I write about home decor for a living — 7 design tips I swear by

Living room
Living room (Image credit: Shutterstock)

As a Homes writer and interior design obsessive, I love nothing more than spending my downtime decorating or sprucing up our family home. And whether you live in a cozy apartment or palatial house, we all want to create our ideal abode. Trouble is, when you don’t know where to start, it all can all seem rather overwhelming. 

While pulling a room together may seem easy on Instagram or social media, there are some basic rules and tips I’ve learned over the years. These top tips will help you achieve the right balance of functionality yet still look stylish. What’s more, these clever design ideas will instantly transform your space, regardless of size, without having to spend a fortune on an expensive renovation!

So, if you want to upgrade your home and give it that instant ‘wow’ factor, these are the top decor tips I swear by. Plus, I'm obsessed with home makeover shows — and these are the 3 mistakes people always make

Alternatively, here are 5 easy ways to make your home feel warmer, according to interior experts.

1. Go big with mirrors  

Large mirror in bedroom

Large mirror in bedroom (Image credit: Shutterstock)

One of my favorite tricks is the power of mirrors. I absolutely love using mirrors in my home, and the bigger the better. Mirrors are a great way to reflect the natural light across the room,  make a small room look bigger, and feel airy and more open. For effective results, lean a large mirror against a wall opposite a window so the light will bounce off it. In small spaces, opt for mirrors that go from floor to ceiling to maximise the light. 

In addition, if you want to brighten a dark room, a mirrored wall will also do the trick. Wall-mounted mirrors work well to reflect light, give the illusion of a bigger space, and instantly make your room feel open and airy. More importantly, it will give your blank wall a stylish and contemporary makeover.  

While glass can often be problematic if you have children and pets running around, you can choose plexiglass acrylic mirror. Bendable acrylic wall mirrors much like this Shatterproof Wall Mirror ($29, Amazon), are designed to be safer and won’t get accidentally broken or damaged. 

Alternatively, if you don't have a mirror, any reflective surface such as stainless steel, glass and metallic accessories will do the job.

2. Buy the right-sized furniture for the space

Big sofa in small space

Big sofa in small space (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Have you ever bought something for your home, only to find out that it's way too big (or small) for the room? That's why it's important to always check the dimensions of furniture before buying, and find a style that’s in proportion to the room. So if your space is too compact for a conventional, rectangular dining table, a circular table will take up less room. 

Getting the proportion right can be tricky if you’re buying furniture/decor online, and the reality is far different from the pictures! You may find it helpful to use an AR app such as IKEA Place to get a better idea of how an item of furniture will fit into the space you have.

Another top tip is to elevate your furniture. Instead of heavy-set pieces of furniture, and cumbersome sofas — especially in compact rooms, choose sofas and armchairs with narrow arms, and raised on taller legs. The trick here is when you see more floor underneath, it will give the illusion of a bigger room, and allow natural light to flow better.

In fact, buying the wrong-sized furniture is one of the top decor mistakes that are making your home look smaller than it is.  

3. Make use of vertical space 

Bathroom items in storage boxes

Bathroom items in storage boxes (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Furniture doesn’t always have to be spread out. Another top tip is to utilize vertical space — especially if you lack floor space or have a compact room. Depending on how strong your walls are, you can easily wall mount floating wall shelves, vertical cabinets, or clever storage units to free up valuable floor space. 

For home offices, hanging smaller things on wall-mounted rails can be handy, as you’ll have more desk space making it less cluttered. And for small bathrooms, wall-mounted storage is one of the things organized people keep in their bathrooms. Just don’t forget to check what’s behind the wall before you start drilling holes everywhere! 

There are also plenty of stackable storage ideas to keep everything in order. For instance, if you want to keep children’s toys tidy, storage organizers like this Humble Crew Extra-Large Toy Organizer ($79, Amazon), will save you valuable space.  

4. Layer your fabrics 

Sofa with throws and cushions

Sofa with throws and cushions (Image credit: Shutterstock)

There’s nothing better than coming back to a warm and relaxing home to snuggle in. And layering up with chunky throws, soft blankets and plush cushions on sofas and beds work well to achieve that cozy factor. 

In addition, it’s good to mix-and-match the textures and color scheme so that everything doesn’t look the same. You want to create an inviting feeling that is also aesthetically pleasing. 

Interestingly, soft furnishings are one of the clever ways to reduce noise in your home. Plush furniture like an upholstered sofa, bench or even plump cushions work well to ‘soften’ an area — diffusing unwanted sounds. Thick rugs on hardwood floors can also help to block out some noise, and also prevents furniture from making much noise when it's moved around. So it’s a win-win! 

5. Conceal the clutter  

Storage stool and basket in living room

Storage stool and basket in living room (Image credit: Shutterstock)

When designing a space, we often forget about functionality, and practical storage solutions. To avoid cluttered spaces, conceal the clutter with multi-purpose furniture such as ottoman benches, blanket boxes or woven baskets. These are clever ways of hiding clutter, as well as doubling up as extra seating or a handy footstool for your guests. Plus, if you have cluttered shoes piling up by the front door, here's 7 space-saving ways to organize shoes in your entryway.

In addition, if you have unsightly cables or items lying around, there are plenty of creative ways to disguise ugly items in your home. These include things like cable management organizers or sleeves, soap dispensers, or attractive tissue box covers. 

And if you have one of the best TVs for family entertainment, cozy movie nights or a decent gaming session, check out these clever ways to decorate around a TV. 

6. Don’t overcrowd your walls 

Gallery wall in living room

Gallery wall in living room (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Whether it’s family photographs, abstract wall art, or stylish posters, pictures on the walls can add a personal touch. However, there is a danger of going overboard with the gallery wall — making your walls look like an eyesore. 

When learning ways to decorate a blank wall, it’s advisable to stick to the ‘odd number rule’ when displaying pictures. So rather than hanging in even numbers, stick to three or five on one wall, or even one large frame. This rule is considered to be more visually appealing, and looks less cluttered. If you want to hang two pictures side by side however, make sure the frames are identical, and hung at the same height. Although this should really be 57 inches, generally, pictures should be hung at eye-level. 

Secondly, if you just want to hang one large wall art, position it so that the center of the artwork is approximately 48-56 inches from the floor. However, if it’s positioned above a sofa or table, the bottom of the frame should begin at least 6-12 inches above the back of the sofa or tabletop.

Peacock chair in room

Peacock chair in room  (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you follow decor trends on social media or TV shows, it can be easy to get carried away with buying things on impulse. By definition, trends come and go, and just because everyone is doing wood panelling, doesn’t mean it will look good in your home! 

Define your personal style, and keep your interior scheme simple and classy. After all, less is more! It’s always best to stick to neutral styles, tones or accessories, and incorporate bursts of bold color in soft furnishings, accessories or even lush houseplants. This way, you can change it up whenever you feel like it, or style your home according to the changing seasons.

What’s more, splurging on the latest trends and new furnishings just for the sake of it can make your home look cheap, according to interior designers. 

More from Tom's Guide

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!