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The Biggest Design Mistakes You Might Be Making In Your Living Room

Design: Ancerl Studio

In the hierarchy of your home, the living room often reigns supreme as the spot you’re spending most of your time. It’s all also the room you definitely want to get right design-wise. But sometimes, the goal of creating a stylish and comfy space can lead to certain design mistakes that always end up standing out (for all the wrong reasons). But lucky for you, they’re easy to avoid – and today we’re calling out the biggest decorating missteps (and showing you how to avoid them in your home). 


In most homes, the living room ends up serving as a place to lounge, watch a movie, spend quality time together and entertain friends and family. So with some much purpose packed into one space, you really need to make the most of your design – and avoid mistakes that will make the room look and feel less appealing. So to set you up with a stylish space, we’re sharing Bobby’s expert tips on what to avoid – and how to fix your decorating faux-pas!


Keep scrolling to see the 5 biggest Living Room design mistakes – and what you should be doing instead.


Looking for more design advice? Check out our posts The Number #1 Thing Bobby Recommends You Do In Your Home and The Dos And Dont’s Of Styling Bookshelves: Bobby’s 4 Easy Tips.



1. A Rug That’s Undersized

A rug that’s too small for a space can have a big impact (and not the good kind). It can often make a living room feel out of scale or disconnected from the furniture. You want your rug to be a grounding piece that connects all the larger pieces in the room, and choosing the right size makes all the difference. To avoid a rug that’s too tiny, Bobby suggests making sure every piece of furniture is at least partially on the rug, (i.e. the front legs of your sofa). That will ensure the rug isn’t floating in the middle of the room and fills the space properly.  


See our guide for finding the perfect sized rug HERE

2. Furniture That’s Out Of Scale

It’s not just the style (and comfort) of your furniture that’s important – it’s also the size. Choosing pieces with the right scale for the room is just as crucial as how they look, and creating a balance of visual weight will make your living room feel more cohesive. Large pieces like a sectional need to be paired with pieces that are equally grand (otherwise small armchairs or a coffee table will look diminutive). When furnishing your living room, take Bobby’s advice. Start with the largest pieces (sofa, chairs, media console, and coffee table) to ensure they all work together scale-wise. Then layer in the rest of your items. 


See what’s in style this year by checking out our post The Living Room Trends We’re Predicting For 2021 (And How To Add Them To Your Home).


3. Not Enough Greenery

For a living room to truly come to life, you need to add something that’s actually living. Bringing in plants creates a much-needed contrast with the hard lines of furniture and softens up space (not to mention cleans the air too). A living room that’s lacking in any greenery is kind of like an outfit without accessories. Yes, you can certainly wear it,  but it doesn’t feel quite finished. For optimal impact, Bobby loves adding a large tree in a corner and then layering in a few smaller plants on the floor, coffee table, or built-ins. And if you don’t have enough natural light (or a green thumb), you can always add some faux plants as a natural alternative. 


Ready to add some greenery? Check out The 6 House Plants That Are Nearly Impossible To Kill. 

4. A Lack Of Lighting

Just like rugs, furniture, and greenery, lighting can totally enhance the look and feel of your living room. But relying on only one source of lighting in your living room is not a bright idea. Simply using one ceiling light fixture or a single or a pair of lamps means you’re focusing on just one level of light – and not filling the room for multiple needs. To create lighting that really shines, Bobby advises adding light at multiple levels. AMBIENT (ceiling lights) to fill the room,  ACCENT (table lamps or sconces) to bring light to certain areas, and DIRECTIONAL (reading lamp)  to point light for a specific task.



For more lighting ideas, don’t miss 36 Lighting Upgrades.

Photo: Aaron Leitz
Design: Lisa Staton

5. Furniture Flush Against A Wall

When planning a furniture layout, it’s natural to gravitate towards the edge of the living room for placement. But pushing furniture out to the walls won’t necessarily make a room feel bigger – it just creates more space between pieces (and often less function). The further away furniture is, the less opportunity for intimacy and feeling comfortable with family and friends. Instead of working towards the walls, Bobby likes to create conversational seating arrangements. Pull furniture forward into groups that make sense for a more connected space. Just be sure to keep at least 17″ of space for legroom between seating and your coffee table. 



Shop all of Bobby’s favorite furniture HERE.


  1. Hey Bobby,

    Thanks for the tips, we are already guilty of mistakes number 1 & 5. We have a very small, square living room. We have to push the sofa against the wall, do you have advice for furniture placement for small spaces?

    1. In a small space, it’s ok to push furniture up against the wall. You also want to make sure you are choosing pieces that are smaller in scale (and won’t feel huge or take up too much room). Check out this post for even more ideas for making a small space feel bigger. xx -B

      1. Hi Bobby!

        What do you recommend for ceilings? I feel stuck in a rut always painting my ceilings a flat white satin paint. How do you make a ceiling pop without going awry?

        1. Painting a ceiling a darker shade than the walls is one way to make a room look taller, add some appeal, and draw the eye up. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even wallpaper a ceiling to add a lot of visual interest. Check out this article for some paint color suggestions and tips. Thanks for your comment! xx -B

  2. Hi Bobby,
    In your recent Instagram post talking about Memorial Day Sales you posted a picture with a gorgeous wallpaper (yellows, turquoise, terra cotta) with cool yellow chairs. Can you tell me who makes the wallpaper? I have scoured the internet and cannot find!

    1. The wallpaper is called La Palma and you can find it here. Thanks for your comment. xx -B

      1. We have an open plan living room, dining room and kitchen all next to each other in a big rectangle. I find it difficult to choose a wall colour to tie the three together and still give them their own twist. Or do I stick with safe white walls?

        1. White is always a good neutral backdrop, especially for a large open area. I would recommend sticking to this, as you can always being in color and personality through furniture and accessories. xx -B

  3. Hiii would you PLEASE do a segment on how to design small spaces? I live in a 950 sq ft townhome, 2 bed/1 1/2 bath.

  4. Bobby, I have two dark purple velvet chesterfield style sofas in our living room. What is the best style coffee table for our living room? The media center is an espresso colored piece of furniture and the walls are pale gray. Everything is so dark I was considering a glass and brass oval coffee table. I just can’t decide.

    1. I love the idea of a brass and glass-top coffee table. Since you have some heavy furniture and dark colors, it will be a nice, light contrast in the space. xx -B