Category Archives: Bad Decorating: Don’t Do This At Home

Bad Decorating #3: See What You’re Looking At

Don’t lean on your decor for wish fulfillment

There are so many myths & phony design rules, that you can wind up half armed with too much information.

Then again, some “good ideas” are just bad ideas dressed up in enthusiasm.


Stage Set Right – A Themed Room In A Home Is Questionable. Though you may have a brilliant idea for a theme, know when to stop. If you love the notion of a tropical paradise in Bali, complete with bamboo mats and palm fronds, but you live somewhere like Arizona, you’re asking your décor for wish fulfillment. Use just a few themed pieces then tie it all together with color and texture.

A theme can be an organizing guideline, but if you feel you’re stepping into a different country or era as you move from room to room, you have over-stepped the tipping point.

More evidence of “Too Much Of A Good Thing: Just because you LOVE a fabric, it doesn’t mean you should use it on everything. Vary the tonal values of the main color, light, medium to dark, and mix up the textures as much as you can to avoid monotony.

Add the unexpected…but don’t consider something like a fuchsia sofa unless you are a Color Mix Master and know how to make it work.

Small shots of an unexpected color can enrich the overall scheme.

Compulsive Pairing Could Lead To Couple’s Therapy. You do need pairs in a room, such as pairs of lamps, chairs, end tables, etc..  They stabilize your design, add symmetry and are part of the magic formula that keeps your home from looking like a furniture store or Heaven Forbid, a flea market. While pairs are good, have too many pairs and it looks like you’re furnishing Noah’s Ark.

Dangerous Neck Ache Ahead: Don’t Hang The Art Too High. It’s a general rule of thumb that art should be hung so the center of the work is at eye level.  Consider this is only a place to start deciding where the art should be hung. There are other factors to consider. You have an opportunity to create a composition and a relationship with the rest of the furnishings and the room’s architecture.  Creating a composition might mean that you set a picture on a table off center to lean against the wall, then arrange objects and/or lighting next to and around it to create balance and interest.

Hang a picture too high, and it no longer relates to the scene you are decorating.

Don’t Sit On the Furniture: It’s Old And Uncomfortable. There are many reasons to value the use of antique furniture in your overall design scheme, but you have to be honest about the upholstered pieces. Antique sofas are often too narrow for real comfort and you might not be able to have the “innards” upgraded to a more modern standard of comfort without sacrificing the original fabric.

Many “Design Authorities” fail to mention that if your design solution makes you uncomfortable, it’s the wrong solution.

Living well with antiques doesn’t work just as a concept. If you don’t want to part with a beloved piece, regardless of discomfort, see if you can work it in as an accent piece somewhere. If the entry hall is large enough, your charming antique sofa would be welcoming to all.  Another place could be the main room but not part of the “conversation area” seating.  It might look great in front of a window at the end of the room as an interesting large scale “objet”.

Good home design is considered to be the most complicated art form for many reasons. Every design decision will have many factors to weigh to arrive at the best solution overall.  There is no substitute for keeping firm grip on the obvious in every case, and really see what you are looking at.

Nevertheless, you will be very hard pressed to ever find that using plastic sofa covers or outdoor plastic flowers are an inspired decision.

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Bad Decorating #1: False Hope and Random Accident Chic

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The original version of this article was published on It’s presented here as a foundation for further discussion.