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12 Deadly Decorating Sins

As a designer, I've observed a lot of habits in the decorating and design world. Habits that I believe need to be broken. Many of these may have started with good intentions -- but we all know where that path leads!
10/30/2014 03:23pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Kurt Cyr, Houzz Contributor

As a designer, I've observed a lot of habits in the decorating and design world. Habits that I believe need to be broken. Many of these may have started with good intentions -- but we all know where that path leads!

Here are 12 of those bad habits here. Although each lesson is valuable, in the hierarchy of habits to be broken, there is none more important than No. 12.

1. Foyer neglect. Mama always said you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And she was right. Don't let your entry hall fall prey to lack of attention.

How to break this habit? Most of us with attached garages never use our foyers -- and it shows. So use it. Showcase a favorite object that has a story behind it. This will immediately set a personal tone in your home.

2. Improper lighting. Lighting in a home is often too dim or too bright. It's best to define the task at hand and light accordingly.

How to break this habit? Vary the levels and sources of lighting in a room, and by all means install dimmers. In this multiuse dining room, pendant lights are focused on the table. Whether highlighting food or books, the proper lighting makes this room a place you want to be in.

3. Built-in refrigerators. Does everyone need to play a professional chef at home? Walls of built-in refrigerators are better suited to the corporate world or an industrial kitchen.

Why break this habit? If it's coziness you are looking for, a less sleek kitchen with free-standing appliances will give you that homey charm.

4. A matchy-matchy look. There is something slightly unnerving when everything matches. Perhaps it's the lack of soul or just the lack of confidence shown.

Why break this habit? There is a charming insouciance when the carpet doesn't match the drapes -- or, in this case, when the slipcovers don't match the wallpaper. This dining room exudes a casual, welcoming air.

5. All-white woodwork. Where is it written that all woodwork must be painted white?

Why break this habit? Because a bit of color is a good thing. It is surprising and unexpected. Frankly, it just adds interest and personality. Just notice how fantastic this tomato-red cabinet looks.

6. Everything against a wall. It's natural to want to shove all the furniture against the walls. Fight that urge.

Why break this habit? Floating pieces (placing them away from the walls) creates a more interesting room composition and places people closer together, which helps foster conversation. It also helps make a large room more intimate.

7. The plague of beige. Since the overstuffed 1980s, beige has ruled supreme. Even the edgiest souls didn't venture far from ecru and oatmeal.

Why break this habit? When was the last time you smiled when you saw beige? Life is too short to swaddle oneself in burlap. Color makes us happy. Decorate your way to happiness.

8. Hoarding. Know your limits. Collecting can easily cross over into hoarding. Don't let that happen to you.

How to break this habit? Set aside a space where your collection can be properly displayed and enjoyed, like the one shown here. Collect until the space is comfortably filled. Then stop or maintain a zero-growth collection policy: one item in, one item out.

9. A single-use dining room. Don't get me wrong; I love dining rooms. But they need to work harder than just hosting Sunday dinners.

How to break this habit? Choose a complementary auxiliary use, such as a library. I consider dining with books to be the ultimate luxury. Whether talk turns to travel or philosophy, reference materials will be close at hand.

10. Built-in wet bars. Wet bars with miles of mirror and a multitude of bottles have their place. It's called Las Vegas.

Why break this habit? Hosting a cocktail party is not like running a drinking establishment. Your bar should be a personally edited version of you. So skip the liquor-warehouse look and impress your guests with a specially designed cocktail or a curated collection of alcohol.

11. Coordinated sets. Suites of matching furniture hark back to the days when a glimpse of ankle was considered risqué.

Why break this habit? Showcase your personality by mixing together pieces that you truly love and want to live with, not just the items that a manufacturer says go together.

12. Lack of wit. This is, perhaps, the deadliest of all decorating sins. Taking oneself too seriously can end in decorating ruin.

How to break this habit? Lighten up. Take my advice: A house is not a home without a spot of leopard!

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