same-size throw pillows

The Same-Size Throw Pillows

Have you ever come home after confidently picking out a clutch of new decorative pillows for your couch only to realize that something looks wrong about the combo? Remember the rule of three—which basically means that items arranged in groups of three appear more visually beautiful and compelling. Each pillow should be a slightly different size. I typically go for one 20-inch square, one 16- to 18-inch square and then a lumbar pillow to keep it visually interesting. Just as you wouldn't want to dress your body with three outlandish patterns, so it goes with the pillows on your couch. Try to keep one a solid, one a smaller pattern and the third can be either a neutral pattern, like a stripe, or a tonal texture.

Designed by Brady Tolbert for Emily Henderson, Photography by Jess Isaac
furniture against the wall

Furniture Against the Walls

No matter how big or small your space is, your furniture should always have some room to breathe. No one likes a wallflower at a party, who quietly sips their drink in the corner of the room, and the same is true for your furniture. Pull those wallflowers off the wall and get them into the party (or, into the room in this case). That means your couch should be 2 to 3 inches off the wall, and your arm or accent chairs should be arranged to your couch rather than loitering against the walls. Giving everything a little more space and pushing it into the room will help create a more conversational and less static feel.

Designed by Alexander Design
curtains hung just off

Curtains Hung Just Off

We all know if curtains are hung too low they make your windows look visually smaller and block out some of the natural light. And although hanging them at the ceiling may seem like the solution, for better placement, split the distance between the top of the window frame and the ceiling line into thirds and hang the rod in the top third. You will also want the rod to continue 6 to 8 inches beyond your window on either side, so that when your curtains are pulled back, the window appears larger and the curtains don't block the windows.

Designed by Alexander Design, Photography by Tessa Neustadt
particular size rug

This Particular Size Rug

Everyone thinks they can get away with an 8x10 in their living room, as that size rug is so readily available from retailers, but unless you have a smaller-scale living room or live in a less-than-huge studio apartment, your living room will likely need a 9x12. If you are unsure, do yourself a favor before you head out shopping and measure the area of your room where the furniture will be. Your rug should be at least 3 feet wider than your sofa length, and the front legs of your furniture should comfortably fit onto the rug without it all feeling too cramped.

Designed by Emily Henderson, Photography by Tessa Neustadt
misplaced art

Misplaced Art

Art is tricky and very subjective, but no matter what you put on your walls, it is better to go bigger and to always hang at eye level. That means if your wall was split up into quadrants from floor to ceiling, you would hang the center of the piece in the third quadrant. If you have a large wall, then consider hanging a few different pieces or a gallery wall to fill the space and engage as much of the wall as possible.

Designed by Brady Tolbert, Photography by Tessa Neustadt
not so luminous lighting

Not-So-Luminous Lighting

When it comes to lighting, there are a few different types: diffused (fabric shade), directional (metal shade or spotlight) and accent (decorative). All too often, people buy based purely on looks vs. function. For example, you found the perfect sculptural sconce with a metal shade but end up disappointed when the metal shade casts a heavy spotlight directly below rather than an ambient glow in that part of the room. To combat this, remember that the majority of your lighting should cast a diffused glow, and that you can accent with directional and decorative lighting. Another common mistake—only having overhead lighting—is equally challenging. As the sun sets, it will cast a very unflattering light on both you and the room. When selecting lighting, bring all three types in to illuminate from different levels.

Designed by Alexander Design, Photography by Tessa Neustadt
impulse furniture purchases

Impulse Furniture Purchases

There is nothing worse than buying a couch in the showroom, having it shipped to your house and then finding out it is the wrong scale to make the best use of your space. To avoid this, measure not just the room but also the space where most of the furniture will go—especially the big pieces, like sofas, dressers and dining tables. Showrooms tend to make everything look slightly smaller than it is in reality because of the large spaces, the ample amount of light and the tall ceilings. So, although a few inches doesn't seem like it will make a big difference in purchasing the right sofa, it can when the piece doesn't quite fit with the wall space that you have.

Designed by Brady Tolbert, Photography by Zeke Ruelas

Brady Tolbert is the editorial director at Emily Henderson Design. You can follow along with him at and on Instagram at @bradytolbert.