5 Common Mistakes You're Making In Your Living Room, And How To Avoid Them!

If you’ve been looking at your living room thinking something’s not quite right, it might be because you’re falling for one of these common styling mistakes.

Here, interior designer Lauren Li of Sisalla gives us the 101 on living room styling, and clears up a few simple misconceptions. We’re taking notes!

Lauren Li

The Fremantle home of Poppy Lissiman and Harrison Kennedy. Linen curtains from House of Stuart. Peach linen couch from MCM House. Butter yellow armchairs bought off Facebook Marketplace. Crochet throw by PlytoMine. Custom-made burl plinth. Vintage woven lamp. Artwork above the fireplace by John Prince Siddon from Mangkaja Arts. Photo– Jack Lovel. Stylist – Amy Collins-Walker

Lauren Li
2nd of February 2024

Perhaps you’ve meticulously curated what seems like the ‘right’ elements; you’ve splashed out on that new comfy sofa; you agonised over choosing the coffee table; and you searched for ages until you found that perfect armchair. Yet, despite these acquisitions, the room just doesn’t come together.

As an interior designer, I often see clients struggle with how to pull together their spaces.

Below are some of the most common slip-ups I see, and it’s my hope that this advice may give you the burst of inspiration you need, to make your living room extra special!

‘Epic’ rug in camel from Hali Rugs. Coffee table by Softer StudioWoodcut ‘Voss’ colour flooring. Boucle ‘Joy’ armchair by Jardan. Wiggle Chair by Frank Gehry. Pendant light by Daniel Emma. Curtains from DIY Blinds. Vintage sofa sourced from En Gold. Home of Josh and Jenna Densten. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Jardan Wilfred ArmchairGlobeWest side table and coffee table. Jardan Stevie Rug. Curtains in Warwick Fabrics Calais Snow via Superb Window Furnishings. Home of Penny Basset and Shane Cracknell. Photo – Eve Wilson. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli.

Mistake #1: Prioritising function (for everything!)

Not all chairs are designed with the sole purpose for epic lounging, and that is ok.

We can recognise that furniture doesn’t always have to be solely utilitarian. Striking a balance between function and form is an art, and it’s perfectly okay to let your heart guide your choices, including prioritising aesthetics over pure functionality at times.

Of course, a chair still needs to be functional, but not every armchair needs to be ‘Succession binge worthy’. A gorgeous sculptural armchair is perfect for sitting on when chatting with friends, and don’t underestimate the joy it brings just to simply see it in the space.

Jardan Milo sofa. Nemo Lampe De Marseille sculptural wall light. &Tradition Flowerpot V9 lamp. Clae Studio ceramic. Steel trims in Dulux Cuddlepot Half. Photo by and home of – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli and Sarah Hendriks

Jardan Milo sofa. Nemo Lampe De Marseille sculptural wall light. &Tradition Flowerpot V9 lamp. Clae Studio ceramic. Steel trims in Dulux Cuddlepot Half. Photo by and home of – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli and Sarah Hendriks

CCSS lamp. Custom made burl table by BricolageMaker & Son sofa. Baxter side table. B&B Italia Camaleonda Sofa from Space. Home of Aleksandra Harsic and Jamie McHutchison. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Mistake #2: Choosing small furniture

This is a really easy mistake to make. Whilst we think choosing small furniture for a small living room will make the space feel bigger, in fact the opposite is true.

When furniture is too small for a room, the space can feel poky, cluttered and even a bit chaotic.

For instance, a two-seater sofa and a pair of petite armchairs can look fragmented and ‘bitsy’. Instead, swap that out for a generous three-seater sofa and a cosy armchair. Voila! The larger furniture pieces actually make the room feel more expansive.

The same goes for small rugs. We need the rug to anchor the whole room. That means that most of the furniture needs to sit on top of it, not just the coffee table.

Make sure that at least the front legs of the sofa sit on the rug as well as armchairs and side tables. It’s incredible what an impact the correct sized floor rug can make in a space — if in doubt, go big or go home!

Vintage Italian travertine coffee table. Objects on the coffee table: Green Alvar Aalto Vase from IittalaRolled Rim Bowl in Caramel by Softedge Studio. Ceramic vessel from McMullin & CoMuse sofa from Sarah Ellison. Framed beaded artwork is ‘Test for Red Flag’ by Camille Laddawan. Vintage Kartell Componibili Unit. Checkered Bamboo silk rug from Zouzou Rugs. Framed photograph of surfer by Katrina Parker. Vintage Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair. Picasso Lamp Square and Picasso Lamp Circle by Neighbourhood Studio. Brass candle blocks by Corbet. Vintage vase. Home of Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Jute rug custom made by Olli Ella. Custom made sofas designed by homeowner Chloe Brookman. Burl coffee table by Condo Objects. Reupholstered vintage sheepskin chair. Walls painted in Dulux Casper White Quarter. Feature wall painted in Dulux Moorland. Home of Chloe Brookman and Charlie Wheeler. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Mistake #3: Buying everything new

Sometimes when a room just isn’t coming together and there’s no atmosphere, it’s because everything is too new. A living room needs a splash of old school to give it soul — extra points for something a bit weird too.

Find a piece that’s one of a kind. It could be vintage furniture such as a tidy Danish teak cabinet, a ceramic lamp, an interesting coat stand or a wildly impractical yet spectacular Italian armchair. Your room will instantly feel more lived-in and loved.

Looking down to the living room from the mezzanine. Anfibio from Supellex sofa. Swedish bamboo armchairs from Angelucci. Rug bought from Joels Auctions. Mirror by Sarah Shinners. Home of Sarah Conly. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Annie Portelli

Sofa from Fred International. Vintage armchair from Colecta Rara. Rug from Armadillo. Coffee table from Gumtree. Vintage two-seat sofa from Ebay. Floor Lamp from Breen Interiors. Console from Trit House. Art by Paige NorthwoodBlacklistInes LongevialJai VasicekCuratorial & Co. Home of Kerrie-Ann Jones. Photo – Alicia Taylor. Styling – Kerrie-Ann Jones.

Mistake #4: Opting for matching furniture

It might be easier to buy a full set of matching sofas and armchairs, but this doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice.

Mix it up! Your living room furniture should feel coordinated instead of matching. For example, combine a leather sofa with fabric armchairs; and pair a bouclé couch with a timber occasional chair. The key is varying the textures and forms in a space.

‘More lamps because I’m an addict and will refuse for a downlight to ever be switched on,’ admits Frances. Sofa from Dwell. Shelf by Nicole Lawrence. White Vase by Dinosaur Designs. Lamp from Isamu Noguchi. Small white bowl from Boom Gallery. Incense holder from Shifting Worlds. Home of Lauren Everett and Frances Normoyle. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Mistake #5: Living with the downlights on

Downlights everywhere? Total living room faux pas, ask any interior designer and they would agree. Downlights light up the floor — something no-one truly wants — plus, they cast an unflattering shadow over the face.

I strongly encourage you to layer your living room lighting with lamps; floor lamps, table lamps and even pendant lights — they will change your life.

Try adding a lamp either side of the sofa; a floor lamp for reading a book and a table lamp for ambience.

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