9 Living Room Mistakes to Avoid & What to Do Instead

Let's talk about 9 living room mistakes to avoid when designing a new space and what to do instead to create a comfortable, cohesive, and inviting atmosphere.

Of all the rooms in our homes, living spaces are the ones where we spend the most waking hours so how these rooms look and function is essential to our comfort and well-being. There are a few missteps that tend to affect living spaces more than any other, so we're going to break them down by broad categories of comfort, proportion, and scale.

Becoming familiar with common living room layout mistakes will help you transform your space into something much better than you could have dreamed of.

Living room design

1. Not considering function and layout

The first thing to consider is the layout and making sure that it supports all the activities of the space. Arranging furniture pieces around a focal point at a conversation-friendly distance is a great way to do this.

Seating too far apart

A common mistake is to spread the seating too far apart, lining furniture pieces up against the wall.

Floating furniture pieces

Instead, float your furniture pieces on an ample area rug around that focal point.

Stylish sofas

2. Prioritizing looks over comfort

You may be attracted to certain looks in seating, like curved shapes, leather, and button tufting. While these features may look great, it's important to evaluate them in the context of the comfort level you need.

Formal living room

If the primary purpose of the space is mainly decorative, which could be the case if you have a formal living room, then shapes conducive to lounging, cozy fabrics, and soft cushioning might not be as important as they would be in a space like a family room.

TV placement

3. Placing the television too high

Placing your TV too high, like over a mantle, puts stress on your neck and makes viewing uncomfortable. The recommended height is 42 inches or about 107 centimeters to the center of the screen, which will be at about eye level if you're seated and will be the most comfortable angle.

TV away from the fireplace

If your TV must share a space with your fireplace, moving it off to one side can be a good solution.

Coffee table with decor

4. Having too few tables

Having too few tables will leave you and your guests without anywhere to place a book, a drink, or snacks.

Coffee table that doubles as storage

A coffee table, in particular, is a great place to create vignettes with your decor items, or it can even double as storage.

Small seat table

You can always consider smaller seat tables or drink tables that will make the space more comfortable for you and your guests.

Cold and harsh lighting

5. Having bad lighting

Using only overhead lighting can make a room feel cold and harsh and cast unflattering shadows.

Room with natural light

By layering in ambient lighting, like wall lights and lamps, you'll give your space a cozy and relaxed feel.

Combining different types of lighting

If you need to have direct overhead lighting, put it on dimmers to give yourself some flexibility and combine it with floor lamps, table lamps, and sconces for more visual comfort and a softer look.

Cozy and intimate living space

In addition, keeping the color temperature of the lighting in your living space on the warmer side at 2700 Kelvin will make the room feel cozy and intimate.

No height variations in design

6. No height variations

The scale of furniture and furnishings and how they work together is important in creating balance and interest. Furniture and decor that's placed all at one level makes a space look flat and uninteresting.

Varying heights

Create visual interest by varying heights around your living space and balancing proportions to each other.

Unbalanced vs balanced proportions

7. Having unbalanced proportions

Make sure your furniture pieces are in proportion to each other. A good guideline is to follow the 2/3rds rule. For the living room, look for a coffee table that's about 2/3s the length of the sofa.

Grouping coffee tables of different sizes together

You can also group smaller tables of different heights to get the dimensions right.

Proportioned artwork

Use the same approach for displaying artwork. The guideline here is the same as for the sofa coffee table arrangement.

Artwork on the mantel

If you're hanging the piece over a sofa, mantle, or console table, aim for the piece or group of smaller pieces to be at least 2/3rds the length of the furniture piece, wall, mantel, or whatever it's hanging over to keep everything in proportion.

Where to position wall art

And a little bonus tip on artwork is to keep it at about 57 inches high on center, which is a comfortable viewing height for most people.

Large area rug

8. Having too small of an area rug

An area rug helps ground and define a room and adds depth and texture, but if it's too small, it'll break up the flow of the space and make the room appear smaller.

A larger rug will anchor the space and offer unity for all the pieces within the space. Ideally, all the pieces in the living room would fit on top of the rug, but at minimum, the rug needs to be big enough to fit at least all the front legs of the seating, plus at least 8 inches on the sides.

Layering different design elements

9. Not thinking in layers

One of the biggest design mistakes is not thinking in layers.

Layering rugs and draperies

A first layer could be rugs and draperies, something to soften the hardness of floors and walls.

Conversation-friendly seating layout

Next, bring in your comfy furniture to create your conversation-friendly seating layout.

Living room design

Then comes the most fun part, accessorize. Lamps, pillows, throws, pottery, plants, and artwork are the items that reflect your style and personality and help create the cozy layered look.

Living room mistakes

Let me know in the comments what you think about my tips for correcting living room mistakes. It is not always easy to see the decorating mistakes in your living room at first glance, but once you become more familiar with them, it becomes impossible not to see them over time.

Ready to correct the worst living room design in your home? There’s no time like the present to get started.

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2 of 11 comments
  • Some great tips that I have followed for years.
  • Hope Hope on Jan 31, 2024
    Hi...The article is great. My biggest take-away and what really clicked in my head was the part at the end of the article…#9: Not Thinking In Layers. You almost dummy-proofed the whole concept of laying out and decorating the Living Room (for me)…step-by-step. It makes sense to me now. :)Have a fantastic day!!