Room not feeling right? You’ve pulled a room together but somehow it isn’t quite working.
Updated: Jul 16
It can be really frustrating when you have spent your precious time and money on the decor for a room and it just doesn’t feel quite right. In my experience these are the top 5 reasons why and how to fix them.
1 The lighting is wrong
If the room jars especially in the evening you may have a lighting issue. Actually, this is my go to for making any room feel better. Artificial lighting is so important, especially in Northern Europe where there are often rooms you only use after dark for a large part of the year, and I can’t be the only one who puts on lights on a gloomy day…
My top tips for lighting a room sympathetically are:
1. Ditch the central overhead lighting, it is too flat and one dimensional.
You can keep an interesting pendant in the middle of the room if you like/need to (I have in my sitting room) but think of it as sculpture rather than a light and make sure it looks excellent when not switched on.
Ok, you’re allowed central overhead lighting in certain specific areas: bathroom, hall, dining table (although this should be low over the table), etc. BUT you also need to...
2. Add in multiple light sources to every room - yes even the bathroom and hall.
This creates multi-dimensional light, with soft pools and shadows that are flattering to both face and furnishings. Plus much more forgiving to the mess and paraphernalia of life. Unless you live in a pristine, minimalist space you’ll thank me for it. Actually, even pristine minimalism needs shade and light.
And while you are adding multiple light sources...
3. Put in at least 1 more lamp than you think you need - ok, not in the bathroom or hall, well you can but it isn’t mandatory.
It is the opposite of Coco Channel’s advice (to get ready and then take one thing off before you go out the door). More is more. It doesn’t need to be a big light, it can be just a small glow on a shelf or table. I love a little glow near a tv, it softens the box’s brightness. I have a little lava lamp on the floor by mine, you can’t really see the lamp as it is tucked behind a big plant but it emits a lovely ambient light.
Movement is good here too, so a small cluster of candles is also an option.
You can test this out without buying new lamps by bringing in lamps from other rooms to see the effect, try moving them about to see where needs the light and then you can by a lamp for that spot.
Next in the culprit list is...
2 The wall colour has the wrong base colour
If it is during the day that things feel most off then it could be the wall colour. Most colours have a base tint that affects the warmth/coolness of that colour, especially neutrals like grey. These need to work with both the light in the room and the other colours around it.
If you have a north facing room, where the light is cooler that will bring out the cool base out in your wall colour – that’s a key reason why a colour can look fabulous in a magazine photo or on your friend’s wall but feel wrong on yours. Equally light from the south will warm a colour up.
But just as important is the wall colour’s interaction with the other colours in the room, you might think you have grey walls and a grey sofa (hopefully with some splashes of colour in there too!) but if the walls are a warm grey and your sofa is a cool grey that will jar in your brain.
Before you go repainting the room though put up a throw/bedsheet etc in a new tone and see if that improves things when you face towards it in the room.
3 The scale of furnishings is off
Is your sofa massive and everything else around it small and delicate? Do you have a teeny rug and a big coffee table? You have a scale problem.
Rugs need to have at least the front feet of any sofas and chairs on them in each sitting area. Sofa’s ned to be in proportion with the space - remember 3 seaters rarely have 3 adults on them, so if you are seating adults you can put 2 on the sofa and others on chairs. A 2.5 seater or a fine boned/low 3 seater often fit the space better in our old Victorian housing stock sitting rooms.
While it is great to play with scale it is tricky to do, best to balance everything then deliberately introduce a surprising element like an oversized painting or miniature plant scene.
There is actually a formula for the size of you ceiling light fixture which can help get you started. You add the length and width of a room in ft and that equals the width in inches of your light fixture. So for example if your room was 15x10ft = 15inch ceiling light fixture. Even if you aren’t planning on having a ceiling light it can be a good place to start with the appropriate scale for the room.
4 The room isn’t balanced vertically
If there is nothing to draw the eye up the wall, all your furniture is below eye level that can really make a room feel heavy and listless. Art is a great way to draw the eye up, along with floorstanding lamps, tall bookcases and stand out window dressings. A note about art... if it is hung too high it also unbalances the room. Your eye level should hit the top third of the picture, remember in many rooms you'll actually be seeing it from a seated position. How high is your art?
5 Too matchy matchy/too neutral
If all your colours match too well, with either a single colour or range of neutrals (perhaps with a splash of accent colour) try throwing in an extra strong colour or some black.
The strong colour can be complimentary (that means opposite on the colour wheel) to the single splash colour you already have and should be repeated at least 3 times around the room so it looks deliberate, your unconscious brain will delight in the repetition and give you a warm feeling about the room.
Plus black, every room does well with a bit of black. It’s like visual punctuation, necessary for comprehension.
And a plant, always a plant.
Let me know if any of these resonate with you, will you give any a go?