12 Biggest Living Room Decorating Mistakes Stylists Want You to Stop Making

There are many mistakes people make when it comes to styling the bedroom, and the same goes for the living room.

You’d think a simple sofa, rug and coffee table is all that’s needed to fill the space, but since it’s arguably the most important room in the house when it comes to decorating, a lot more thought actually needs to go into it.

If you think about it, it’s the room where you entertain your guests, have quality time with your loved ones and even spend entire weekends by yourself binge-watching the latest TV series, so why shouldn’t you put the time and effort into making it the comfiest space that’s also filled with personality?

Whether you’re moving into a new home or just looking to make an update, here are the 12 most common mistakes stylists want you to stop making when it comes to decorating your living room – and advice on how to fix each one.

12 biggest living room decorating mistakes you’re making

1. Selecting the wrong sofa

When moving into a new space, most people tend to just stick with the sofa from their previous home if it’s still in good condition. Unfortunately, a great living room starts with a great sofa that fits perfectly into a living room - and you can’t design a living room you truly love if your focal furniture piece is the problem.

The simple solution is to purchase a new one you and your space will love. It doesn’t need to be an overly complicated or expensive sofa, either (which is another mistake most people make). When purchasing a sofa, remember that simple is best. Steer clear from overly ornate details and stick to clean basics as these are timeless and you can easily adapt it to suit different styles, colours and trends with a few cushions and throws.

2. Purchasing a rug that’s too small

We get it, huge rugs can be expensive and a daunting commitment - who wants to splash cash on something that will be stepped on and mostly covered up by furniture? However, second to a sofa, a large rug the most important aspect of a living room. That’s not to say you need to purchase the biggest rug you see, as one that’s too big will actually look overwhelming and can make the room feel smaller.

Before placing furniture down, simply use painter’s tape to mock outlines on your floor so you can envision the rug you will need to fit neatly into your space.

3. Lining walls with furniture

Most people push all their furniture up against the walls because they think they’re creating more open space and covering bare walls at the same time.

Instead, you should consider “floating” furniture. This means that you place your furniture from the centre out and the backs of the furniture aren’t against the walls. Contrary to popular opinion, floating furniture makes the room feel and look larger because you’re creating a more intimate seating arrangement while freeing up the wall space, giving the illusion that the room is larger than it actually is. Try floating your sofa and accent chairs closer to the centre of the room to create balance in your layout.

4. Falling prey to a ‘showroom’ look

If you walk into a furniture showroom, you’re more than likely going to find almost everything is sold in sets. While purchasing an entire set is going to be the easiest solution to fill your living room, a space that looks too coordinated is visually boring and can make your space feel like a showroom.

Mix new and vintage elements, play with complementary colour palettes and experiment with different fabrics. This will create an interesting and personalised room that demonstrates you actually took the time to curate your space.

5. Hanging art incorrectly

An incorrectly hung artwork can stand out like a sore thumb, and can deter from the real value of the artwork and its meaning. A carefully thought-out gallery wall is even worse as it can make the entire living room look cluttered and inconsistent.

Firstly, you want to select the right piece of art for the room and one that will complement the mood you want to create there. That way, you can best curate the pictures you want to hang and think about how you are going to group them. Secondly, before you even pick up the hammer and nails, it's best to start planning your art arrangement on the floor first. To make sure everything lines up just so, use a large drop sheet and tape to map out where each piece will go. It will save you hours when it comes time to hang and your walls will thank you, too.

Need more help? here's how to start an art collection on a budget and a complete guide on how to create the perfect gallery wall.

6. Hanging curtains incorrectly

It’s easy to just hang your curtains rods just above the window and call it a day, but this will automatically make your space feel smaller.

Instead, you want to hang your rod at least 30cm (or 12 inches) above the window frame or all the way to the ceiling. Also, try extending your curtain rod out 7-14 cm on each side for maximum effect. You also want the material to drape to the floor with excess material as this will add to the effect of a higher room.

7. Forgetting furniture heights

Aesthetics are one thing, but what many people tend to overlook is the functionality of their furniture.

Every furniture item needs to work cohesively with each other. For example, coffee tables should reach about the same level as the top of the couch cushions, while side tables should be about the same height as the sofa arms so items on the table are easy to access.

8. Overlooking budgeting for small decor items

Large pieces of furniture like your sofa, tables, TV and even lamps can set you back a couple of thousands of dollars, but what about the rest of the pieces that are needed to complete the feel of a cosy living room?

Make sure to set aside a couple of hundred dollars for smaller decor items like candles, ceramics, coffee table books, indoor plants, cushions of different colours and textures and so forth. All of these items are responsible for injecting personality and warmth into your space.

9. Selecting a disproportionate coffee table

Don’t just settle for the first coffee table you see that happens to also be on sale, too.

Contrary to its name, a coffee table is more than just a table for your coffee (and popcorn bowl). Do you need one that has storage or drawers? Do you need it to be child-friendly? What material matches the rest of the room? How high do you need it to be? And last but not least, how much space do you have to work with so the table isn’t obstructing any walkways?

10. Missing layers

Yes, you can fill a living room with a sofa, coffee table and a lamp, but your room will look and feel flat.

It’s crucial you layer decor items of different scales. For example, large mirrors, a selection of different sized artworks and small accessories like vases, ceramics candles and books.

11. Discounting lighting

Did you know that updating lighting fixtures is one of the most budget-friendly (and landlord-approved) ways to improve the overall aesthetic of your living room, all while giving it a sense of sophistication and comfort?

Low-lighting works best in living rooms as opposed to overhead light, so look for stylish floor lamps and table lamps that also add personality into your space. Consider placing accent lighting on bookshelves, on a fireplace mantel or above artwork - again, this will help create layers.

12. Sacrificing comfort for style

You might spot the most exquisite living room you absolutely love in an interiors magazine or on your Pinterest feed, but ask yourself the following: Does it spark comfort to you? Will you be too cautious to actually use any of the furniture?

Comfortability is the biggest factor that makes or breaks a living room. It should be a place where you can gather with friends and family, spend an entire weekend on the couch binge-watching the latest Netflix series and a space where you can snuggle up with a good book. Even if you’re on a budget, adding in a few pillows or a cosy blanket will make a huge difference.

Need some living room inspiration? Here are 32 of the dreamiest (and most popular) living rooms we've ever stepped inside.

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