Some people have a natural eye for decorating, but arranging furniture and decorating your home isn’t an impossible-to-learn art. And if you have your own apartment or house, it’s worthwhile to learn some of the basic rules and guidelines of design — even if only to intentionally break them with your own style. On your way to mastering interior design, you’re bound to make many mistakes, but try not to make any of these seven basic, but far-too-common ones.

Decorating for someone else’s lifestyle

Photo: Marina Gudimovich, ShutterstockPhoto: Marina Gudimovich, Shutterstock

When I was a kid, one of my friends lived in a house where the living room was off-limits — it was tastefully decorated and full of expensive furniture, so kids weren’t allowed. I don’t think anyone was permitted entry, honestly. The rest of his home was ramshackle, casual, and fun, but his parents seemingly decorated one room for a life they imagined, where they entertained prissy people at fancy tea parties. But I don’t think those tea parties ever happened.

Don’t do this. Decorate for who you are, not what you aspire to be or what you think you should be.

Hanging art and decoration too high or low

Photo: Antoha713, ShutterstockPhoto: Antoha713, Shutterstock

Many people hang their artwork up too high. Generally speaking, art should generally be hung at eye level. The main caveat is that hanging everything at the same height can give a room a weirdly artificial feeling, so you also want to avoid being too symmetrical. This applies to televisions as well: TVs should be eye level from the couch or wherever else you’re sitting, if possible. (I do suggest you hang a picture that reads “home interior design,” though, as you can see in the accompanying stock photograph.)

Buying furniture and TVs that are too big (or small) for their rooms

Photo: Andrey_Popov, ShutterstockPhoto: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

You can’t change the dimensions of rooms without a ton of work, so make sure that whatever furniture or decoration buy fits. You don’t want a huge TV in a small living room, or a tiny couch in a cavernous den. You’ll likely get used to how awkward it looks, but guests won’t.

Having too much clutter

Photo: trekandshoot, ShutterstockPhoto: trekandshoot, Shutterstock

I recently became aware of “Cluttercore,” where the point is for your space to look cluttered. I can’t get my brain around why anyone would want to live that way, but even aficionados of the cluttercore aesthetic advise keeping all your figurines and candles and whatever somewhat organised. Raw clutter is not good. Here’s a guide to embracing cluttercore without your house looking like a yard sale.

Not considering safety

Photo: Zastolskiy Victor, ShutterstockPhoto: Zastolskiy Victor, Shutterstock

For most of the mistakes on this list, the worst-case-scenario is that snobby guests think you have bad taste. But failing to consider fire and other hazards could literally kill you. Don’t hang drapes over a heating vent. Decorate with fire-resistant material. Make sure to incorporate smoke and CO2 detectors in your design. If you live in earthquake country, make sure the bookcases are attached to the wall firmly.

Not considering lighting

Photo: JR-stock, ShutterstockPhoto: JR-stock, Shutterstock

Not having enough light can transform a cosy room into a tomb, so make sure you have enough lamps and overheads. You don’t want your place to look like an operating room either, though, so think about how to maximise the natural light in your space as well (and how to block it out, when needed). Make sure you and your guests can see clearly and that your furniture, walls, and general colour scheme can be shown in the best light.

Carpeting your bathroom

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There are still people out there who carpet their bathrooms. Do they not know what goes on in there? Stick to small rugs, and skip the carpeting that goes around the toilet, please.

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