having trouble deciding on direction for my bedroom when the budget allows me to make the change (well to be fair, also on my whole house lol!). I like different materials for side tables and a soft bedhead, but I also have cats who do like to use furniture as a pin cushion despite having scratch poles etc. With that in mind I really think I need to go harder surfaces for longevity – especially since I will already be on a tight budget. So I really have felt a bit stuck as to how to get a combo that works well, but isn’t overly matchy matchy like a furniture package. Any suggestions on how to get the mix right if I can’t add a soft texture piece into the mix?

    1. I have cats too so I absolutely feel your pain. Thankfully they’ve left my bedhead alone for the most part. One of them recently climbed up it and then launched onto my in my sleep like a WWE wrestler, so that was fun haha. But mostly they’ve been good.
      Have you considered a metal bed frame? I know they can feel industrial but you can take them in really luxe and soft directions. I did a blog post on them recently: https://www.tlcinteriors.com.au/homewares-furniture/black-metal-bed-frame/ 🙂

  4. Yes, have also made a few of these errors in my time, which is why I buy so many decorating mags and read TLC blogs!!! Having said that, my recent dilemma is a dining room nook with 2 main walls. On one wall is a large artwork (great!) but on the adjacent wall I’d like to put up the photo gallery and I’m not too sure how to lay this out without detracting the photos from the artwork. Is there a tip or trick here Chris that you would suggest. Artwork is.a Fern Siebler abstract, walls are white, sideboard underneath the gallery is light timber – have chosen blonde frames but nothing has gone up yet!

    1. Hey Kerry. Would love to see pice of the room. Are you in my Facebook group? You can post pics in there and get design advice directly: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tlcdecoratingjunkies/
      Having said that, it’s about keeping the frames well organised. A very neat, symmetrical configuration. That way it doesn’t get messy and detract from the art. I have some gallery wall ideas here if you need: https://www.tlcinteriors.com.au/howto-decorate/gallery-wall-ideas/

      1. Many thanks Chris. Will add to Facebook and post the pic! I’m definitely after neat and symmetrical, but with different frame sizes I’m not sure how to make that work. ;o)

  5. Hey Chris, what would you suggest pillow wise if you’re not for feather pillows for ethical reasons? Would doubling up on the flat cushion inserts help?

    1. Hey Melissa, I don’t know of a product that gives the same look “choppable” look that feather and down does. You can get good quality polyester/polypropylene inserts though that are full. I’d avoid using double inserts though, that will just become lumpy.

  6. Great points Chris. You can purchase ‘feather inserts’ for cushions and replace that flat packed wadding with some serious ‘fluff’. Spotlight, Adair’s, Pillow Talk & I’m sure Lorraine Lea linen as well as many online linen stores would have them. I always just purchase the cushion cover and fill it myself with my feather insert. It sometimes can work out cheaper in the longrun too. Happy Days

  7. I’ve definitely been guilty of all of these at one time or other over the years. Currently it’s a lack of personal photos/momentos. I took them all down when staging the house for sale and now I just can’t see me putting them up at the new place (down sized!). I’ll have to create some more memories and capture them once this dreaded pandemic has passed. Hope you are surviving ok through this stressful time Jen x

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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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