USA TODAY - Whether you're a diva, a country girl or a beach bum, it's important to make your personality shine through in your living space.
But let's be honest: Achieving your ideal look isn't as easy as it appears on some television design shows. Those hosts are professional decorators. But regular people? We make mistakes.
Part of the problem is that many of us start the decorating process without mapping out a strategy.
"If you don't have a plan, your style can go off in another direction or you'll buy things that don't fit the room," says interior designer Taniya Nayak of HGTV's Billion Dollar Block and Food Network's Restaurant: Impossible. "You go all mish-mash and spend a lot more money than you need to."
But that stops here. Three interior designers clue us in to the biggest blunders people make when decorating their homes and tell us how to do things right-the first time-to create a happy space without wasting time or money.
Here are their top 10 Décor Don'ts:
1. Don't shortchange your space (Also known as: Size does matter)
"There's a myth that if you have a small room, you should use small furniture," Nayak says. In fact, using small pieces, such as a tiny sofa or an undersized area rug floating out in the middle of the room, can make the area feel even more slight.
But-and this is a big one-always measure your room, the furniture, and the doorways and stairwells through which they must travel before forking over your money. Otherwise, you'd better have purchased a fainting couch, because that's probably what you'll be doing when things don't fit in the house.
2. Don't copy
While gathering decorating ideas is a must, avoid creating a carbon copy of something you see elsewhere.
"It's your house; you want it to reflect your style," Nayak says. If you're a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll, own it. "Don't be afraid to mix styles," she says, adding that there are clever ways to blend two different styles.
One of Nayak's favorites: Farmhouse glam.
3. Don't forget to accessorize
"That's like going out all dressed up without wearing makeup or jewelry," says Dawn Newkirk, director of fashion merchandising with Gorman's furniture stores in Michigan. "It's your last chance to infuse a room with style."
Some people feel so relieved to get the major lifting out of the way that they put off adding details, a move that can leave a room feeling sterile and cold. Adding individual touches is what gives a place some punch. Think photos, vases, candles, throw pillows, blankets-this is the part where you let the good times roll. "The layering effect will make a home personal," Nayak says.
If you collect, set out some of your pieces. Not only are they conversation starters, "then other people can enjoy them instead of you just sticking them all in a china cabinet somewhere," Newkirk says.
4. Don't push all your furniture against the wall
Your living space isn't a game of Tetris, but when you treat it as such, the room can feel more like a doctor's office than a home.
Shoving everything against the room's edges can create uncomfortable or unnatural space between people. Creating different conversation settings and angling furniture is key to making an inviting and user-friendly entertaining space.
"You don't want people trying to talk across a 15-foot room," Newkirk says.
And never fear, condo dwellers: You can do this, too, even if you have a smaller room. "If you pull your sofa off the wall or angle a loveseat in a corner, it will actually give you secret storage space," Nayak says. Just hide a large storage basket behind the furniture to ensure none of your precious space goes to waste.
The same idea goes for home office space as well. "Who wants to work at the desk staring at the wall?" Newkirk asks. Floating a desk out in the room means you can still enjoy the space, and the people in it.
5. Don't jump the (paint) gun
Many people get off on the wrong foot immediately by choosing paint as their first decorating element. But picking a paint color should actually come last.
"You have a whole rainbow of paint colors to pick from," says Newkirk. "It is much harder to find upholstery or accessories that are the perfect color, so you should start there."
Another painting don't: A big, bold, contrasting accent wall, says Boston-based Nayak, who also has her own interior design company. Not only is it dated, but a giant red or orange wall can disrupt the flow of a room.
If you like an accent wall, Nayak suggests something complementary, such as "using the same color paint and going three shades deeper. Or use wallpaper that has those shades, so it continues the flow."
Finally, don't feel like you have to paint every room a different color, Nayak says. It can make a home feel choppy, especially if it's already a small space. To maintain a cohesive feel, Nayak suggests choosing three colors to use throughout the home.
Make it easy on yourself: Consider choosing one paint strip and using the various shades in different rooms.
6. Don't forget the ceiling
The ceiling oversees your entire space -heck, it keeps your secrets-yet is often forgotten during the design process. Showing your top wall some love "can take a room from mediocre to stunning," Newkirk says.
Painting it an inconspicuous complementary color can help expand the space, while wainscoting or copper trimming can add an extra visual touch. Wallpaper, subtle or bold, is even an option, depending on the vibe you want for the room. It all depends on your taste.
But there's one thing we can probably all agree on: Please, no popcorn.
7. Don't omit the shiny stuff
You don't need to hang a disco ball, but "adding luster offers a pop of glamor," Nayak says. Mirrors, glass, sequins, chandeliers, vases-even a metal tray or a beaded throw pillow-add instant visual interest.
Mirrors and metal, in particular, help bounce light around the room. Just make sure your mirror is reflecting something pleasant instead of just another wall, Nayak says. Placing a mirror opposite a window not only provides an outside view from all angles, it can also make a room feel larger.
Sparkle on, sister.
8. Don't make impulse purchases
We know, this is a tough one. But just remember: Love at first sight isn't always everlasting.
And just because something is on sale doesn't mean it's a good buy. In the end, it might not be the right color, or may not even go with your plan for the room.
It all goes back to having a plan.
"I think a lot of people design backward," says Marvin Dyer III, an interior designer at Anabel's Oriental Rugs in Louisville, Ky.
"They see something they like and buy it. Later, they're like, 'Oh, what do I do with it now?' " Dyer says.
9. Don't play the match game
Being matchy-matchy at home is "when most people become bored with their space," says Dyer. "If everything is the same, there's no focal point."
"It gives a room more character if you mix colors, patterns and textures," Newkirk says.
Your best bets for everlasting happiness? Choose timeless classics, or shades that you look good wearing.
10. Don't be satisfied with an on/off switch
Lighting sets the mood of a room, so limiting yourself to one bright overhead light or a couple of table lamps is a faux pas. It's vital to have a wider range of lighting options than, say, an FBI interrogation room or after-hours lounge.
Layering the lighting-think end-table lamps and floor lamps-allows more freedom. Nayak also suggests buying plugs with dimmer switches, which give you a full range of mood choices.
"I think people really underestimate what an important role lighting plays," she says.
Some rooms even call for a chandelier, which can add ambience in addition to creating a focal point, Dyer says.
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