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4 Living Room Design Mistakes You Might Be Making

Are you inadvertently botching the most visible room in your home? Be sure to leave plenty of space between you and these all-too-common design pitfalls. For more great living-room ideas, pick up a copy of "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook."

Photography by: Matthew Williams

You’re all about the border. It’s true that proper clearances will ensure the room functions comfortably -- a good rule of thumb is to allow 36 inches for traffic lanes in busy areas and a 14- to 18-inch gap between the sofa and coffee table. But don’t mistake wide-open space with smart design. Pulling furniture away from walls and toward the center of the room will make the space seem more cozy and inviting.

Your lighting options are "on" and "off." The lighting from fixtures and lamps should be flexible to accommodate all the activities for which you want to use the space. You cannot read or play board games in a warm, dim glow that might be just right for after-dinner conversation, nor can you watch a late-night movie with the lighting that will work for game night. Adaptable lighting will go a long way to make the room welcoming for any number of uses.

You’re unknowingly bleaching your stuff. Consider the room’s natural light when positioning the furniture, books, and electronic equipment. The fabric on upholstered furniture will fade with exposure to direct sunlight, as will any artwork not covered by UV-filtering acrylic glass. Similarly, books and DVDs should be stored out of direct sunlight, or protected from it with window treatments that can block out light when necessary. Balance the welcoming brightness of a sunny room with what your equipment needs to stay in top working condition, even if it means doing a little rearranging to keep the sun away from things it will harm over time.

You’re decorating for company, not for yourself. Living rooms aren’t just for entertaining. These are the rooms where families play games, read, do homework, and watch movies and television. If your living room serves multiple functions, keep this in mind while decorating -- allow space to stretch out in front of the television, but consider housing it in an attractive armoire so it’s not always in view.


Here's a fun just-for-you project to try in your own home: