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7 deadly sins of design

  • Story Highlights
  • Several common home design mistakes
  • Making family pictures focus of formal living room
  • Displaying all the family treasures at once
  • Not updating silk flower arrangements for years or decades
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(MyHomeIdeas) -- You've bought every design magazine at the newsstand, carefully studied what was "in" and what was "out," and spent too much money on new curtains. And you still hate your living room. You're not alone.

But you can significantly improve the look of a room just by eliminating some common decorating mistakes (and you won't have to spend a fortune doing it). Read on, we'll explain the seven sins and share virtuous examples of successful design.

1. High art

We're not talking about art that is unusually thought-provoking. We mean art that's literally floating out in that void somewhere high above the sofa. Art should relate to the furniture below it. A rule of thumb is to separate artwork and furniture by no more than 10 inches. MyHomeIdeas: Hang art like a pro

2. Matchy-matchy décor

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Designer Victoria Neale chose a yellow and orange palette, rather than matching pieces.

When everything matches, the room becomes so safe that it's boring. Buying a suite of furniture of the same design went out decades ago. And although fabric and wallpaper manufacturers offer coordinated patterns to simplify design for the do-it-yourselfer, you should use those coordinates as a background for something old, something personal, something that makes the room your own. MyHomeIdeas: Wake up tired furniture

3. Armchair covers

Armchair covers are dinosaurs. They're akin to leaving cellophane on lampshades. Today, fabrics can be treated for durability and stain resistance. Whip the covers off and take them along to remind you of the color and pattern when shopping for other fabrics and accessories for the room. And don't dare put them back when you're done.

MyHomeIdeas: Try these no-fail color combos

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4. Wimpy houseplants

Sure it's fine to show off your green thumb inside the house. Just don't scatter too many small houseplants around the room. They'll have much more effect if you bank three to five small plants together. Or, buy one large-scale plant that makes a bold statement (and doesn't have to be watered as often).

5. Silk flowers

Silk flowers can surely be beautiful, but they may also become dust traps. And if the arrangement never changes, eventually you reach the point where you don't even see it anymore. Either update your silk designs regularly, or make simple, inexpensive arrangements with fresh flowers or greenery from the backyard.

6. Unedited accessories

We are all natural-born collectors. The trick is realizing that every object, gift, or family treasure need not be displayed at once. Take care of Aunt Martha's cranberry compote, but tuck it away until the next family gathering. Organize accessories by grouping collections together on a table or shelf. Use similar objects and colors together, and remember that odd numbers of items will look better to the eye.

7. Family on display

We may be treading on hallowed ground here, but the point is this: Contemporary paintings of the family can lend an imposing, elitist air to the room where you most often receive guests. Save portraits for the bedroom or spaces that are reserved for family. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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