The Most Common Interior Decorating Mistake {how to avoid it}



Warning: Some of you are going to be quite shocked when you find out what the most common interior decorating mistake is, because well… it’s sooooooo common and therefore, you’ve possibly done it. Hey, I’ve done it too, but I try not to.

Therefore, I’m going to just jump right in here and relieve your curiosity and then you can go home. That is; unless, you’d like to stay for dinner and find out what to do instead.

The Most Common Interior Decorating Mistake is— Choosing the Paint Color BEFORE

You Choose Anything Else


Oh geezzz Laurel. Tell us something we don’t already know.


Okay, you know this so why are you still doing it? Okay. Wait. I know, I know. I know because I’ve heard it all dozens of times.

  • we’re moving in a month and the house is all done in barfola Talbot’s taste [aka: lots of tackyyyyy floral wallpaper in hideous colors]


[oh gawd… is that mold growing on the far wall? This is an example of how to do EVERYTHING WRONG. Are you sure you want to buy this train-wreck, honey?]

  • We just bought a house, but I’m having a baby in 3 months and furniture [except for the nursery] is the last thing on my mind.
  • We can’t afford to buy any new furniture right now but the house really needs painting
  • I got a brochure at the paint store. Thanks, but we’re all set. :]

WAIT! No, you’re not! That’s largely marketing BS. You do know that right? I’ve picked up some of those brochures. Nice ideas and sometimes they’re okay, but check this out from one well-known paint company. [not Benjamin Moore]


Their claim is that you “simply can’t go wrong.” You can take any color in this palette and use it next to any other color in the palette.

Are they forking kidding me?


For some of us more gullible types. Jus’ cause somethin’ is in a glossy brochure and some idiot says it goes, don’t necessarily mean that it’s so!

But… getting back to your dilemma. Hey, I do hear you! You NEED to paint, but I don’t want you painting yourself into a decorating corner. [i know] :]

I’m presuming that all of your furniture got destroyed in a [fill in the blank]. You are starting from scratch, but not right now. You have nothing, but all you know is that ya gotta paint!

So, here’s what you do to avoid this common interior decorating mistake.


  • start collecting images on pinterest for your dream house and put them on one board. Don’t think too much about this. And only pin what you LOVE!
  • look at fine art for inspiration. Here are some posts to help with that, here here and here.
  • look at the clothes you wear

Here is where you will begin to see a color palette.

hot tip.

One color or family of colors will be your “lead color.”


This is the color that ties all of the rooms together because it is in every room. It might be something small, like a vase, but in every room, lives some of this color.

  • The next part is the most difficult. You need to plan out your room. Now, this isn’t written in stone, but do you like a lot of painted furniture? the greige look? mahogany?
  • If you like a lot dark wood, you can’t wimp out and paint everything white. You need some hunkier colors.
  • Go to a store and select a few fabrics that work in your scheme.

You can go anywhere that sells fabrics. Usually, they’ll snip you a cutting to take home.

Now, you at least have enough to go to the paint store to take out some paint samples to make some more informed selections.

Your wall color needs to coordinate with your LEAD COLOR.

If it does, it’s going to go with all the other colors in your palette as well. Please note, the word is coordinate, not match.

How do I know if it coordinates, Laurel?

hmmm.. you do get up and dress yourself, right? ;]

Folks, this isn’t brain surgery! If you like it together, IT GOES!


An exquisitely designed room by Leta Austin Foster

Here’s a helpful post which explains the process of choosing a paint color.


Keep your large rooms more pale. Small rooms can go deeper. Stick to one trim color. You can look here for my list of the 20 great shades of white.

Look here for a no fail paint palette. and here too.

This post also has a lot of great neutral colors.

And if you’re a fan of light gray colors, click here.




5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Lauren - December 18, 2015 - 5:59 AM

    Feathers and tropical fish provid excellent color pallets. For example, Google “blue jay feather”. In the images that appear, you’ll see drool-worthy shades of a teal/cobalt blue, navy/black, grayish brown, and white. Just imagine those same colors in a powder room of a beach bungalow…oh my!!! Lowes and Home Depot can color match paint to a printout of the feather/fish. You just need to let them know which part of the image you want to use as your paint color. I’ve done this at both venues, and both provided me with paint that perfectly matched the source.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 18, 2015 - 9:44 PM

      Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for stopping by. That all sounds very interesting!ReplyCancel

  • Annie Dole - March 28, 2015 - 2:12 PM

    great post. i will add (unless you mentioned it and i didnt see it) a great tip is to look at a color card or deck and the color gradients that go darker and see if you still like it. I can avoid buying samples (which i dont think do justice to the paint).ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 29, 2015 - 3:04 PM

      Hi Annie, I agree with that most of the time. However, my Ancestral (Pratt and Lambert) that I had in my living room didn’t follow that rule. The colors below it were as green as could be. But I lived with that color for a very long time and in no way did it even look remotely green.ReplyCancel

  • Eileen Lonergan - October 2, 2014 - 5:50 AM

    My advice is to not pick on your own unless you are letting your children choose for their bedrooms. A pro (you) sees and knows things us regular Jane’s just don’t, such as light. You know how the color will look in the morning in July vs. an afternoon in December and can guide the shade choice. Yes, we need to tell you were we fall on the color wheel, but I am all for getting you to guide the final choice.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 2, 2014 - 2:59 PM

      haha! Thanks Eileen! Color can be quite weird, even for the most experienced of us. I’ve had situations where because of the light, the SAME color not only looked like two completely different colors, but clashed with itself! Yes, bizarre! I’ve also seen colors which shifted their undertones within the hour! There is a well-known color guru who says that it’s all about the undertones. I say that yes, that’s important, but the lighting, even more-so! And sometimes, we just can’t control things and that’s life. It sure ain’t perfect, is it? However, while I think it’s fine to let a child “choose” their color, 9 times out of 10, we need to tweak that color because what looks good to them, might be a horror show when it’s on the wall. Some colors need to come with a warning and a disclaimer! LOL!!!ReplyCancel

      • 3chimps - October 25, 2016 - 5:24 PM

        I NEVER let the child pick the actual color. Do they want turquiose, great, blue, super, yellow, okay. But then I choose about 5 acceptable paints and they can decide from those. Then we are both happy.
        It’s too hard to “let” them decide and then try to talk them into something else.

        In the worst case, I’ll paint one wall their color.ReplyCancel