Seven interior design no-nos all decorators can agree on

A trawl through the vast archives of House & Garden's decorating advice reveals a few faux pas everyone agrees on, from the horror of recessed spotlights to the trials of too many cushions

Say no to feature walls

Wallpaper: it's for all the walls in a room, not just one, as Joanna Plant demonstrates at her London house

Owen Gale

“Don't decorate a feature wall. This is one of my least favourite trends, and I hope it will be behind us soon enough! If you want to try something bold, like a strong colour or interesting wallpaper, do the whole room!” - Brandon Schubert

“Never, ever have a 'feature wall' of some catchy paper or colour. They look idiotic and also ruin the sheltering feel of a space.” - Ashley Hicks

“Steer clear of feature walls. They never work. It's better to use pattern in an entire room and choose somewhere you spend little time in. I have a de Gournay wallpaper in my hallway and it's fantastic to walk through.” - Peter Mikic

Don't buy things that are too small for the scale of the room

A strong cushion to armchair size ratio at Rita Konig's Co. Durham farmhouse

Paul Massey

“There is nothing worse than mimsy furniture. If it goes through the door, it’s the right size. And think about verticality – a tall bookcase or a mirror which reaches up towards the ceiling will help to increase the feeling of height in a room. In a room with a low ceiling try to stretch the proportions upwards and avoid anything letterbox in shape.” - Joanna Plant

“Pictures should be big, or there should be lots of them. There's nothing worse than a painting the size of a postage stamp on a vast wall.” - Penny Morrison

“There is nothing worse than a rug the size of a bath mat floating about in a room.” - Rita Konig

“Cushions that are too small look mean – it is surprising, but chairs can take larger cushions than you might think. Don’t be afraid for them to take up the entire width of the back of a chair.” - Rita Konig

And speaking of cushions…

"There’s nothing worse than having to remove cushions from a bed or a sofa before you can sit down.” - William Smalley

“I particularly dislike those little bullets that are stacked three-deep on a sofa, leaving no room to sit, and the ones on a bed that have to be thrown on the floor before you climb in.” - Rita Konig

“So many cushions on a sofa that you can’t sit down doesn’t look inviting, it looks challenging.” - Olivia Outred

Recessed spotlights are not OK

A combination of pendants and brass spotlights in this Georgian-style house in rural Berkshire by Nicola Harding

Paul Massey

“Don’t use recessed ceiling lights unless absolutely necessary. No one needs a house that looks like an airport landing strip – mid-level lighting from wall lights and lamps is much more flattering and flexible in that you can place a lamp where you need the light most and a 5amp circuit so that they all turn on with one switch feels very grown up.” - Joanna Plant

“Don’t ever use recessed spotlights. There is no excuse for them. They have no aesthetic merit whatsoever and there are so many beautiful and affordable alternatives available.” - Buchanan Studio

“Mix up your lighting. Use lots of floor and table lamps, as well as decorative wall lights to brighten up the room. But steer clear of runway spots on the ceiling.” - Suzy Hoodless

“No one looks great under spotlights. Place lamps that give off a gold bounce near where people will be sitting to give their skin a warm glow in the evening.” - Peter Mikic

Avoid blah colours

Susan Deliss banishes the blah at a writer's flat in Edinburgh

Elsa Young

“Don't use grey. It’s so depressing to look at and sucks in the light and there are so many beautiful colours to choose from.” - Susan Deliss

“Don't focus on grey too much. Especially in the UK, which often has grey light, it's time to focus on something new.” - Michael S Smith

“Stay away from beige. Especially when it's a polished marble.” - Ben Pentreath

Don't put all your furniture against the walls

A well-arranged sitting room in an Arts & Crafts house by Brandon Schubert

Paul Massey

“It doesn't make a room feel larger to sit on the outside looking into an enormous space in the middle. I always try and start in the middle, rather than let the furniture sit on the outside. Bring it in so you can layer your furniture. One of the nicest things in a room is when you're sitting down, to see furniture beyond furniture, and that leads your eye; it makes a room feel much larger.” - Rita Konig

“Don't put all of your furniture around the edges of the room. I don’t know why people have a tendency to push their furniture out to the edges of the room. So the sofa will be against one wall, the tables against another, with a big empty space in the middle. A well-crafted interior should have a foreground, middle ground and background, just like a well-crafted painting. If you pull the furniture away from the wall, put something behind it and bring something else out in the centre of the room, things will instantly start to improve.” - Brandon Schubert

And finally… don't be a fashion victim

“Don’t be led by trends. Never follow fashion unless you know you will still like your choice when it is out of fashion.” - Edward Bulmer

“Don't slavishly follow trends, but use fashion as a starting point. On one project, we looked to Lanvin for inspiration. The result was an asymmetrical and voluminous set of curtains.” - Maddux Creative

“Don’t follow trends but invest in pieces whose provenance you subscribe to. Focus on quality, craftsmanship and integrity. Mix investment pieces with savvy second-hand finds to create an intoxicating atmosphere that feels as though it has evolved organically over time and as a result, stands the test of time.” - Nicola Harding