Photo: Justin Clements/Flickr

Have you ever fallen down an Instagram rabbit hole, fawning over some blogger from Indiana’s perfectly put together living room, wondering why yours just doesn’t compare? You may be bending or breaking a few design rules, resulting in a space that looks unpolished and uninspiring. We asked four interior designers to identify the decorating mistakes that cheapen the look of your home — and some of their answers will surprise you. If you’ve fallen victim to any of these design gaffes, fear not, our talented panel also shares tips on how to correct them.

1. Choosing white paint that ends up looking blue…or yellow

Photo: Doug Waldron/Flickr

“If you don’t feel like you have an eye, you should always Google the paint color to see how other people have used it,” says Lucie Ayres, principal at 22 Interiors. “There are so many websites and resources with designer-favorite blues, greens, taupes, etc. Go with what’s tried and true and do a bit of research before putting it on the wall.” Designer Amy Elbaum of AE DESIGN also notes the importance of testing paint swatches the right way — “on the walls in the actual space they will be used in.” The type of light the room receives can drastically alter the appearance of your paint choice. “A white paint can look blue in certain spaces or yellow in others,” explains Elbaum.

2. Painting an accent wall

Photo: Nancy Hugo, CKD/Flickr

“This one’s controversial,” admits designer Rebecca Hay, principal of Rebecca Hay Designs. “I know it was really trendy for a while, but nowadays the trend is all or nothing.” Instead of playing it safe with an accent wall, Hay recommends committing to color. “Show everyone that you are confident in your choices!” Designer Lucie Ayres agrees with Hay’s hot take: “Never, ever do an accent wall unless you want it to feel like 1992. The idea of accenting a wall in most spaces is just bizarre — why does that wall deserve more attention than any other wall?”

3. Buying mass produced art

Photo: Design Folly/Flickr

Listen, we love shopping at HomeGoods as much as the next person, but the next time you’re browsing the aisles you may want to avoid the art section all together. “Don’t buy your art at a mass retailer!” says Ayres. “The typography pieces especially — it should be a note on your refrigerator, not a canvas in your living room.” Skip the Live, Laugh, Love prints in favor of original artwork. “Saatchi Art is such a great resource,” says Ayres. The site offers a huge selection of paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography, priced from just $125. “You’re supporting real artists and you’ve got something unique.”

4. Buying a rug that’s too small for the space

Photo: Kyle Murphy/Flickr

“Large rugs can be costly and quite a scary commitment,” says Jaclyn Harper of Harper Designs. “I think that’s why people stick to smaller rugs that are much more cost effective and ‘safe,’ if you will.” Consider this your new design mantra: never buy a rug for your space without first whipping out the measuring tape. “A good rule of thumb is to buy rugs that are large enough to fit at least two of each of your furniture legs on it and/or all of the furniture legs,” says Harper.

5. Hanging artwork too high or too low

Photo: Matt Rasmussen/Flickr

Now that you’ve acquired an original objet d’art, it’s time to hang it with care, and Harper has a few suggestions on how to do just that. “When you hang a piece of art too high above a piece of furniture the two tend to look very disconnected,” she explains. For example, if you’re hanging a painting above the sofa, Harper recommends placing it six- to eight-inches above the piece of furniture to create a more unified look. She also notes that the art should cover two-thirds of the width of your sofa. “My biggest tip for hanging art is to just look at where your vantage points are. If it’s in a dining room, you’ll more than likely be sitting down to enjoy the artwork. In this case, you’ll want to hang the art lower. In a front foyer, you’ll likely be standing to see the artwork so it may need to be hung at eye level.”

6. Mounting curtain rods inside a window frame

Photo: Jon Seidman/Flickr

“You should hang drapery as close to the ceiling as possible in most situations,” says Elbaum. “Hanging it lower makes the ceilings appear lower, which nobody wants.” To create the illusion of larger windows, Hay agrees that it’s best to install the curtain rod well above the frame. “There’s nothing worse than seeing the rod and brackets mounted to the window trim with 16 inches of space to spare above. It’s a rookie move!”

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