Although, I no longer take interior design clients, I did for 24 years, counting the years working for others. And oh man. The decorating mistakes!
No wait. Mistakes doesn’t quite cover it.
It all begins quite innocently; like this:
One day, while sitting at the hair salon getting your roots taken care of, nonchalantly flipping through decorating magazines the attendant comes to clean up the floor by your chair.
But, instead of sweeping up hair, she’s actually cleaning up the puddle made from your drool as you swoon over one beautiful room after another.
And because you are high on hair color fumes, you start fantasizing about what it would be like to create beautiful rooms like this— for a living.
Fast forward a little. After reading a self-help book, you learn that if you can dream it, you can do it.
You fall for it.
Subsequently, tens of thousands of dollars go towards an interior design education. Upon graduating, you have a portfolio of beautiful projects. Now, it’s time to get a resale certificate, become a sub chapter S corporation and open up for business.
There’s something I need to say before you jump out of plane without a parachute. I really hope 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?
Look at me when I’m talking to you!
Now that I have your undivided attention, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. (which some of you already know)
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.
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.
There is just too much that can go wrong; this business is fraught with more landmines than exist in the entire world!
Think I’m exaggerating, for dramatic effect?
I only wish.
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 these decorating mistakes – Not just boo boos, but depressingly frightening nightmares. Like I always say. “I’ve made plenty of mistakes; I just try not to make the same one twice!”
And these are only the fabric mistakes. Therefore, please listen up. Designer fabric is expensive and if you must have something remade– ouch!
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– BEFORE you sent it out for the new chair.
Here’s a good example. A job we did a few years ago had these two fabrics in one room.
You can see the Roman Shade from the bottom sample here.
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 the two different dye-lots on identical chairs, right next to each other.
You get a panicked email from your client that the chairs don’t match. After assuring her that you’re on the task to correct this, you go and pour yourself a glass of wine.
Then, a call is made to the fabric vendor. 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 re-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. THIRTY 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.
Unless you can afford to eat a mistake or live with it, please get the cutting for approval and make sure that your workroom knows what the fabric is supposed to look like!
- 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*
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 club 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. (Yes, the upholsterer lost his gig with me.) 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. And, he should’ve accepted the blame as I was not there to see what was going on. He knew.
He could’ve put a fabric glue on the edges of the seams and that would’ve stopped the unraveling.
The other solution to prevent unraveling that I highly recommend is to send the fabric out to a place that does knit-backing. My favorite is Schneider-Banks (SBI) in Texas. I also use knit-backing for when I want to upholster with fabrics that are less stable and/or fragile, like linens and silks.
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 like this or something similar 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.”
What’s the solution? Well, if it’s a chair or sofa, sometimes they are including the arm covers and/or matching throw pillows. I never do the matching pillows, so, between the two pillows and arm covers, that is a couple of yards.
- 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 about. I had never heard of 36″ wide fabric. But this was a Pierre Frey fabric, imported from France. Alas, I had to get another seven yards of fabric. Of course, I could 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 you can have professionally applied. I’ve had clients who’ve had this done with terrific results. The sun can wreak havoc with all fabrics, leather and wood too!
the Roman shades made of expensive semi-sheer wool, shrunk within days after installation!***
I’m not going to say too much about this one because the entire job was well, one of the most soul-sucking experiences of my life! And I do not say that lightly. In fact, I very much wanted to quit the business after she had worked her unique brand of crazy on me.
That’s how bad it was.
She was nice enough– in the beginning. But, after a few weeks, the client began to show her true colors. I went Whoa! and realized that I better get out before she got really nutso on me.
Therefore, I did my level best to get her to fire me.
I should’ve tried harder.
I think that she sprayed water on the Roman Shades. Or the cleaning lady did. They were perfect when we hung them two weeks earlier. Absolutely perfect. Well, as perfect as could be on those hideous windows. 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. Buyer beware!
Wool is a stunning fabric that 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. I used the same fabric for my bedroom and after a few years, that’s what happened.
- 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 embarrassing.
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.
Can I tell you the number of times I went BACK to measure a clients windows, just to make sure.
Also, if you’re a designer and you’re measuring, take notes, eg: it’s an inside mount but the clearance is shallow so the board will need to go in the other direction.
Sometimes, several weeks went by between measuring and ordering the window treatments. Believe me, if you don’t write it down, you’ll forget.
- the very expensive fabric on the very expensive Donghia chair looked like a Chia Pet only weeks after being delivered*
Oh man… This happened 22 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.
Sure, go ahead and laugh.
You’ll stop laughing when you get the bill for $2,000.00 bill to reupholster the chair with the $160.00/yd fabric (net price)
But, 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!*
Yes, yes– freaking hilarious! :/ I had ordered this leather before and while a bit “distressed”, this batch was really bad. What’s really horrible is that the upholsterer did call me up to warn me.
This time, it was me who was the idiot as I didn’t believe him.
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 blow dry 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. I added a short skirt. Wish I had a photo! They were very small loveseats for a tiny, tiny side room common in Westchester County that folks use as a family room.
An entire family of 5 or 6 spends most of their time in a room that’s 90 sq. feet. This is because the old homes which prevail in southern Westchester county do not have family rooms.
The fabric looked something like this only more honey color than green. (please forgive the bad upholstery job.)
Well, those are the main decorating mistakes with fabric 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.
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 as a designer. OR, if you’re doing everything yourself.
Have you had any whopping interior decorating mistakes? Please share if you feel like it.
And, I hope this gave you some good info so that you won’t have any nasty surprises; at least not with your fabrics!
But, if you want to hear the worst thing that ever happened in my business, click here to read how I lost $30,000.00 the first year I was in business.