Costal Modern Whale Bone

Photo: Noah Webb

Mistake #1: Bringing the Caribbean to Canton
"Some people, who return from traveling in Italy or the Caribbean, get inspired by the exotic locales and want to design a room based around where they've just been. I always remind them to maintain a sense of place—to respect where their home is actually located. The light and landscape is different, and so a tropical look won't translate unless you live in a similar climate. Instead, take what you love about the setting and incorporate into your home. Keep your palette simple and use accessories that hint at the environment you love."—Tim Clarke, author of Coastal Modern: Sophisticated Homes Inspired by the Ocean (Potter)

Left:The whale bone over the mantel and the bleached coral on the coffee table give a slight nod to the sea without making the room feel like a beach cottage.
Janet Lee Living in a Nutshell

Photo: Aimee Herring

Mistake #2: Hanging Art at Altitude
"I often see homes where the art is hung too high. People want to see your art at their eye level; they don't want to have to crane their necks to see it."—Janet Lee, author of Living in a Nutshell: Posh and Portable Decorating Ideas for Small Spaces (Harper Design)

Left: Eye-catching art is hung at eye level.
Brown couch

Photo: Eric Piasecki

Mistake #3: Decorating for the Life You Wish You Had
"When designing a room, you need to be honest with yourself about your lifestyle and what will happen in it. Does your family eat in front of the TV often? Make sure your sofa has washable fabric on the cushions. Do you have young children? Don't set yourself up to fail (read: no all-white décor). Instead, find a fabric in a fun print that will disguise any stains."—Phoebe Howard, author of The Joy of Decorating: Southern Style with Mrs. Howard (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

Left: A sofa covered in brown velvet is practically indestructible and hides almost any stain—a smart choice for a family room.
pink and white rug

Photo: Aimee Herring

Mistake #4: Putting Your Back Against the Wall
"Many people think that to maximize the space in their rooms, they need to push all furniture against the walls. Don't do this! When the furniture, especially the sofa, is along the edges of a room, with a small 'floating' rug in the middle, it actually makes the space seem smaller. Instead, use this visual trick: If the rug's edges are hidden, the room seems bigger than it actually is. The rug should be under most of the furniture."—Janet Lee

Left: The sofa’s front legs are just over the edge of the graphic rug, and the green chair isn't smashed against a wall—perfect harmony in the space!

Photo: Roger Davies

Mistake #5: Sticking to One Theme, Full-Throttle
"When people follow one trend and take it all the way to the hilt, it feels like an overdose. Whether it's English or French country or ultramodern, too much of one thing can feel like you've stepped back in time—or worse, into a furniture showroom."—Phoebe Howard

Left: This entrance hall incorporates an Italian daybed, a Dutch mirror, a Persian rug and a Venetian chandelier, all from different time periods.

Next: 5 small ways to give your bedroom a big boost