10 Worst Living Room Design Mistakes & How to Fix Them

by Bai-Xu

Modern living rooms work really hard. You watch TV in them, you eat in them, you read in them, and sometimes you even sleep in them.

They are just that impressive. Unfortunately, there are ten common living room design mistakes that I see time and time again that really should be remedied. I will walk you through each of them today and offer living room design ideas that I actually approve of.

Here are the ten worst living room design mistakes people make at home:

Open storage with clutter

1. Letting it all hang out

Open storage is not real storage. It looks cluttered and accumulates a lot of dust over time.

Storage with doors

What I would suggest instead is to make the most of the storage in your living room that is behind closed doors.

Open storage used to display decor

Only reserve about 20 to 40 percent of storage space as open storage space and use it to display things that look nice but might not be as functional.

Messy minimalism

2. Messy minimalist

If you're a minimalist and you don't have many pieces of furniture or tables in your living room, it might get messy. I think it's inevitable because we have a lot of things.

Side tables next to couches

That is why you should have side tables next to your armchairs and sofas, coffee tables in the middle of the room, cabinets or shelves behind you, and other places with a flat surface where you can put all of your items.

Using a stool as a coffee table

3. Incompatible coffee table

Sometimes your coffee table ends up being a little bit too small, and that makes your room look under-furnished.

Coffee table that is too big

Other times, it's a little bit too big, and that makes your room look tiny.

How to measure the height of a coffee table

The height of your coffee table should be around the same level as the seat of your sofa or chair so you should aim for a height that ranges from 16 to 24 inches as a general rule.

Coffee table's length

The coffee table's length should be about 2/4 to 3/4 the length of the sofa.

Coffee table's depth

In terms of width, a coffee table should generally be within the same range as the seat depth of your sofa or chairs or even narrower.

Rug that is too small for the space

4. Floaters in the room

I see a lot of people who have a rug that is clearly too small for their sofa. This is a definite no-no.

Small rug in a living room

If the rug is too small, it makes the room look smaller, it cheapens the space, and somehow the seating area just doesn't look as cohesive because it's not a real zone.

Front legs of the armchairs on the rug

What you want to do is to always make sure that the front legs of the sofas or armchairs are all on the rug.

Matchy-matchy furniture

5. Match made in hell

When everything in your space is matching, it looks boring, and a bit outdated.

Combination of textures, colors, and layers

I think space looks much more interesting if at least some of the pieces are not matching, as in they go well together and look cohesive but have different textures, colors, and layers.

Furniture at the edge of a room

6. Creating a dance floor

When planning furniture layout, it's very easy to push everything to the edge of the room by default. But this is not how you should think of furniture placement.

Positioning the furniture pieces next to each other

It's not about populating the edge of the space, it's more about the relationship of each piece of furniture next to the others.

Conversational seating arrangements

So instead of working toward the walls, create conversational seating arrangements. Pull furniture forward into groups that make sense for a connected space.

White sitting room

7. Hating your neck

Another mistake people make is that they hang their TVs at the wrong height. Design is about a lot more than just having a home that looks pretty. Ergonomics should also be taken into consideration.

Placing a TV above a mantel

Your TV should not be hung so high up that you begin to experience neck pain, and you're forced to look up when you want to watch your favorite show. As soon as you start placing it high above the mantel or on a shelf in a really weird location, it no longer becomes useful or practical for you.

Placing a TV at eye level

Your TV should be at eye level to where you're sitting.

Furniture to scale

8. Not understanding scale

Having furniture that's too small in a room makes your room look under-furnished, and having furniture that's too big in your room makes your space feel cramped, uncomfortable, and claustrophobic.

How to measure and position furniture in a living room

If you're one of the fortunate ones who has a large living room, ensure that you leave at least 30 inches in the gaps between the furniture and the wall.

How to position furniture in a living room

And if you have a smaller apartment, try to leave at least an 18-inch gap between the pieces.

Room with only one light source

9. Living in the Dark Ages

Another mistake that people make is to have only 1 light source in the living room. The problem with this is that when you switch this 1 light on, your room doesn't look cozy at all. It's also not very functional.

Living room with fairy lights

What you should do is aim for about 5 to 7 different light sources in a room at varying heights and in varying zones.

White walls and gray furniture

10. Lifeless walls

Another big mistake I see people make a lot is just leaving your walls white and bare.

Bare white interior design

I think having untreated bare white walls can be very boring and lifeless in homes.

Shades of beige

To make a space feel more charming and lived in, it's always nice to have some wall decorations. You can start by softening the walls and painting them a light cream or pastel color instead of stark white.

Gallery wall with wall art

You can also add some big pieces of artwork, a gallery wall, wallpaper, and moldings.

Living room design ideas

Interior design for a living room doesn’t have to be so complicated. These are the top ten mistakes I see people make again and again, and being familiar with them will help you avoid them.

I’ve also shown you some smart living room design ideas that can get you started in creating a space you’ll enjoy for years to come.

What mistakes have you been making and how do you plan to fix them? Share your personal design ideas for a living room down below.

Join the conversation
2 of 11 comments
  • Carole White Carole White on Jan 16, 2024
    All great ideas! It took me an embarrassingly long time...years...to realize that "little" things simply look cluttered, regardless of the room size or tablescape you're decorating. Larger statement pieces have much more visual impact...lesson learned, finally!
  • Martha Herston Martha Herston on Feb 15, 2024
    I been wanting to paint my walls for a while now. Thanks you for examples in color