One of the most satisfying parts of buying a home is filling it with brand-new furniture. But before you plunk down your credit card on that red leather couch or Eames-knockoff coffee table, listen up: Interior designers would like to sit you down and share some items they really, really wish you wouldn’t get.
Why? Because these professionals see, client after client, home after home, what works and what doesn’t. And, rather than silently cringe at seeing yet another horribly furnished space, they want to clear the air by revealing certain furnishings they absolutely hate—and explain why you’ll end up regretting them, too.
We’re focusing first on the living room, the site of many traditional furniture-buying blunders. Behold seven purchases to avoid if you know what’s good for you.
1. Excessively formal furniture
When it comes to furnishing your living room, consider how you actually live every day.
“The formal living room is a dying breed, along with all of the furniture that goes with it—nobody entertains this way anymore,” reports Carole Marcotte, an interior designer with Form & Function in Raleigh, NC.
Stiff couches, a chandelier, and pillows piled “just so” are simply too precious for modern families. And even if it all works right now, you’ll want to think about how this style will age along with your family. When kids come along or you add a pet or three, you may regret a too-formal choice.
2. Overstuffed chairs
Home design experts are very clear when it comes to these puffy pieces, especially those with built-in cup holders.
“I get that lounge chairs are comfortable, but they’re truly the elephant in the room,” explains Karen Gray-Plaisted, a home staging and decor pro with Design Solutions KGP.
And very often, huge recliners won’t fit in the space you have. Measuring is critical, she says.
“Sketch the sizes on graph paper and then take them to the showroom staff for help with layout and proportion,” she suggests.
Or just skip these monstrosities entirely.
3. Outdated drapes
There’s fancy—and then there’s fusty. If your drapes remind you of your mother-in-law, it’s time to switch them out.
“Long, heavy drapes or inner coverings made of lace are done,” points out Gray-Plaisted. Instead, pick a lighter, modern design. “Side panel curtains with beautiful hardware hung above the window allows in light and highlights the architectural detail of the windows.”
4. Matched sets
Snooze. Just because the store features matching sofa, chair, and ottoman sets doesn’t mean you have to buy the entire package, explains Bee Heinemann, an interior designer with Vant Wall Panels.
When decor pros see this arrangement, they’re faced with making it more interesting, says Marcotte.
“It’s like walking into a sea of wood, which could have looked better with a mix of texture and color if the pieces had been chosen separately,” she explains.
The fix: Buy a few pieces from one set and then integrate other styles.
“Start by removing the love seat and replacing it with two chairs from another collection,” Heinemann suggests.
5. ‘Trendy’ furniture
Beware of trendy looks—like, say, this U-shaped couch above—which can quickly look dated. They might also sacrifice functionality.
“U-shaped sectionals with an ottoman in the middle are difficult to navigate in and out of, even though they seat a lot of people,” explains Jenny Gericke, an interior designer with Gather and Home Design.
They’re not necessarily a piece of cake to optimally place in a room, either. Add floor poufs to this list of impractical living room buys.
“They’re trendy right now, but they’re too low to sit on,” says Gericke. If you must have them in the home, buy poufs to use as footrests or footstools, not seats.
6. Disposable furniture
Yup, we’re looking at you, futon. And, sadly, much of the furniture you’ll pick up at Ikea falls into this category as well. Cheap pieces that are poorly made or constructed from particle board will chip, fade, and then fall apart, costing you more money in the long run.
“Buying furniture you plan to replace every few years isn’t smart,” points out Sara Chiarilli, owner of the design firm Artful Conceptions in Tampa, FL.
Instead, buy high-quality, neutral pieces and add pops of color with pillows or others accents to keep costs down and the space looking new, she says.
7. Too-small rugs
Having a hard time choosing a rug for your living room? You’re not alone.
“Clients often underestimate rug size and there’s nothing worse than having furniture surround a dinky one,” laments Marcotte. You’ll end up with a too-small carpet floating in the middle the room.
“The pieces don’t need to sit completely on the rug—just aim for the front third or half of the chairs and couch to straddle it.”
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