The Top 5 Most Common Home Design Mistakes

If you’ve been a Playbook reader for quite some time now, then you’re probably already familiar with my design mistakes series. I dive into the most common home design mistakes I see people making in their own homes and offer tips and advice to fix them.

The top five most common design mistakes

Now, I don’t want anyone to ever think they’re doing something wrong. At the end of the day, it’s your home and if you love it, that’s all that matters! But if you are looking for ways to improve the overall look and feel of a room, then rectifying these mistakes will give your home a more polished and well-designed look.

Common Home Design Mistakes – Video Series

My best nightstand styling tips
My Mom’s Bedroom

I just finished sharing a 10-part video series all about the most common design mistakes. It was fun to showcase all of my best tips in video format. You can view them all over on Instagram right here.

How to get scale and proportion right when decorating

You can also peruse the dozens of blog posts I’ve written about common home design mistakes right here. Today, we’re going to take a look at the top five most common home design mistakes and how to fix them. If you nail the fixes for these top five, I promise your home will look much better, overall.

The Too-Small Rug

Too small rug

The Design Mistake: You guys knew the too-small rug mistake was coming, didn’t you? It’s something I see out “in the wild” more often than anything else. People buy a 5×8 rug and place it in front of their bulky sectional. It then looks like a postage stamp on the floor!

Our living room sources

The Fix: With rugs, bigger is usually better! It’s rare that you should ever purchase something smaller than an 8×10 unless the room is very small.

Our main bedroom makeover reveal
Our Main Bedroom

I share much more about this topic in this blog post. And if you need help choosing the perfect rug for your home, this blog post breaks down everything you need to know about rug buying.

The Short & Stumpy Curtains

avoid this common home design mistake with your curtains

The Design Mistake: You buy regular curtains at the store and place the rod directly above the window and right on the outside of the window casing. The result? Your room looks smaller and you block natural light with the curtains, even when they’re open.

Hang your curtains high and wide

The Fix: Place your curtain rod a few inches below the ceiling and then 8-12 inches off the sides of the window for the width. You will likely need to buy XL curtains and get them hemmed. And you may need extra curtain panels too. This is okay! It will look fuller and much better overall. Oh, and I’m a fan of having my curtains just “kiss” the ground. No flooded curtains and no puddling.

Finding blackout nursery curtains
Ellis’ Nursery Curtains

You can dive deeper into this topic in this blog post.

The Too-Small (or Oversized) Furniture & Art

Too small dining room table

The Design Mistake: You have a large room and fill it with a bunch of tiny furniture. The end result feels cluttered and uncomfortable. Or, you hang tiny art pieces on the wall over your bed and wonder why it feels off.

Make sure your furniture is the correct scale

The Fix: A large room usually calls for large furniture. Also, use the 1/2 to 2/3 rule. Let me explain…

  • Artwork: If you’re hanging a piece over a bed, couch, or dresser, make sure it fills up at least 1/2 to 2/3 the width of the space. If you want to showcase smaller pieces, then group a few together to create this effect.
  • Furniture: Coffee tables should be 1/2 to 2/3 the width of the sofa.
  • Lighting: If you’re choosing an overhead light fixture for an entire room, there’s a different equation to follow. Measure your room’s length and width (in feet) and add these two numbers together.  This number is the ideal diameter for your light fixture. For example, a 10×10 room would need a 20″ diameter chandelier. This blog post shares all of my rules for lighting.

If you’re buying a new piece, I always recommend using painter’s tape to tape out the dimensions on the ground or wall before purchasing. That way, you can see how it feels in proportion to the other items in the room. For more examples and details, head to this blog post.

The Too-High Art

a common home design mistake - hanging art way too high

The Design Mistake: You have a new, gorgeous piece of art to display but you hang it up high on the wall. No one can actually see it well without craning their necks.

The right way to hang art on your walls

The Fix: Here are some general tips to get your frames and art hung at the correct height on your walls.

  • Ditch the “Eye Level” Rule: This doesn’t work if you’re tall or your ceilings are low. Instead, think of the wall in 4 sections vertically (from the bottom to the top). Then place your art in the 3rd section up from the floor. Don’t display pieces in the 2nd or the 4th…that’s when you’ll be in the too-high or too-low territory!
  • Hanging a Grouping: If you’re hanging a gallery wall, then you want to think of the entire collection as one piece of art. Therefore, the very top and the very bottom of the grouping shouldn’t be hung too high or too low.
  • 57-60 Inches Often Works: In general, you can place the center of the piece about 57″ to 60″ off the ground. This doesn’t work for every situation, but it’s a good place to start when hanging your piece.
  • Above Furniture: When hanging a piece above a couch or a dresser, there are more things to consider. Typically, the bottom of the artwork should be 4-8″ above the piece of furniture. Most people hang pieces way too high and it ends up looking disjointed.
Hanging vintage art prints around your home
Easy Vintage Art Hack

For more examples of this common home design mistake, head to this blog post.

The Trendy Home Devoid of Personality

The Design Mistake: You follow design trends and implement them all in your home. The result? Your home doesn’t feel like you and you’re never satisfied with how it looks because trends are always changing.

Make sure your home represents you and your style, don't follow trends
Rory’s Nursery

The Fix: Ignore the trends and figure out what you actually like. Peruse catalogs and Pinterest for inspiration and note the common elements you’re drawn to, over and over again. Light and bright spaces? Dark and moody? Find the spaces that make your heart skip a beat and incorporate those elements into your home. Plus, don’t forget function! We have a busy family of four that includes two young kids. I’m always on the hunt for durable pieces that can survive rough handling.

Our pretty home office
Our Office Built-Ins

Also, don’t forget to add pieces that tell your story. Someone should walk into your home and get a glimpse into the lives of the people who live there. Skip the generic decor from Target and instead display your memories. I just created a video with lots of ideas to do just that!

Any Other Home Design Mistakes to Tackle?

Our daughter's sweet nursery

This series has been such a fun one to work on over the years. I’ve heard from many of you who have learned a lot from these blog posts and deep dives into interior design rules. I often think I’ve tackled every topic, but then another one comes along. Anything you want me to cover in my next design mistakes post? I’m all ears!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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