To preface our tips for tackling common decorating problems and taking your room from hmmm to heckin’ impressive, check out our blog about how to define your decorating style. Did you do it? Have you decorated accordingly?
Maybe you have. But still, every night you walk into what’s supposed to be your haven, and you feel bored, uninspired, and just meh about your space.
Fear not, friends. Turns out, there are some small but important decorating rules you can follow to go from blasé to comfortable and stylish. Here are some tips to achieving the glowup you deserve. Don’t hold back!
Decorating Problem #1: No defined style
As mentioned before, if you haven’t already read our blog about how to define your decor style, start there. No defined style sounds scary, but the real result of it isn’t disaster. It’s not a room that makes you feel uncomfortable or weird, but a room that doesn’t make you feel anything at all. Is this a metaphor for identity and character? Idk, but if at a basic level you still have no idea what you like, we can only do so much!!
Decorating Problem #2: You feel like decorating isn’t worth your time, and it shows
It’s easy to downplay the importance of decorating our home. It takes time, planning, creativity and money. Ain’t nobody—well—ain’t nobody but a select few people got time for that.
If your home is feels grody and it’s miserable to be there, but you’re still having a hard time reconciling spending the time, effort and expense to make it look nicer, consider this:
The last few steps to take your space from “boring” to “amazing” might require some extra effort, but more and more, home is becoming the place we spend the most time, so it’s worth it. The goal? Make everyone want to WF your H.
Decorating Problem #3: You have good decorating elements, but they’re executed incorrectly
This is a big, common one. You have all the right pieces, but you weren’t clear on how to utilize them. Here are some common decorating snafus:
Cheap fabric for curtains and pillows, black furniture, plastic trinkets, etc. etc. They’re saving you money, and if you’re on a budget or furnishing your own space for the first time, they’re likely your best bet.
But if you’re ready for an upgrade and wondering why your space still looks bad, check the quality of your materials for decorating elements and furniture. For example, changing your curtains from a synthetic material to, say, a linen fabric, would probably 10x your room’s look.
You have curtains, but they’re too high or too low
Good curtains can warm up a space, but if they’re hung incorrectly, they can look like a mess. Here’s a good, quick video on how to hang curtains properly, using some general rules that can apply to any window.
You have pictures, but they’re too low or too high
Same issue as above. Most often, they’re hanging waaayyy too high.
The secret to hanging your pictures properly, every time? Hang them at 57” (144.78 centimeters) on center. Here’s a short article describing exactly what the heck that means, and how to use this rule in your own space.
Speaking of pictures, your posters are awesome, but is it 2009?
There’s nothing wrong with keeping your posters, as long as you know how to display them. Framing them is always a great choice, as you can see here. It might be expensive, but it will make a dramatic change to your room’s feel and overall aesthetic.
Decorating Problem #4: Something just looks…off?
Lots of things this could be. Let’s go through a few common, potential issues.
No focal point for the room
And if you can help it, the answer for what should be the focal point of the room isn’t “My TV.”
A good focal point could be your fireplace, your bookshelves, your bed, some windows, a unique architectural aspect of the room, a striking piece of art, or maybe a plant (or several).
An element can even become a focal point in the room by strategically incorporating a color from that element, elsewhere in the room.
For example, the navy blue fireplace in this living room is clearly the focal point, and that color is echoed by the striking, navy blue pillows on the couch.
But imagine if those pillows were, say, coral pink. The coral color would still complement the navy blue of the fireplace, but it wouldn’t echo and emphasize it, right? (Not like the navy blue pillows do.)
Echoing the navy blue color of the fireplace in another detail in the room—in this case, the pillows—reinforces the blue fireplace focal point.
You can do this with something like a colorful rug, too. (Or anything else that has multiple colors in it.) If you have a rug that has a lot of different colors, look closely at the colors and ask, “What’s a color I can pull from this, and echo elsewhere in the room?”
Take this dining room rug, for example. It’s already a big statement piece by itself, but notice how they decided to pull out the black in the rug and echo it with the light fixtures and chairs.
They also could have chosen the red, light orange, dark blue, light blue, light green, white or pink (or whatever else), but they chose to pull out the black in the rug, and it looks great.
It’s all angles, all the time
Chances are, you probably have a rectangular coffee table, a rectangular entertainment center, square pillows, a rectangular couch, a rectangular area rug—just tons of angles, with few curves or rounded shapes to break things up.
This living room is stylish, and has a tons of angular features, but look closely: the lighting fixtures are rounded, the black poufs on the floor are round, and even the plant helps to break up the streamlined, angular look to make the room look more comfortable and visually appealing.
Now instead of those features being curved and rounded, imagine them being equally angular and blocky. It’s a cool room, so it would likely still look stylish, but arguably the visual appeal will drop.
Look around your space. Are the key decor and furniture pieces varied in their shapes? Or all the same? As you can see from the example room, your space doesn’t have to introduce new shapes everywhere, but here and there will be enough to break up the monotony.
There’s no texture break or change up
Similar to the cheap materials issue and unvarying shapes issue, sometimes rooms have only one or two textures in them, making them look visually boring.
Check out this room. How many textures do you see? Leather couch, a velvet footstool/coffee table thing, a woven basket and rug, a metal magazine organizer, a wooden ladder, plants, wooly blankets…you get the idea.
Look at your room, and notice how many different textures you find. How many times do you repeat yourself? (“Polyester, wood, polyester again, plastic, plastic, polyester, wood, plastic…wait a minute…”)
Could any of those decor elements be switched for another texture to make it more visually interesting?
You’re using one or two colors only
Too many rooms get caught in the death trap of trying to stick within a specific “theme” for colors, and wind up looking really boring and ugly.
For example, blue and grey look good together, but the key to making any color theme work is allowing other colors from the same “family” into the scheme, and tossing in one “wildcard” complementary color.
In this bedroom, you could say that the overall color is blue and grey, but the greywashed wood furniture and the grass in the vase add in a complementary color.
And while the color family is obviously blue and grey, they range in color lightness and darkness (lighter blues, darker greys, etc.) to create a layered, comfortable look. So don’t be afraid to use different shades within the same color family, to make your “color-themed” room work.
Your style is outdated
Ouch. Did that hurt? Have a look through current magazines, websites, or Instagram hashtags for home decorating, and you’ll quickly get a feel for what’s still working, and what is irrevocably out.
You can do two things here. Either find some inspiration from another person who’s taken your same outdated piece and found a way to give it a refresh, (like this easy lamp update, for example) or accept that decorating styles change fairly quickly, and it’s just time for an update.
As you look around for new pieces, don’t overlook websites like Craigslist, Kijiji, and even Facebook Marketplace for scoring thrifty finds.
Your space is straight-up cluttered
This can actually be very hard to spot on your own. We become blind to clutter in our spaces, so call in a friend. Someone who will honestly point out the junky spaces in your room, then go through the junk with you, making you really think if each item is important to keep.
If it’s really an important piece, but it’s cluttering up the room you currently have it in, think of where else in your home could it go instead, so it’s no longer taking up visual space.
P.S. There’s another reason to cut the clutter in your home: Studies are finding it has negative effects on your mental health, too.
Along the same lines, you’re allowing the ugly stuff to be on display
Time to invest in some storage solutions to organize that stuff, pack it away in a closet, or toss/donate/rehome it entirely. The ugliest stuff in your room shouldn’t be front and center.
However, if you’ve got something that’s visually unattractive but you use it daily, try to find a compromise. Can you buy a beautiful storage solution to keep it in when it’s not in use? Can you retrofit the exterior a little so it adds in an interesting design element?
You have no rugs or pillows
Rugs help define a space, and pillows might feel like a superfluous expense, but they add to the comfortable feel.
Appropriately sizing your rug to fit your space is important, too. We’ve all seen how a too-big rug can make a room feel clogged, or a too-small rug can make furniture appear hilariously giant. Here are some great tips for how to choose the right-sized rug.
Pillows, throws, and rugs are great gateways to accessorizing your bedroom with accents. Depending on your bedroom aesthetic, pick up bundled accent items like our Scandinavian Accent Bundle, or something funkier like our Global/Tribal Accent Bundle, for a quick easy glow up.
You need plants
Indoor plants brighten and warm a room. Plus, they’re good for your mental health. Worried about how much natural light you have in your space, though?
Tip: Most indoor plant recommendations call for at least “bright indirect light” for wherever the plant is placed, but how do you know if the spot you’re considering receives “bright indirect light”? See if the plant casts a shadow there. Even if it’s faint, this likely means the spot receives enough sunlight for the plant to make it in that spot.
Still worried that your plant isn’t getting enough light? You can find a decently-cheap LED grow lights on Amazon, and leave it turned on overnight so the plant can get some “sunshine” time. This might be especially important in the winter months, when lighting is low.
Other people’s old stuff is defining your space
So maybe it’s a sentimental thing, but if you’re honest with yourself, you know that grandma’s antique, oversized chinoiserie cabinet might be a better fit for another family member’s home.
As kind of it is for you to try and keep these things around, if it’s just not working for your space, it’s time to let it go.
Decorating Problem #4: The sizing and height for key decorating elements are all wrong
Here’s a great roundup of 20 common measurements for decorating different rooms in your home. It goes over the correct height for hanging pictures, light fixtures and more, plus general rules of thumb for things like sizing rugs and whatnot. Really helpful!
Need help choosing the best-sized couch for your space?
SFGate Home Guides gives actionable advice for how to tell if that couch you’re eyeing will actually fit (or if your current couch is too undersized or oversized) here.
House Beautiful also did a great little guide that had some good tips here.
Decorating Problem #5: Your lighting is insufficient
This is a big one. Here are a few things to look out for.
Emphasize natural lighting
Make sure that your current window treatments aren’t obscuring or diminishing the natural light coming through the windows. Some blockage of light is expected in certain rooms, (like your bedroom) but your window treatment should be able to be moved aside to allow the light in when you’re not trying to sleep or watch a movie.
Are your current window treatments clogging up the natural light? An easy way to tell is by temporarily removing any curtains or blinds. Does the room seem brighter and better with the treatments gone?
It could be as simple as your window treatments are too dark for the space, too. If you have solid black curtains, for example, imagine how much brighter your room would look if you did sheer white curtains with bamboo blinds?
You’re not layering your lighting
Yep, “layering lighting” is a thing, and it’s a big one. If you get nothing else from this guide, I hope this is a key takeaway: layering your lighting makes a huge, huge difference in a space.
You see this all the time in fancy kitchens. You’ve typically got can lights or track lighting on the ceiling, pendant lights over the bar, and the undermount lights under the cabinets. This example has all of the above, plus some sconces over the sink, (don’t forget that the window counts as a natural source of light in this layering scheme) and you can see how nice it looks.
Imagine that same kitchen with just the can lights and pendant lights. Likely, it’d look darker and dingy, despite it being a really nice kitchen.
Look at your space. How many “layers” of lighting does it have? How can you fold in more lighting?
If you’re in an apartment, you likely can’t do things like install permanent fixtures, (though you never know. Some landlords might appreciate the “free” upgrade to their unit) but you probably can hang more hanging lights, install removable undermount lights for the cabinets, and have a mixture of floor lamps and desk lamps, which will all create lighting at different heights in the room, creating “lighting layers.”