15 Hideous Decorating Mistakes I Learned The Hard Way {part 1 fabric nightmares}


You open up your favorite magazine or blog.

Pretty soon you’re mopping up the puddle of drool on the floor. Every room is more gorgeous than the next.

You start fantasizing about what it would be like to create beautiful rooms like this— for a living.

Fast forward a little. You read a self-help book which tells you, if you can dream it, you can do it.

You fall for it.

You spend tens of thousands of dollars on an interior design education. You have a portfolio of beautiful projects. Time to get a resale certificate, become a sub chapter S corporation and open up for business.


There’s something you need to know before you jump in there. I really hope that this doesn’t sound condescending. Oh whatever. I need to be condescending.

Do you have any idea the deep doo-doo you’re about to step in?

Please look at me when I’m talking to you!

Thank you.

Now that I have your undivided attention, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Interior design schools do not prepare their students for real life interior design.

It’s all pretend and they gloss over what can go wrong; or omit it entirely.

Why? I guess they don’t want everyone dropping out. haha.

So, now what? Work for someone else. please. For as long as you can, but a minimum of two years.

Here’s why.

There is just too much that can go wrong and well, someone has to tell you!

Fortunately, not all of these things happened to me; just the ones with an. *

Those with *** took me years to recover from.

Please learn from my mistakes. Like I always say. “I’ve made plenty of mistakes; I just try not to make the same one twice!”


15 Decorating Mistakes That Can Occur With Fabric

Fabric. You need x amount. You order it.

What’s so difficult about that, Laurel?

  • Nothing, unless the fabric has been discontinued.
  • Or it’s on back order for six months and the entire room revolves around it. And there’s only one fabric in the entire universe that’s like that one.

But folks, that’s just the tip of the needle and thread.

  • Let’s say that you order one chair and then the client decides to get another identical chair–six months later, only the dye-lots don’t match.

Oops hope you got a CFA (Cutting For Approval) of the current dye-lot, assuming that there’s no stock left of the dye-lot you used previously


Here’s a good example. A fabulous job that I’ve been working on all winter has these two fabrics in one room. The large pieces are the original samples. The CFAs on the left, as you can see are different from their original sample; especially, the one on the bottom. In our case, it turned out to be a good thing. However, imagine that fabric on two identical in every other way chairs, right next to each other.

You get a panicked email from your client that the chairs don’t match. (you assure her that you’re on the task to correct this) You check on the fabric. Unfortunately, there’s no more stock left of the second fabric. And, there’s a back-order of the new stock.

Sucks, doesn’t it?

Now, your poor client will have to live with mismatched chairs for at least 4 months and YOU will have to pay for the 16 yards of fabric and the cost to have BOTH chairs, picked up reupholstered and delivered.

There goes the ski vacation.

This is why if you are doing multiples of anything, it is safest to order them all at the same time. And if  dye lots/color matching matters, you must get the CFA!

  • the draperies made of a $180 English hand-screened print for six windows (72 yards) were the right pattern. Wrong colorway.

Oh man, this did not happen to me but it’s a true story. TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLAR MISTAKE. Not only did they not get a CFA, they did not put a sample and a clear description on their work order.

This one is not really a mistake. It’s utter recklessness!

  • the upholstered furniture arrived only the fabric was put on inside out!*


Yes, this happened to me 12 years ago in a similar fabric. The fabric was sent to be knit-backed and the fabricators put the backing on the wrong side! Fortunately, it still looked just as nice. In fact, I liked it better and the client didn’t notice. Phew! Lesson learned! It could’ve been a disaster!

  • the fabric on the custom club chairs started unraveling only days after you received it*

interior design mistakes

That one was a real eye-opener. The fabric was a heavy-duty tapestry.

Yes, but it was also a REP WEAVE. The fabric above shows what a rep weave looks like. You see it a lot in placemats, but ours was finer. Here’s the deal. When it is cut on the diagonal for the bias welt, it starts unraveling like mad. Who knew?

I contacted Kravet and asked them why there wasn’t some information warning that this fabric required a backing for upholstery. Here’s what they said.

“Well, Ma’am we don’t know what you’re using the fabric for.”

Seriously? Like I was using it to make two dog beds or something?

I said. “I used it for upholstery for two chairs; is there a problem with that?”

After some cajoling, I got them to cover the cost of the 16 yards of fabric I needed to reorder. The cost of the reupholstery was mine. (I do not work with that upholsterer any longer. There are remedies he could’ve taken to see that the welting didn’t unravel, but at the time I didn’t know that either.)

This time I sent the fabric out to a place that does knit backing. My favorite is Schneider-Banks (SBI) in Texas.


Here’s what the knit backing looks like. It gets heat applied to the back of the fabric. All linens, chenilles and silks that are being used for upholstery, must have a backing on them. Sometimes the fabric already comes with a backing, but if not, please remember to send it out!

  • you forgot to check the pattern repeat and didn’t send enough fabric to the manufacturer. When you went to order more, it was on back-order for 5 months.

My old boss used to say all the time. “This business isn’t for the faint of heart.”

  • your workroom called you up because the French toile is only 36″ wide and you need to order another 8 yards of fabric that your client wasn’t expecting to have to pay for.*

98% of the time, designer fabrics are 54″ wide, or there abouts. I had never heard of 36″ wide fabric. But this was from France. Alas, I had to send the fabric and did not charge my clients for the additional yardage because they weren’t expecting it. It is my responsibility to know what I’m ordering. I just forgot to double-check that one. It had never come up before.

  • the silk on the living room chaise split open in only a few months

please see about knit backing above. Knit backing a fragile fabric makes it far more durable. I’ve done this many times with great success!


  • and it went from a rich indigo to some sort of weird wimpy lilac color

Blue is often a color that we call “fugitive.” That means when exposed to the sun, it fades and then transforms into some weird color and not evenly either!

  • the silk drapes started rotting away


Silk is a very beautiful fabric. For drapes it must always be lined and INTERLINED. No exceptions! However, if you have a strongly lit south-facing room, I would avoid silk altogether. As for the upholstery application. See above.

In addition, please see to it that your windows are UV protected. There is also a film that is supposed to be very good. The sun can wreak havoc with all fabrics, leather and wood too!

  • the Roman shades made of expensive wool semi-sheer, shrunk.***


I’m not going to say too much about this one because the entire job was well…bad. In my entire 23 years of working in this business, I never experienced anything like it. My clients are terrific!

After a few weeks, I realized that this one was not a good client for me. I very much tried to get her to fire me.

I should’ve tried harder.

I think that she sprayed water on them. Or the cleaning lady did. They were perfect when we hung them two weeks earlier. Perfect. Well, as perfect as could be on those fugly windows. Horrendous. I really wanted to do drapes, but one window butted up against the kitchen door and it would’ve been very dangerous to do drapes.

However, they ARE wool.

Wool drapes like Marilyn Monroe cooing happy birthday all over her microphone. Just yummy. but again–I advise against wool. Possible shrinkage and moths too. Oh, and wool can also rot in south-facing windows.

  • the  inside mount Roman shades were not wide enough*


Forgive the blurry photo. It’s a selfie and I had all I could do to hold the tape measure level and get a straight shot!

Okay, we have ALL made this mistake and when we do, it’s especially humiliating. The proper way to measure for an inside mount shade is to take the tape measure from one side of the window and include the entire tape measure casing. Most tapes either come in 3″ or 2″ widths. Please avoid the weird one that’s 2-7/8th or whatever. The issue of course, is to remember to add in the 2″ or 3″ to the width shown on the yellow tape.

  • the very expensive fabric on the very expensive Donghia chair looked like a Chia Pet only weeks after being delivered*


Oh man… This happened 18 years ago to one of my nicest clients. I’ve helped her with two gorgeous homes. What happened? The fabric is called an EPINGLE. Pronounced, EP IN GLAY if you don’t already know that. It looks something like the rep weave except what it actually is, is tiny loops.

It’s the crack cocaine of fabrics for a cat.

This is how nice this client is. She lived with her fuzzy chair until she moved homes 9 years later and we reupholstered it in something far more pet-proof. Believe me when I tell you that she could’ve had a 100 of these chairs reupholstered and it wouldn’t have made even a small dent in their bank account. However, it just wasn’t that important to her.

This next one, however, I wasn’t so lucky. Although, also a very nice client!

  • the brand-new custom leather loveseats arrived. Client loves them. Just one problem. The children are playing tic tac toe in the leather— with their fingernails!*


Sure, go ahead and laugh! I had ordered this leather before and while a bit like this, this batch was really bad. I called an expert for advice. He was sympathetic but said that there’s no permanent solution. Yes, rubbing with your finger helps and a hair dryer works even better believe it or not. But is the client supposed to be blow drying her sofas every day?

This is a great site (Roden Leather) which explains all about the different types of leather. Not all leather is durable. In fact, most are no more durable than a fine silk.

The solution was to make these great slip covers out of Donghia Sunbrella. This cost me a pretty penny but they looked wonderful. They were very small loveseats for a tiny, tiny side room common in Westchester County. I added a short skirt. Wish I had a photo!


The fabric looked something like this only more honey color than green.

Well, those are the main mistakes that I’ve made or heard of. Of course, there have been lots of other things that were caught like flaws in the fabric. Once or twice the fabric arrived dirty. And yes, two times, the WRONG fabric was sent, but it was caught before it was cut into.

Stuff happens.

We’re human; we make mistakes. We suffer the consequences. I just don’t want you to suffer too much if you’re just starting out.

Have you made any mistakes? Please share if you feel like it.

In another post, if you guys liked this one, I’ll share more stories of other mistakes. Like stuff not fitting through the door. That sorta thing.

And also… times when things just went horribly wrong. Sometimes nobody will accept responsibility.

I’m just the idiot who ordered it. More about all of that later on.

Happy Holiday Weekend!




  • APB - April 7, 2016 - 10:42 AM

    Well, I’m never going into the design business! What a wonderfully honest and illuminating post!

    My biggest mistakes have been with paint, fortunately. I spent days dragging a thin blue-green glaze over my pale-green walls, back in the ’90s, only to finish and realize that I felt like I was walking around on the bottom of an empty swimming pool. It was easier to leave the marriage than repaint, so I did.

    My second husband and I removed blue-striped wallpaper with blue daffodils from our ’70s bathroom and destroyed the walls in the process. I had told him that, if he’d help remove the paper, I’d paint the bathroom any color he wanted. (We were newlyweds.) He picked an intense orange, sponged to hide the gouges and gashes. In a ’70’s blue-tiled bathroom with a blue floor and fixtures. Guests were scared to go in there, despite the patchwork shower curtain that had those colors (and more). When we could afford it, we had the bathroom redone with custom cherry paneling and cabinetry, and white marble tile; it’s beautiful. And I had learned never to pay attention to what my husband says he wants. I listen politely, do it my way, and he’s happy.

    I bought an armchair with textured orange and purple paisley fabric, and found a perfect pillow with matching colors. My cats are shredding that chair but guess what? It’s ORANGE AND PURPLE PAISLEY. They are doing us a service. What was I THINKING? When we finally move, I’ll slipcover it.

    For a future post, I would love to hear your thoughts sometime about fabrics you recommend for cat people. Most textured fabrics and leather are out, obviously. But some velvets have been durable for me. I have smooth cotton slipcovers that have held up well. And while I’d love a creamy-white twill, I find that busy patterns hide a multitude of sins and fur. Have you tried any of that high-tech Kryptonite fabric? Are there any microfiber fabrics with textures you can stand?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 9, 2016 - 5:05 PM

      Have to say of the 100s of comments, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed one more.

      you said:
      “I listen politely, do it my way, and he’s happy.”

      BRAVA sistah!!!

      I always say, “think GPS. He makes a mistake, you say, “calculating route” and say what it is… no arguing… no criticizing. (very difficult, I know, I know…)

      I just used the Crypton fabric for two jobs and it’s beautiful and everything they say it is.

      Awww… I had the sweetest kitty who died 16 months ago. Miss him insanely! But, he did have some bad habits like chewing paper, cardboard, the labels off of my fabric samples and drawings! no kidding. AND, he was a scratcher/shredder for sure. Scratching post. One day and then back to the furniture.

      However………… There was one fabric that he did not scratch. Well one and a half.

      The first one was a linen velvet. He used to sleep frequently in a chair with the cushion and I had a sofa made out of the same fabric and that was fine. The linen slip cover was 98% fine.

      My verrrry expensive (for me. I can’t afford my client’s furniture, lol) the yellow tone on tone chairs, I had to switch chairs because one arm was very close to death. I mean one more scratch and that arm would’ve been a goner for sure! Now, that fabric IS linen and it had a special backing. I thought for sure it would be okay. My sofa which is a synthetic linen velvet/chenille type, the arms were also getting trashed so I had to put on the icky arm covers.

      The linen velvet fabric is a dark mossy green and the slipcover, off-white, so can’t say it’s the color.

      I will do a post about this one day in more detail. ReplyCancel

      • anne davis - April 9, 2016 - 5:33 PM

        Laura, didn’t you post a newly manufactured fabric that’s impervious to spills and animal claws? There was an accompanying video with kids crawling all over a chair spilling things. I thought I thought I had put it on one of my Pinterest boards but can’t find it.ReplyCancel

        • anne davis - April 9, 2016 - 6:18 PM

          Yes, that’s it. I should go to the D&D and check it out. It looks a bit stiff (like my grandmother’s poly chenille chairs) but if it’s as soft as claimed it’s a fabric I need to invest in. I avoid getting nice fabric or wood furniture because I have one cat that refuses to acknowledge all the scratching posts and pads in the apt. ;ReplyCancel

          • Laurel Bern - April 9, 2016 - 7:18 PM

            Anne, the fabric we used is from Thibaut and is pricey compared to some. It is very soft.

        • Laurel Bern - April 9, 2016 - 5:45 PM

          Yes, that’s the Crypton fabric. It’s this post. One of my favorites! I don’t know if it’s impervious to animal claws, however. I will investigate that.


          • APB - April 10, 2016 - 10:41 AM

            Laurel, thanks so much for your lovely and funny reply!. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve lost your cat. I can sympathize with how miserable that is, and I suppose that’s why we now have FIVE cats in our little apartment. (We’re at max capacity now, I swear. And yeah, we are still blown away at how crazy that is. But we are all very happy together.) When people visit, they are often astonished: they see just two cats (three hide from strangers) and there’s zero smell, which they can hardly believe. The only signs of cats besides their toys (and whatever fur I missed) are the fabric issues I described and some WOOD scratches that I can hide pretty well with tinted scratch cover. Non-cat people who arrive with trepidation leave pleasantly surprised. (BTW, we do fine with ONE large litter box, built into our bathroom cabinetry so it’s unobtrusive.)

            Thank you very much for thinking about fabrics that won’t interest cats. I will look forward to your post! It’s interesting that you’ve had luck with velvet, too. I have velvet pillows; they attract and show a lot of fur but with some, it’s much easier to remove than others. It’s best if the velvet doesn’t have a strong directional nap, if you know what I mean— plush but short and straight up-and-down. On my smooth cotton sofa slipcover (RL “Lakota Paisley”), the cats are attracted to the welting. Now I know to avoid it. When we bought it, I ordered extra fabric for repairs (always wise if you have cats, as I learned after having to cut pieces from the undersides of the previous, linen-textured sofa’s seat cushions to patch its shredded arms). That RL cotton has served us well but it might be time to try something different. The Crypton is very intriguing. If only one could test fabrics around cats before committing.

            We’ve been house-hunting for a record number of years and made a big bad mistake in that direction last fall. So our current place has been neglected for several years. It’s time to do something about that. Life and the pleasures of home ought to be enjoyed now, not just in some imaginary future. But I will await your post before making any moves as far as the furniture. Thank you again!

            If you want to see our place, check our my blog, where I drone on about various topics with lots of cat-on-furniture pix. We have extremely old-fashioned taste, but it suits the bones of our Victorian Boston apartment, which has an interesting history, as I’ve recently learned.

            I love your blog and you completely deserve your award, It’s not only insightful, entertaining, and honest, it’s beautifully designed and your posts are invariably about what readers really want to know and can’t usually find anywhere else. When I look at your main page, it looks so delicious I want to read all of it! And I have, and more than once. Thanks for teaching an helping me (and others) so much!

          • Laurel Bern - April 10, 2016 - 1:46 PM

            Hi APB,

            Oh wow! I just clicked on your blog and without reading one word, said to myself. Is that JP? I recognized it immediately. My son lives there with his incredible GF. They used to live in the hood behind City Feed, but alas moved last year to the other side. Not nearly as quaint but it’s a better living sitch for them. They’re both musicians and met at NEC. Four years and counting!

            I will look forward to reading your blog!

  • Holly Blackorby - April 4, 2016 - 1:08 PM

    I am a homeowner, not a designer! But, I come off sounding like the most knowledgeable homeowner ever from reading your blog. Thank you! And, I learned SO MUCH from your mistakes column. Please keep keep them coming!ReplyCancel

  • Holly Blackorby - April 4, 2016 - 1:07 PM

    I am a homeowner, not a designer! But, I come off sounding like the most knowledgeable homeowner ever from reading your blog. Thank you! And, I learned SO MUCH from your mistakes column. Please keep them coming! (You also completely CRACK ME UP . . . )ReplyCancel

  • Danielle - March 16, 2016 - 8:20 AM

    I wish I would have read this great post a month ago! We are currently dealing with the “tic-tac-toe-in-the-new-leather-sofa” issue. I truly thought it would be the more durable option with kids and pets…not so. You mention the hair dryer…can you elaborate a bit on that, please? I would also like to let you know how much I have enjoyed your blog. It is packed full of fabulous information intertwined with humor and wit. You have helped me redecorate a few rooms in our home and end up with the style and result I wanted…which is a first! Thank youReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 16, 2016 - 10:46 PM

      Hi Danielle,

      The heat from the hairdryer blown on the leather usually removes the marks. Glad to know that you’ve found the blog helpful!ReplyCancel

  • Marine - February 11, 2016 - 6:15 AM

    great post, I’ve been on the supplier side in the past and it’s hard when the designers don’t give any indication what the fabric might look like. Recently a supplier shipped a fabiric with a flaw and the work room missed it, I noticed it when hanging the drapes, the fabric supplier didn’t want to know about it rectifying the problem cost me dearly, another of the many things designers take care of behind the scenes. Did my darndestt to use the competitors fabric on the next job for payback.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 11, 2016 - 10:06 AM

      Hi Marine,

      Yes, indeed! I’m sure that every designer can commiserate with you. Clients have no idea what we go through behind the scenes. I’ve had to cough up huge chunks of change to fix things that the vendor won’t make good on. Or, the workroom.

      The biggest problems, aside from those mentioned in the post have been with anything made from wood. It’s far more fragile than anyone seems to want to talk about.ReplyCancel

  • Lindy H - January 26, 2016 - 9:49 PM

    What a great post! It seems like people usually aren’t willing to talk about things that go wrong and especially not admit their mistakes – so Thank You for posting honestly so that others may learn from things you’ve experienced and seen. Yesterday I was thinking how helpful it would be if companies like Kravet and other to the trade venders had a place for comments, like blogs and online retail stores have. They could have the settings so it was only visible when designers were logged in. Just think how many problems could be avoided.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 26, 2016 - 10:35 PM

      Hi Lindy,

      Thanks for stopping by and yes, that’s a great idea!

      I don’t know if you’re in the trade or not, but there are groups of facebook and linkedin where designers can chat amongst ourselves privately about things going wrong, whiny clients, lol (not me, of course!) and a whole host of other things.ReplyCancel

      • Lindy H - January 26, 2016 - 10:45 PM

        Aha! I’ll have to look those up and see if I can find a group or two (Any advice on where to start?). I used to work in interior design. Right Now I am a returning student set to graduate this spring. Yay! Thanks again for this blog post.ReplyCancel

  • Kate - June 6, 2015 - 12:49 AM

    As a to the trade workroom , I’ve seen a few of these too! Especially the ones from designers who don’t understand gravity… And who really don’t understand fabric or window treatments. But I’ve made a few myself, how about the one where the fabric was woven with a motif of a crossed pair of golf clubs, so which way is up? Designer didn’t indicate and I guessed wrong. Sigh. that was a cornice remake… Thankfully not too many goofs over the years but sure some challenges as there really is fabric that is not suitable for all designs. Im sure your workroom loves you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 6, 2015 - 1:00 AM

      Hi Kae,

      Oh dear… the old golf club dilemma. lol Well, maybe not that funny. That, to me is a 50/50 error. I had a workroom that would never accept any responsibility for stuff like that. And then, she would charge me full price on the makeover!

      But when her prices suddenly went up nearly double, I knew it was time to find another workroom! I had worked with her for 15 years! But I found someone even better who even comes to the installation!ReplyCancel

  • Chrystal Younger - June 3, 2015 - 1:40 PM

    Love your examples, but wanted to point out that the striped chair you used at the end, is not upholstered correctly. The stripes are not centered and the cushion and front piece do not match up exactly. Since I do some upholstery work, it is those kinds of things that stick out to me. Just curious is that a Ballard Chair? Because I have had one client contact me about chairs from Ballard in that same fabric that wasn’t matched up correctly.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 3, 2015 - 2:23 PM

      Hi Chrystal,

      You are so right! I’m not sure where the chair is from. Probably made in China. My upholsterer would never do that. Thanks so much for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • Emilia - April 21, 2015 - 9:19 AM

    Laurel, would you please do a blog on bed skirts? Hope that it is ok for me to make this request here.
    What are your opinions on them? My bedroom is modern and I am worried that a ruffled bed skirt may “feminize” the room too much but after THREE months of analyzing and agonizing over this issue, I have come to three conclusions: first, unless flat paneled bed skirts are lined, flat paneled skirts look cheap (even high priced brands). Secondly, unless those flat panels look absolutely even ALL of the time, it also renders a cheap look. Lastly, unless they have some detail such as inverted box pleats with buttons for example, flat panels tend to look sterile and perfunctory. Do you agree? Would I compromise the modern look of my bedroom if I use a ruffled bed skirt? I found a white bed skirt by Taylor that is made of linen with a voile overlay that looks like it has a lot of “gravitas” so I am thinking of using it along with a white matalasse diamond pattern coverlet but frozen with decorating fear of pleated vs ruffle. Would you do a blog on bed skirt styles, fabrics and the mistake we may when decorating with them? Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 22, 2015 - 7:59 PM

      Hi Emilia,

      I don’t do as many bedskirts as I used to. Usually, they were custom. One reason is that more people are doing beds with wood frames, so there’s no need. My personal preference is no bedskirt because they tend to make things bulkier looking. I just like to see legs on my bed!

      Even if your room is modern, it’s still a bedroom. I don’t know what the bedskirt looks like but can it be returned if you don’t like it? If not, then go with what you love!ReplyCancel

      • Emilia - April 23, 2015 - 6:42 PM

        Thank you for your reply. Your comment that although modern “it is still a bedroom” helps.ReplyCancel

  • Wendy - April 21, 2015 - 1:33 AM

    Laurel, I love the new post! I sweat bullets before every order. I probably waste a ton of hours going over them over & over again. I’m so paranoid of mistakes…as we know they can be costly! I’ve taken note on some of your lessons. I so appreciate your willingness to share information. I’ll have to think of some of my mistakes & come back to share. Can’t wait for your next “lesson”!ReplyCancel

  • Shirley - April 9, 2015 - 10:11 AM

    Did the client whose kids marked her leather seat blame you?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 9, 2015 - 11:04 AM

      Hi Shirley, She was as nice as could be. However, ultimately, I am responsible. So yes, I had to pay to correct the situation which set me back about $3,000! ReplyCancel

  • Joyce (Adams) - April 8, 2015 - 7:00 PM

    First of all, I love your blog, Laurel. I am a homeowner, not a designer. As for my own fabric mistake…I’ve had to ban myself from the discount designer fabric stores because in the past I have often fallen in love with an upholstery or window treatment fabric and then bought a few yards (anywhere from 6 to 25)for some future, often unplanned project. They were so gorgeous, you see, that I convinced myself I’d use it “someday, somewhere.” Ha! Needless to say, I’ve got several rolls of fabric propped up in one corner of my home office waiting for me to get to them. One is pegged for a bedroom chair, another for an upholstered headboard, another for roman shades…maybe. Still others for rooms that don’t yet exist or may never exist. Unfortunately, I don’t have the means to proceed with any projects now. Also (unfortunately) it’s become clear that one linen toile–pale aqua with taupe and brown birds–may not fit anywhere in my home (plus my husband hates it). You wouldn’t happen to know anyone who would like to buy it from me, would you? 😉ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 8, 2015 - 8:05 PM

      Sorry Joyce, I don’t know anyone. Maybe try putting it up on Craig’s List with some photos. Thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • Laurel Bern - April 6, 2015 - 11:34 PM

    Hi Leslie,
    That is such good business for the fabric house to supply a replacement fabric. They are supposed to inspect it, but about once every couple of years I get a call about a flaw. Sometimes they can work around it and sometimes not.

    It steams me that your workroom made you pay to have the shade remade. They should’ve called you! Even if they didn’t notice until the fabric had been cut, you could’ve had the replacement fabric shipped out and wouldn’t have been charged twice for labor. This is one of those times where it’s not our fault but we have to pay for the mistake!

    For folks who are not designers reading all of this. THIS is what goes on behind the scenes on your behalf!ReplyCancel

  • Leslie Turner - April 6, 2015 - 11:06 PM

    Years ago when I began practicing on my own, I found some wonderful plaid fabric that was just perfect for my client’s library/office windows. Great looking, not too expensive. She loved it. Presto, change-o, I ordered a CFA, approved it and ordered the fabric, had Roman shades made. Unfortunately, my workroom failed to look carefully at the fabric before they cut it. When installation time arrived I was surprised by a six inch mis-weave in the plaid pattern. Luckily, the fabric house felt responsible for allowing such a flawed fabric to be shipped and kindly supplied replacement yardage. I had to pick up the tab for the additional labor (though if this happened now, I would expect my workroom to help foot the bill because they missed such a glaring problem). Always inspect your yardage before cutting!


  • Betsy OShea - April 6, 2015 - 12:55 PM

    Excellent article Lauren! Your point about how design schools fail to offer any courses in the practical aspects of interior design is on point. I have considered teaching such a course at a local school calling it the Pitfalls and Practicalities of Design! You mentioned a few issues which arise with window treatments. I might have added the problems with calculating drapery length when the drop of the Rod, rings and brackets is not measured properly.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 6, 2015 - 1:49 PM

      Hi Betsy,
      That is a great idea about the course. Please let me know if it goes through for you. Can you believe I went to the NY School of interior Design for THREE years and never heard the term “CFA” until I had my first job?

      And absolutely, yes, a complete measuring guide including how to figure out yardages for draperies and upholstery. I remember a quick hand-out but there was no talk about repeats. Half-drop repeats, etc… And sometimes, with “mushy” huge repeats, I don’t bother because then you only see one small part of the pattern and that looks odd.

      and yeah… the rod, ring, bracket thing can be quite tricky. My wrought iron rods are custom-made and so, they’e actually a little different every time! Usually there’s some wiggle room, but sometimes, not much!


  • Autumn Leopold - April 6, 2015 - 12:31 PM

    Wow! I’m seriously saving so many of your blogs for references! You are putting crazy amounts of free information in these blogs for your peeps! I see a book in your future girl!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 6, 2015 - 12:36 PM

      haha! Hi Autumn! Thank you so much! I’m working on it or something like that! xo, Laurel ps: sorry, I don’t have the comment luv up yet. Hopefully this week? I’m not sure what the problem is, but I’m waiting for help with that. Oh wait. I see MY post showing up. hmmm… don’t think that’s right.ReplyCancel

  • Bianca - April 6, 2015 - 12:51 AM

    Fabulous article…and a very instructive discussion in the comments section! Thanks, Laurel.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 6, 2015 - 1:14 AM

      Hi Bianca! It’s wonderful to “see” you here. :] Thanks for your sweet comment too!ReplyCancel

  • Veronica - April 5, 2015 - 10:35 PM

    Haha! I am laughing so hard right now Laurel because the fabric repeat scenario has happened to me a couple of times. I am pretty good at calculating yardage without having to call my upholsterer or drapery workroom, but there are times when I change the fabric and forget to recalculate the yardage needed for the new fabric’s repeat.

    I have also ran into the backorder/discontinued sitch where the whole room hinges on that fabric. I usually do a reserve order with a CFA but clients tend to drag their feet and the reserve expires.

    I am pretty fortunate that none of the other scenarios have happened to me – like shrinkage, fading and rotting etc. But I have had to eat the cost of fabric a couple of times. Lesson learnedReplyCancel

  • Karan - April 5, 2015 - 9:40 PM

    the colorway and backorder ring painfully true. I had a client for whom I ordered two Stroheim and Romann fabrics as C.O.M. for a chair and a sofa. The two fabrics were correlating and one was backordered for a month (this was in August). So at the end of September I called S & R to see what was happening with the backordered fabric. “Oh, that’s been discontinued.” What the heck? They scrounged around and found a leftover from another bolt and sent me a CFA. Not even close to the original color. It looked like they were two completely different colorways. It was an unusual fabric and my client had her heart set on it. She also had her heart set on receiving all the furniture by Thanksgiving. We were ordering in August, so that should be fine, right? Aaaargh. After I jumped up and down and screamed on the phone to the fabric company and called my wonderful rep he said he would see what he could do. I sent them the CFA of the original color and he told them to make me another bolt! Hooray! At the same time in August I also ordered quite a lot of furniture from Fremarc. Thanksgiving, right? When I got the acknowledgment there was no issue. I called at the end of October to make sure we were on track. No. What the heck? So I again did a lot of bitching on the phone and said I must have it here in Boise before Thanksgiving. They completed the order the Friday before T-day. As a result I had to pay an extra $750 in freight above and beyond what I was already paying. And it was delivered to the freight company. But no moving or delivery company could pick it up and get it to my clients before Thursday. So I drove my grandfather-in-law’s pickup out to the freight company and asked them to load it in the pickup. It was all crated so I wasn’t too horribly worried about damage. Then I drive a gazillion pounds of furniture to my clients’ house up the very steep driveway. I decided that would make it very difficult to carry it into the house so turned around and backed it up. I had my 12 year old son with me for help. This was the night before Thanksgiving. My clients had to help me unload the damn truck, then uncrate all the furniture in their driveway and carry it into their house. We finished about 9PM. They were thrilled to have the furniture in time and I was about dead. And the sofa that needed to have a new bolt of fabric manufactured? Delivered the Friday before Superbowl Sunday. Thank God they were wonderful and understanding clients. I did have to absorb the extra freight and I think the project took a few years off my life but they were just great.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 10:06 PM

      Hi Karan! Oh my… I think this took off a few years of my life just reading about it!

      But, I’ve also been through the “it’s on BO” only to find out several weeks into the “BO” that it’s NOW discontinued! WTF???

      Again, this is why I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the new trend of just turning it all over to their clients to finish up. ReplyCancel

  • Nancy in Alabama - April 5, 2015 - 6:31 PM

    Laurel, I had to laugh when you said you begged a client to fire you. When we bought our first home, I wanted everything to be perfect, and after just 2 weeks, my interior decorator fired me! (I deserved it) Let me ask you though, if you were working with 2 clients who had mutual friends, would you choose the same fabric and style for drapes for them? I mentioned that I really didn’t want checked curtains that looked exactly like my friend’s drapes…..and that’s when Susie had enough and fired me. Lesson learned!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 6:45 PM

      Hi Nancy,

      She fired you for that? I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request in the slightest. I’ve had clients who are friends and/or family members many times and I wouldn’t even think of choosing the same fabric for both jobs. But even if it was a different fabric and you didn’t like it for whatever your reason, I am never offended if someone doesn’t like something!

      I dunno… sounds like a blessing that she bailed!

      I doubt that you deserved it. Usually the people who deserve it don’t see that they’re being a pain in the A. lol I’ve had clients who understand that they’re being somewhat difficult and apologized. I have no problem with that at all. And sometimes they have every right to be P.O.! I am too in some situations. (not with them, just the situation that I have no control over!)

  • anne davis - April 5, 2015 - 4:42 PM

    Re: backing the wrong side – I always send a bit of the CFA to the backer along with the PO just so they know what side to back.

    I lost my dear friend, brilliant designer and mentor to a brain tumor last year and have had no desire to do anything with my business since then. Only lately have I decided it’s time to get back to it. Now I read this post and remember all the mistakes that can be made and wonder if I really want to do this again. But then I think that there is always a solution and as one designer told me years ago, back up your back up and cover your ass. In the long run you’ll be happy you made the extra effort when it comes to he said/she said. Lots of money can be saved that way.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 6:19 PM

      Oh, I’m so sorry about your loss, Anne. I’m right there with you which you might’ve read about. My closest friend also died in early Feb from lung cancer. (NEVER smoked) and was a dancer too.

      Thank goodness for this blog and all of the kind, kind people who’ve been so supportive.

      Please come back! I’m going to be continuing my list of things that can go wrong. And yes, one of them is not going through your order acknowledgments with a fine tooth comb. And get EVERYTHING in writing! These days with email, it’s pretty automatic.ReplyCancel

  • Deanna - April 5, 2015 - 3:15 PM

    Yup! been there,done that. years ago when first starting out I trusted my client’s measurements for window treatments..I had all of the right measurements but had missed one…Oh gosh….they too, were very understanding….Learned my lesson;always do the measuring your self and measure thrice then cut!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 6:12 PM

      same goes for architects. I’ve encountered this a few times. If it’s a part of the house that’s not actually being built, don’t count on an accurate measurement! One time, there was a living room that the architect made 20″ wider than it was. TWENTY INCHES!ReplyCancel

  • Karen Savage - April 5, 2015 - 2:30 PM

    Here is my most recent ‘snafu’. I live in Northern Indiana close to Lake Michigan….this means we live under a ‘perma-cloud’ for about half the year (yes, I made up that name—don’t bother to look it up kiddos!). Anyways, I had a client that needed new paint in her bedroom and she trusted me with all the details while she was out of town. I thought she would appreciate coming home to a little drama so I asked my painter to paint her tray ceiling a warm medium brown. Well normally, this would help the ceiling appear to recede but it had the opposite affect. I almost gagged when my painter showed me. Luckily he fixed it before she came home.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 6:10 PM

      Hi Karen, Some of those tray ceilings are pretty immense and difficult to deal with. Glad you caught it before the client returned.

      I was born in Chicago! Raised in Evansville Indiana.(which is like the deep south compared to N. Indiana haha) And I also lived in Madison and Milwaukee WI. But I can imagine that being more or less on the south-eastern side of Lake M, you get a lot of cloudy and cold days! ReplyCancel

  • Ellen - April 5, 2015 - 12:57 PM

    I wish I had had you around 20 years ago! I had to give up my business fairly early into it because of having to care for an elderly parent for several years, but I can certainly relate to all these snafus. I found that while I am very good on the creative side, I am just not suited to the business side of interior design. I guess I don’t handle all the drama very well. My admiration for those of you who do is the greatest.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 6:03 PM

      Hi Ellen, So sorry you had to drop out. The business side does require one to wear a lot of different hats. But one thing I’ve learned is that not everyone is my client. Just like I wouldn’t be right for everyone. I know the type that is going to give me grief and I don’t take on those jobs. It’s not that they are bad people. They’re just not right for me.

      I really need to work with people who are patient and more or less chill about things. I too, am not into a lot of drama. Of course, stuff happens! Oh my word! I’ve had some really icky stuff happen. I’ll be getting to that as well.

      I tell all of my new clients that there’s a possibility that something somewhere along the line is going to be problematic. However, they are not to worry. It’s my problem. It will get taken care of!ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - April 5, 2015 - 12:30 PM

    Laurel, sooo helpful!! As usual! Thank you! ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 5:54 PM

      Hi Jenny! I was reading on your blog that you were at the design blogger’s conference. I had seen your name on the list and I looked for you, but didn’t see you. Bummer. Hope you had a good time though!ReplyCancel

  • Bridget Ray - April 5, 2015 - 11:39 AM

    Laurel!! Awesome post. I’m newly on my own and these are wonderful points for me to be aware of. Looking forward to more.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 5:52 PM

      Thanks Bridget. I’m never quite sure how some topics are going to go over, but am glad that people seem to like this one. ReplyCancel

  • Antonia - April 5, 2015 - 11:36 AM

    You’re so funny! Love your blog!ReplyCancel

  • Dolores - April 5, 2015 - 10:26 AM

    I had one of these unfortunate disasters happen to me- I had two chairs reupholstered in a pretty expensive Amy Karyn( discontinued) linen fabric that co-ordinated with a sofa from the same line that I bought at the A.K. warehouse .. I brought the roll of fabric to my long time upholsterer, and when he delivered the chairs back- I couldn’t understand why they looked soo much lighter than when I had the fabric draped over the chairs. Guess what.When I brought the rest of the roll to compare next to my chairs, I noticed that he used the wrong side of the fabric!! The upholsterer was very apologetic and told me that fabric is usually shipped with the right side inside the roll!! But couldn’t he see the difference??.Oh- I shed tears over this, and to this day, those chairs annoy the living daylights out of me.. I finally decided ‘people over things’, and decided not to make a fuss, esp. as he was 75 yrs. old and about to retire..
    Hope you too are having a wonderful week-end holiday!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 10:53 AM

      oh yes… I used to order from Amy Karyn a lot about 10 years ago. I loved their linen damasks. I think they went out of business or something. He’s right about the fabric with the right side inside. Still, he should’ve checked because the wrong side is always lighter if it’s a print! One time, I had a workroom put the laminated fabric for the kitchen chairs on backwards. Fortunately, the client had gotten her fabric at a rip-off paint store before she met me and they made her order DOUBLE the amount of fabric that she needed. So I was able to get them remade.ReplyCancel

  • Janet Marcus - April 5, 2015 - 8:20 AM

    Thought I’d share this unusual horror story with you. The client wanted shades to match her bedspread. The windows were measured, the fabric ordered and the shades fabricated, but not hung. The client wanted to wait until HER contractor put in her replacement windows. I reminded her several times that her windows were not a stock size and had to be custom ordered. Guess what! The contractor put in a slightly smaller stock window and filled the frame to match the old opening. Did the shades fit? Of course not. So five shades had to be remade at my expense even though the client refused my contractor as too expensive and took a cheaper bid.
    Thankfully, my work room split the expense with me. This client gives me referrals. It was important to keep her happy.

    BTW While I adore silk, the new synthetics are so good and so much more durable that when I want the “silk” look, I go to the synthetics. I have even found dress fabric velvet that imitates the look of silk velvet beautifully, but it has to be backed.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 10:48 AM

      Hi Janet. Ugh. I’ve had similar situations where something went wrong and it wasn’t my fault but I had to pay for it anyway because it needed to be taken care of. That’s another post!


  • Bj - April 5, 2015 - 5:25 AM

    I’ve been in the business forever and still can get surprised – not always in a good way. I also always recommend using a window film, especially on south-facing windows, when hanging silk curtains. I had one very cute client whose husband quipped – this is the only time I’ve bought something I can’t see!!ReplyCancel

  • Val Evans - April 5, 2015 - 1:58 AM

    More than anything you’ve given me insight on what to ask when I’m shopping for myself. I purchased a beautiful, beautiful silk couch and matching chairs and the silk split apart exactly in your photos. They weren’t in the house long (albeit in a bright sunny room) before the rips started appearing. I’ll never make that mistake again. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2015 - 10:44 AM

      I’m so sorry Val. And yes, that is also the purpose of sharing my experience and then hearing what other people have experienced. There’s just too much that can go wrong!ReplyCancel