Pros reveal what they always want to change when walking into a room.
Mistake #1: Getting Carried Away with Decorative Painting
Decorative painting can be a beautiful addition to a space, but knowing when to stop is key. "Brilliant painting is elegant and polished, but go too far and you end up with vulgarity," says designer Mary Douglas Drysdale.
Mistake #2: Not Paying Attention to Lighting
"There's nothing worse than bright overhead lights that make you feel like you're onstage," says designer Barclay Butera. He recommends using dimmer and soft white bulbs in every room, including bathrooms. "Lighting shouldn't wash down on you: It's harsh and unflattering," he says.
Mistake #3: Grouping Candles Together
Designer Albert Hadley believes "a more balanced aesthetic" is achieved when candlesticks are spread out around a room. "Candlelight, like open fires, has a certain allure - one of warmth and romance. To me, it's more alluring when the light is spread around the room," he says. "In other words, separate the candles!"
Mistake #4: Pushing Furniture Against the Walls
"I am often dumbstruck by the way people arrange their living room furniture. So much wide-open space, pieces plastered against walls, chairs too far apart," says designer Whitney Stewart. She believes the answer is simplicity. "The guiding principle should be to create intimacy. How can you have a good conversation when you have to shout across the room? I imagine the sofa talking to the chairs, the chairs talking to one another," she says.
Mistake #5: Ignoring Proportion
"Lamps that are completely disproportionate sizes on either ends of a sofa — that makes me crazy," says designer David Kleinberg. "Don't try to get too creative. Keep it simple."
Mistake #6: Karate-Chopping Your Pillows
Don't make your living room pillow arrangement too formal with fussed-over pillows. Designer Steven Sclaroff can't live with karate-chopped pillows. "That look would never occur in pillow nature," he says.
Mistake #7: Relying on a Single Light Source
The key to good lighting is layering it at different heights. "Don't rely on only one kind of light source. Mix a variety of overhead and floor or table lamps," says designer Alan Tanksley. "Warm 'pools' of light draw people in and create intimacy."