It is so easy for a novice designer to make mistakes when decorating their home, below I will take you through the most common mistakes made and how you can avoid them.
1) Don't hang curtains too low in a room, or directly above the window frame.
Hanging curtain poles or tracks just below the ceiling will give the illusion of height and proportion to a room. On a practical level this will also ensure that less light will escape above the window at night when the curtains are hung.
Allowing enough room either side of the window is also important. The pole/track should be long enough so that when the curtains are drawn they should draw past the window, to allow the natural daylight to flood through, and not block it out.
This image clearly shows how not to do it (left) and how to do it correctly (right).
2) Rug that's too small.
One of the most important things in interior design is scale and proportion, choosing something that is too small for the room, whether it is furniture, art or in this case the rug is a big mistake.
Go for the largest size rug you can afford, this will create a feeling of luxury and flow to the room. When grouping seating in a living room or a dining room the rug should sit freely around the furniture so it does not look as if the furniture is about to fall off. Also allow extra space behind dining chairs, when they are pulled out as they should not be perched on the edge. This can cause accidents!
In bedrooms the rug is best placed under the bed anchored by the feet not the head, therefore stopping short of the bed side tables and allowing rug either side and at the bottom when getting out of bed.
3) Arranging furniture up tight against the perimeter of the room.
This can make a space look corporate and cold, pieces should be grouped in well spaced set ups through-out the room and pulled away from the walls. This will look more generous and create a flow.
This grouping of furniture is shown well in this wonderful image found on Luxesource.com
Grouping is often most successful when done around a focal point in the room such as this fabulous fireplace.
4) Hanging art work too low or too high.
Generally just badly hung art can ruin any well designed room. To avoid this think through your hanging carefully and plan ahead, ideally you want the middle of the picture at eye level and group your pictures carefully so they tell a story. A good way to ensure no mistakes are made, especially when creating a 'gallery wall' is to trace and cut out the frame outline on paper and then place these out on the wall (with masking tape) trying numerous places and options until you get it right.
It is also very key, in my experience, to not ask your partner to help you! This will only end in a row, invest in a handyman for a couple of hours, they can't or shouldn't answer you back and you will get the pictures where you want them.
I really like how Interior designer Paolo Moschino has hung these Gary Hume prints. They have been framed in very simple white frames set within the white panelling, allowing the prints themselves to really be shown off.
5) Bad Lighting.
There is no excuse for bad lighting in a room. Don't skimp on lighting, even in a room flooded with natural light. Don't just rely on spotlights, layer your lighting with low level lamps in corners of rooms and wall sconces to give light at mid level. Always fit switches with dimmers to create different moods through out the day and night. Another really good tip which can make a room come alive is to enhance lighting with mirrors, this will bounce the light around the room and create interest.
The lighting created by John Cullen Lighting in this kitchen is really successful. The spotlights are discreet and only lighting the areas that need it. Wall lights and lighting on the shelves give soft mid level lighting, LED contour lighting under the plinth units provide a wash of light across the floor and give the impression of floating. Simple pendants add to the decorative elements and two big mirrors finish the design off creating atmosphere.
6) Half length curtains.
Curtains should end at the floor, not the window frame. This is my personal pet hate and I shall say no more!
7) Don't cram furniture into a room just because you have it.
If there isn't space for it sell it or if it has sentimental value put it in storage. A room that is cluttered or cramped will never flow or feel relaxing.
This bedroom by Helen Green Designis really successful. The layout is simple and there are no diversions from the scheme, each accessory is carefully placed and thought through.
This image also shows an excellent use of long length curtains, relating to point 6.
If these curtains finished at the window sill, the room would almost look cut in half.
8) Low level furniture.
Don't have all your furniture at one level. Use different heights and sizes in your furnishings and rise your eye level with the hanging of art and window treatments. The use of a chandelier or ceiling pendants is also a good way of lifting your eye level.
Dont go shopping before measuring your space. The room layout and furniture placement needs to be planned properly before purchasing furniture otherwise you will make expensive mistakes. You don't need to have professionally drawn up plans, take a tape measure to your room and take the basic measurements and then plan out where you want to have your furniture. You can draw the proposed furniture sizes out on the floor with masking tape and see how the space works (you can get average sixes of armchairs, sofas, coffee tables etc. from the the internet and use these as a guide). See how the space works and if you can easily move around the pieces. The flow of the room is very important so keep this at the forefront of your room layout.
Once you have done all this and decided on the items and their sizes, draw these on your plan with a scale ruler or note down the sizes. Keep the floor plan and sizes with you at all times so if you stumble across a shop with something you love you will instantly know whether it will fit. If you are doing a full re-decoration job also keep swatches of fabric and paint colours with you to colour match against items. Photo's of the room are also useful to have, and always carry a tape measure!
Sunbury Antiques Fair at Kempton Park Racecourse is one of my favourite fairs and runs every second and last tuesday of every month. Have a look at their website for dates and information.
Overall, the best advice I can give is to plan, stick to budget and don't be afraid to ask for help. If you get stuck talk to an interior designer, you don't have to spend a fortune in fees, many designers like myself charge by the hour offering an honest opinion and have good advice on fabric and colour choices as well as room layouts. Having an experts knowledge and experience will help you enormously when making decisions and will give you the confidence to pull off the design you've always wanted.