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Avoid Decorating Faux Pas by Featuring Your Space Properly

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By Mary Madden

RISMEDIA, September 25, 2010—(MCT)—One of the mysteries of space—we’re talking real-world living space, not the cosmos—is that perfectly sound logic often leads to an illogical aesthetic. We all occasionally make cringe-worthy decorating mistakes. If you are in the process of decorating your newly-purchased home or ready for a redecoration, there are three common design mistakes involving scale, balance and proportion that you should avoid. Fortunately, they have quick and easy fixes.

Draperies flush to windows
Hanging draperies flush with the top of the window seems logical, but the effect is that it gives the appearance of shortening the window and lowering the ceiling. Just as a well-tailored pair of slacks can give your legs a longer, leaner look, draperies hung closer to the ceiling can add height to your room.

Just like those slacks, draperies should be long enough to brush the floor—an inch longer if you prefer a slightly more relaxed look.

Hanging draperies flush with the sides of the windows is similarly limiting. By extending the rod past the window, you allow the drapery panel to cover more wall than window. This creates a widening effect to the room while allowing for more natural light.

Even if you are like most homeowners, who will seldom, if ever, close the drapery, be sure to purchase enough fabric to make the panels at least appear to be full enough. It’s important that the side panels are in proportion to the width of the window.

It is always best to have lined draperies, unless you’re going for a sheer look. Lining gives the drapery more volume and a more custom, finished look.

Floating artwork
Although it seems to make sense to center artwork on the wall, pieces hung too high are difficult to view and make a room look off balance.

Artwork placed at eye level (generally 50 to 57 inches above the floor) creates a more pleasing balance. It serves as a visual anchor for other objects along the same wall, giving the whole area a cohesive look.

Artwork, unless it is a commanding piece that deserves exclusive space, looks best with a foundation beneath it. The foundation can be a sofa, sideboard, chair or mantel. In general, 6 inches from the top of a surface is a good place to start.

In a room with a soaring ceiling, artwork may need to be up to one foot above the back of a sofa to maintain proper balance in the room.

In one of those great little areas where you sit to read, for example, a piece can be tucked into a spot much lower than you would consider your eye level. Remember to consider whether you’re walking through the room or sitting in the room when determining eye level.

The scale of the artwork should also be considered. For example, a postage stamp in the middle of a large wall creates visual disharmony. It is better to incorporate smaller pieces into a grouping, and treat the grouping as a single piece of art.

Undersized rug
Never underestimate the power of a rug—and remember that size matters. A rug offers practical, as well as decorative, possibilities. Your rug creates the footprint and defines the living space for an entire room, so avoid the common mistake of choosing an undersized one.

A room-size rug should allow for a maximum of 10 to 18 inches of floor space from the edge of the rug to each wall or to the end of the room’s area. Smaller rugs placed beneath furniture, such as coffee tables, should be large enough to allow gracious space extending out beneath at least the front legs of all furniture in the grouping.

For a rug beneath a dining table, make sure it is large enough to extend at least two feet past the table on all sides so that the chairs stay on the rug when diners pull away from the table. For example, you would need a rug of at least 8 by 10 feet for a 4-by-6-foot dining table.

(c) 2010, The Kansas City Star.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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