5 things people get wrong when styling their home

Size really does matter when it comes to interior design, says The Block judge Darren Palmer. Here’s what not to do when you’re sprucing up your home.

In the 10 years Darren Palmer has worked as one of Australia’s leading designers – as well as judging rooms on TV juggernaut The Block – he has watched people make the same interior design mistakes time and time again.

Most of them can be easily fixed with a tape-measure and some forward planning.

Here are Darren’s quick fixes for some of the most common interior style mistakes:

Problem: Choosing rugs that are too small

Solution: Darren says a general rule of thumb for rugs is that, at its smallest, it should fit all the feet of any chairs or sofas on it. Don’t be afraid to go big.

If you leave around 300-400mm of clear space around the edge of the room to see flooring, then you are on the path to design success.

Problem: Furniture that’s the wrong size

Solution: Just as Goldilocks discovered when she visited the home of the three bears, furniture needs to be just right.

Although in this case, Darren isn’t so much concerned about whether the chairs or beds are too hard or soft as much as whether they are the right size for the room. “Just like Goldilocks’ porridge, if it’s too big or too small it’s not right,” he says.

“Plan your rooms with a to-scale floor plan and drop the furniture in place to make sure it fits well and allows enough space to move around the room, both physically and visually.”

Problem: Art that’s the wrong scale

Solution: Darren’s most treasured possession is a painting by Neil Frazer that was given to him for his 40th birthday.

He has been an admirer of the artist’s work ever since he used some in a project for TV star Jennifer Hawkins.

From landscapes to abstract pieces, Darren says people’s tastes understandably vary widely when it comes to the artwork they choose.

On that front, there is no right or wrong choice, he says.

“Art is subjective so whatever you like is the right art for you, but make sure you choose and place art at an appropriate size for its room and walls.

“Use one large piece as a focal point, or group many smaller pieces together for impact, keeping smaller sized artworks for narrow sections of wall or as part of neat vignettes.”

Problem: Low-impact lighting

Solution: Darren isn’t afraid to live in the shadows. He says dotting lights across the entire ceiling, so there’s no opportunity for casting shapes on walls or allowing contrast between light and shade, is a common error.

“So too is not spotlighting features such as art or sculptural pieces,” he says. “Highlighting architectural details is just as important as drawing your attention away from design drawbacks, and you need to include different heights and levels of light within a room by using dimmers, floor lamps and table lamps for ambience.”

Problem: Unfinished rooms

Solution: A couch and a coffee table does not a finished room make, says Darren.

It’s the layers and details that make a home look lived-in and considered, he says. Side tables with lamps, console tables with styling vignettes, decor and soft furnishings all add up to tell the story of your own personal style and personal taste.

Written by Siobhan Duck.