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

Bad Decorating #1: A Touch Too Much

Château de Malmaison, 1800, room for the Empress Joséphine. Reproducing an historical room is even more questionable than a “themed” room.
There are so many myths and phony design rules, that you can wind up half armed with too much information. 

By the same token, the notion that any design idea is ok as long as you love it, is delusional. A  great idea without great consideration (not to mention common sense) can easily create a silly looking room.

Don’t decorate in a frenzy as if you only have one shot at getting all your ideas produced, ever. Don’t try out every one of your inspired ideas in the same room either, even if they are good. Overkill means just that. Watch it on the decorative painting too. When you are afraid you haven’t done quite enough to “make” the room, you may well have already done too much.

Some “good ideas” are just bad ideas dressed up in enthusiasm.

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.

A touch too much: other areas of excess:

  • Too many pillows on a bed and you’ll feel like you’re moving to a new home…every night.
  • Too many flower arrangements.  Heaven forbid your guests think someone died.
  • Overdone window dressings shout Drama Queen.

Color me a headache. Small shots of an unexpected color can enrich the overall scheme. 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.

A themed room in a home is questionable. Though you may have a brilliant idea for a theme, a gesture is better than a stage set. Use just a few themed pieces then tie it all together with color and texture.

Creating a tropical paradise, complete with bamboo mats and palm fronds, when you live somewhere like Arizona, is like asking your décor for wish fulfillment.

Organizing guideline. If you feel you’re stepping into different countries and/or eras as you move from room to room, you have overstepped the tipping point.

Blast from the past. 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 sofa seats 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”.

Are you kidding me? Can’t say I’m a fan of copies of anything, although there are circumstances when a copy is appropriate.  Let’s say you have four matching antique or vintage dining chairs but you actually need six. A good craftsman can duplicate the chairs you need so well that only a professional furniture dealer will be able to tell the difference. Fair enough.

Always remember that “Faux” is French for “Fake”. Having established the “maybe OK’s “ of copies, there are a couple of “you oughta know better” situations that will never be your best idea, unless you really are kidding.

Such as:
  • Plastic flowers always look bad. Using them outdoors is beyond ridiculous. The same goes for those silly gnomes…even though I’ll admit, they are kinda cute.
Pink Flamingos are in a class by themselves. Use sparingly and with Tongue-Firmly-In-Cheek.


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