extreme color

How To Know When You Have Overdecorated Your Rooms

You may have “overdecorated your rooms” when you feel overwhelmed looking in from the doorway. There are other ways “A Touch Too Much” will not be to your decorating advantage as well. Overdecorating your rooms by accident can easily happen in commonplace ways, but the remedies offered here will delight and reward you with lovelier rooms. See where you may have over-done your home design and learn how less is so much more.

How easily can overdecorating our rooms occur?

overdecorated room

Before we talk about the clues to look for that scream “OVERDECORATED ROOM ALERT”, let’s have a reality check and question some bad design advice that has been too casually tossed around.

Are our expectations overblown too?

Everyone uses Instagram for its vibrant Eye Candy. Calm interiors don’t cut it, as they are simply not as attractive on screen as wild colors. In fact, certain color combination and highly patterned rooms get attention and promotion.

orange sofa, huge colorful mural behind
A fine example “color me a headache” syndrome

How does too much color affect decor?

This photo above would undoubtedly look GREAT on Instagram, otherwise it could be a headache-inducing room. Small shots of an unexpected color can enrich the overall scheme. Feel free to add the unexpected…but don’t consider something like a fuchsia (or loud orange) sofa unless you really are a Color Mix Master and know how to make it work with everything else.

You might be interested in how to select great colors in this post.

READ MORE>>How To Choose Terrific Home Paint Colors You Will Love

the tough love truth about how to put your rooms together for best effect

Throwing anything and everything all together into one space won’t work “just cuz” either. There is no such thing as a great decorating concept without some consideration, coordination and more than a dash of common sense. Otherwise, you can easily create a really silly looking room.

Some well known (but shall remain anonymous) Design Authorities have made statements of this sort, as a kind of reassurance to their clients that they can still have and live with the things they love in beautiful rooms. Indeed, every good designer would strive to include these items and ideas for a truly bespoke, yet carefully customized home design.

However kindly meant, this notion of everything you love working together willy-nilly isn’t carte blanche permission for unchecked exuberance. It can lead innocent design civilians* (you perhaps) to overdecorating rooms that will produce under-effective results.

mid century modern living room
Mid-century modern design was a popular trend twice: mid 20th century and at the turn of this century as well

If a current trend gives you an interesting idea to develop into a plan that would suit your needs, great. 

Otherwise, understand that a Trend is actually a wager placed by retailers in the hopes of catching which way the fickle whims of consumers may be leaning for purchases in the coming year.

Whether it’s the way we dress or the way we style our homes, we often have a secret horror of looking “so last year”. In truth, design trends don’t shift much from year to year….the changes occur more from decade to decade.

You have time to look at and consider what may appeal to you, but still keep a firm grip on what truly works for you and your lifestyle.

junk room old furniture
So interesting, I’m speechless

You can try to incorporate trends from yesteryear along with what’s au courant now without editing but the effect is distracting and offers no design direction beyond jumbled.

Simply put, it’s just another recipe to ensure you overdecorate your rooms.

To be fair, rooms that have a timeless appeal are those where the mix of provenance and time periods are so well considered that they have a sense of relatedness that is seamless.

Some people instinctively know how to create a brilliant mix of furnishings. Even so, this is a skill that improves with a little education, practice and experience. With time, you can learn to be more consciously selective and create even more beautiful rooms.

one source/one style design solutions Can still look overdecorated

Retail home furnishings stores tend to create and promote a certain brand look. It may be tempting just “buy the look”, but don’t you want to come home to a space that looks like you personally live there?

The same can be said when fashionable style is so popular it becomes common place. Beware of having too many references to Mid-Century Modern design, for example as referenced above. It has been a “thing” for awhile, but remember, Mid-century Modern was last century.

Check out trends for ideas, but you’ll get more satisfaction from exploring and shopping around rather than buying everything from the Hot Retailer of the moment.

are themed rooms considered overdecorated?

over decorated Bali themed room

In search of a clear design intent, you might think a themed room an inspired choice.

It’s actually overdecorating at its most precise.

Would it be enchanting to have your very own fantasy destination come home to roost? It’s questionable.

Themed rooms for children are charming and delightful. For grown-ups, gestures are better than a stage set. Use just a few topic specific pieces, then tie it all together with color and texture.

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

victorian overdecorated room
In search of lost time

Rooms designed to evoke a historical design can also be a form of overdecoration

The time capsule style of design may be perfectly executed but leaves out the most important element…your own style and identity. It’s another “themed room” design trap.

There are many reasons to value the judicious use of antique furniture in your overall design scheme as an interesting addition, 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.

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, unless it’s very comfortable.  It might look great in front of a window at the end of the room as an interesting large scale “objet”.

Formal window dressing
When your window dressing becomes the only story in a room

Sometimes overdecorating occurs more in specific areas rather than all over a room

Blown Out Of Proportion: Elaborate window treatments have their place in the right setting, but not usually in our homes these days, without looking dated AND collecting dust bunnies for good measure. Small rooms can look overwhelmed by too much at the windows. The same is true for a large room with many windows.

The best solution is often achieved with minimal gestures. Simple pinch pleats, grommets or panels with rings on a pole are classic solutions for a reason. Streamlined ball finials never go out of style.

What about drapery with swags or lambrequins? Similar to a swag, a lambrequin is a draped piece of fabric, over hanging drapery. Some would say this is a “traditional” window treatment while others would say it’s yet another “dust-catcher”. They do have their place for some, but be careful. Think in terms of “how does this detail help? 

You might want to head over here for the full story of how to select the perfect window dressing for every room.

READ>>How To Choose The Right Window Covering For Every Room 

lampshade matches wall paper
Clearly over decorated with leaves

The above photo is only interesting at first glance for the profusion of leaves, everywhere. After that, you aren’t wrong if you feel you are looking at OVERKILL. Instead, the wallpaper might have been a great color anchor to reference a neutral like brown, other greens and maybe another pop of that faux flamingo orange.

photo Mae West & quote

What is Maximalism style?

Ir’s based on the notion that too much of a good thing can be wonderful but of all the design styles this is one that will not work as a random accident. Rooms would be very full of things that may or may not be particularly related.

Unfortunately this term has become a sort of forgiving catch-all for not editing and curating your rooms to control an over-growth of too many anything.

I’ve seen it work, but then those rooms were created those who are known masters of design and color.

You might want to follow the links that start here: a fine line between hoarder-chic, and hoarder

I would be hard-pressed to try to describe why this style works well for some and is some how gloriously over-the-top.

Over-done decorating and outright clutter can be difficult to distinguish

An overdecorated room can easily occur when you have a hard time letting go of those items that go beyond contributing to the big picture of a great looking room and into an area of Why is this here?

  • Clue #1. You have so much furniture that you have to navigate a gauntlet through all your stuff to get from one side of the room to the other.
  • Clue #2. Do empty corners make you nervous? You may be well on your way to the kind of visual overload that makes a welcoming and restful room impossible. 

In addition, your home is chock full of decorations, knickknacks and accessories almost piled on top of each other.  In truth, too much small stuff and decoration equals nothing more than clutter.

what are the first steps to managing overdecorated clutter

Identifying these items is the crucial first step towards reclaiming a rational home design. Ask yourself: is it attractive and/or designed to be functional?

Feel free (at last) to ruthlessly weed and dispose all the things that you don’t want, don’t use and don’t love.

You might want to head over here for great coaching on rational decluttering:

READ MORE>>How To Make Your Remarkably Cluttered Home Look Lovelier

good bookshelf design not many things
There’s a lot to be said for leaving breathing room around your keepables

Are your bookcases and shelves over-stuffed?

This one is sneaky because the bookcase structures can lend the illusion of organization. The best way to rethink this is to take everything off the shelves and dust. Add back only the most important items.

In the same vein, are there too many photos on every surface?

It’s always lovely to be reminded of and surrounded by friends and loved ones, but these personal references can read as clutter to everyone else who visits. A better looking and more impactful display is to create a dedicated Gallery wall. It’s a lovely visual that is seems somehow like a meaningful party and homecoming with your friends, family and loved ones.

mirror reflecting too many pillows on a bed
When going to bed is a chore.

A touch too much: other common areas of excess Decorating

You are best served to be honest and edit ruthlessly here too

  • Too many pillows on a bed and you’ll feel like you’re moving to a new home…every night. Does that bed runner really contribute to the room design?
  • Too many sofa cushions if it looks challenging to sit comfortably you have clearly over-done it.
  • Too many flower arrangements. Heaven forbid your guests think someone has died.

Overdecorating can occur by not realizing when enough is great

What to watch out for

  • When you’re worried you haven’t done quite enough to “make” the room, you probably have already done too much. Sometimes we can feel that something is missing, as though we haven’t found it….so you keep shopping.
  • If you feel pressed to decorate in a frenzy as if you only have one shot at getting all your ideas produced, ever. This is a more aggravated condition if you are trying to cram all of your inspired visions into the same room.

Start with verifying all the things you might want and need to live more comfortably in any room. The basics are comfortable seating and good lighting before embellishment. Look to where you can edit to let the architecture or focal points be seen and appreciated.

Don’t worry about achieving a perfect design and finished rooms. Homes that are too perfect and too perfectly “finished” look contrived.

Don’t we all harbor the sneaky fear that our taste isn’t somehow up to snuff?

We are better served to lighten up in this area.

“A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika…”

Dorothy Parker
quote "the best things in life aren't things

The term “Layered Look” was coined some time in the 80’s to describe a method of wearing multiple pieces of clothing with a mix -or-match-or-don’t attitude to achieve a more interesting style of dressing. Versatility and inspiration thrive with fresh and different approaches .


Over To You

I’d love to know what you think...

Was there a tip that was especially helpful? Hopefully, you found a little inspiration and maybe even resolved a long standing quandary brilliantly!

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Setting out to create the best version of beautiful home design, tailored especially for you, has a lot of potential questions built in. Please let me know. I’m here to help.

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It's a significant clue that you have “over decorated your rooms" when you feel overwhelmed looking in from the doorway. There are also other ways "A Touch Too Much" will not be to your decorating advantage. There are several ways this can easily happen but the remedies offered here will delight and reward you with lovelier rooms. See where you may have over-done your home design and learn how less is so much more.

about the author

Cindy Bergersen is a professional design consultant turned full time writer about home design: what is it, how it works and how to make it work for anyone. Decades of experience as a design consultant to private clients, retail clients for well known, high end furniture retailers has proved to be invaluable training. She is both passionate and committed to sharing her experience and knowledge to help anyone, to help themselves to a beautiful, comfortable home, without feeling confusion or overwhelm about where to start and how to proceed. She lives in New York with Olivia, the cat. When not writing posts, she can be found cycling through city parks, watching a lot of film, or curled up on the sofa with a good book.