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8 Decorating Mistakes That Make Your Home Look Messy

Updated: Jul. 21, 2021

How to use the rule of three and finally get your wall art to hang straight.

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Your wall art looks haphazard

A randomly placed or poorly sized piece of artwork can make an entire room look chaotic. “It’s important to pick pieces that are to scale with the wall that you’re putting them on,” says Marissa Sauer, interior designer and founder of Design MACS. “A piece that is too small could look a bit random. And a piece that’s too big can make the room look small and cluttered.” Sauer recommends that each piece of artwork relate spatially to something else in the room. For example, if you have a five-foot sofa, choose a four-foot painting. “The art has got to connect to something,” she says. Check out these room design tricks interior decorators always use.

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iStock/Frank Short

You chose high-maintenance furniture

If spraying down every surface in your home is the last thing on your do-to list, steer clear of high-maintenance pieces. Dust will be more apparent on dark-stained wood furniture and fingerprints will show up quickly on glass and mirrors. Be mindful of the pieces in your home that get messiest the fastest, and clean them first.

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iStock/Ivan Stevanovic

Your walls look dated

With current color trends leaning toward light and airy looks, duller colors with brown undertones could feel dated and dirty. “It’s not that they’re bad,” says Sauer, “it just feels a bit dated. And people often connect things that are older with things that are messier.”

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Your picture frames are misaligned

To organize multiple pieces of art in a row or gallery-type display, Sauer recommends some forward planning. Her trick is to roll a large sheet of paper to the size of the space she’d like to fill with art. She places the sheet on the floor and shifts around her picture frames until she finds a setup she likes (she recommends keeping around one and two inches between smaller frames, and two or three inches between larger ones). Sauer then traces each frame and marks where each nail needs to go to hang them. She then tapes the sheet of paper to the wall, puts all the nails in where the dots are, and tears the paper down. Hang the frames and your gallery is complete. Got a few frames that just won’t stay straight? “Put a small piece of Velcro or a command strip onto the bottom of the frame so it doesn’t tilt sideways,” Sauer says.

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You forgot to consider exposed cords

Nothing says chaos like a bunch of exposed cords and power strips. Identify all of your home’s problem spots and look into creative ways to conceal the mess. For example, your computer’s power strip can be hung in a basket underneath the desk. Other strips can be hidden inside drawers and behind decorations.

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You over-accessorized

When styling objects on tables and shelves, keep everything grouped in threes (or other odd numbers like five and seven) and make sure there’s a clear focal point and lots of white space, advises Sauer. To keep things interesting, group objects of varying heights, and if your table is a square, position them on a 45-degree angle.

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Your rug is the wrong size

To pull your living space together and make it look like one unit—as opposed to randomly placed furniture—make sure the front feet of each piece in your seating area is on top of the rug.

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Your sofa and pillows look flat

A wrinkled slipcover and deformed throw pillows can make any setup look messy. Fluff everything up and make sure your upholstery is in top shape.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest