21 Interior Design Mistakes You Need To Stop Making



Remember the other day, we created a 12- step template for designing a beautiful room?


Well, today I want to go over the top 21 interior design mistakes that could derail your best plans and take your design into the gutter.

And we can’t have that!

Because, sometimes it’s not only what we should do, but what we shouldn’t do. Right? And I could probably come up with a few hundred shouldn’t dos. But this is about 21 or so. It’s difficult to count, because some of it is inter-woven. There is a lot here, so let’s begin!

A very common and potentially expensive interior design mistake is:


Thinking that you can do EVERYTHING on your own.


  • Doctors ask their colleagues for opinions.
  • Designers ask their colleagues for opinions too!


Even if you are doing most of your decorating on your own, I can’t stress enough the importance of getting a professional pair of interior design eyes on your project and the earlier, the better. I would do it at the beginning, middle and just before you dive in.

I promise that you will not regret it; unless the interior decorator is a clueless toad.

And some are. But most of my colleagues are terrific and talented. Ask for references and look at their work, first. Most designers will consult in two-hour increments. Expect to pay a minimum of $350.00 up to $1,000 for a 2-hour service.

Here’s another common issue.


The Furniture Doesn’t Fit In The Room


That’s because you didn’t call the designer before you went ahead and plunked your money down on furniture that you CANNOT RETURN.

AND, It seems that there’s a trend for houses to be getting smaller and furniture to be getting bigger… and bigger… Oh, we’ve been through this before.  And, here too with some interior designs you’ll regret. But, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in clients’ homes where the furniture literally did not fit in the room; or the furniture was so BIG, BLOATED and BULKY one could hardly move around the furniture.


OR, the leviathan never made it through the door, in the first place.


And that includes the ability for whatever it is to round the bend and go up or down the stairs.

And why did this mistakes happen? I know that you guys ALL know this one, so let’s all chime in together on the count of three.





Decorating Without A Plan Is A Recipe For Disaster


You must have a thorough and cohesive decorating plan. AND, in that link I tell you HOW to do it!

Walking into a furniture store without having a crystal clear BLUEPRINT for what one needs– well, you might as well go over Niagara Falls in a canoe. And yet, how many people go shopping with their floor plan and measurements in hand. A few, perhaps. But, the majority, have no clue what furniture they want to get before they go shopping.

It’s not that you’re clueless, untalented or anything like that. Most people, it seems, don’t understand how treacherous and difficult decorating is. Oh, I know. You guys DO know this. I know. Because I get your frantic emails at 3:00 AM. haha


But, professional interior designers decorate their client’s homes by creating a solid spelled out plan.


Actually, it’s no different from building a house.

Your architect will draw in great detail every inch of your new home. And he’ll revise as many times as is necessary to get it right.

Why should furnishing your home be any different? It’s not. Still not convinced? Please check out this post about some of horrific decorating disasters!


This next one isn’t talked about much, but I think it’s the reason that there’s so much bad design out there.


Decorating your own home or someone else’s without having a basic understanding of historical styles is IMO, a very bad idea.


Well, you don’t have to understand historical styles, but if you don’t, then I highly recommend working with a designer who does have this knowledge. And if you’re an interior decorator, this is one of a handful of classes that I believe is super important to have under your belt.


Understanding the historical styles of architecture and furniture will give a solid foundation of understanding from which to work.


There’s more about classical furniture here. And you will learn the difference between modern and contemporary and how to mix those furniture pieces with “traditional” furniture.

In fact, these terms are so frequently misunderstood and subjective. Therefore, it’s probably better to create a dialog instead of a label.

One of my biggest pet peeves is calling a sofa with a skirt – traditional. There is nothing traditional about a sofa with a skirt. And, not to say that there’s anything wrong with a sofa with a skirt. However, it’s a 20th century invention. But, is it contemporary? A sofa with a skirt from Rose Tarlow is contemporary. I don’t know how to classify most of the others. Maybe late 20th century traditional.

To review:


Early sofas, called Canapés (in French) did not have skirts.


chippendale-hepplewhite-sofa-interior design mistake is calling a sofa with a skirt - "traditional."
This antique Chippendale sofa is a traditional sofa.

Understanding classical styles is crucial for understanding beautiful proportion and scale; something that I think is frequently missing in today’s furniture.


Forgetting To Create A Sense of Entrance


10 common interior design mistakes


Why is this photo so weird, you ask?


Long story. lol. Let’s move on…


Creating a sense of entrance is rule number one in space planning. I cannot see how to enter this space and it might be fine if the primary entrances are from the side. But if the main entrance is from behind the sectional, this is no bueno. It’s not very gracious to have to walk around a big piece of furniture in order to sit down.

But, it is essential that the configuration makes for a good conversation grouping.

Next on the list:


You Have a Plan, Alright, but it Sucks Massive Amounts of Donkey Dung.


Like, I’m just going to trot on over to Bob’s Discount Furniture and get me a matched set of dining room furniture for only $4,794.38 (70% price SLASH BLOWOUT SACRIFICE!) which includes FREE SHIPPING!!!

yawn. Please remember that in the furniture industry, there is no such word as FREE anything, much less free shipping.

And believe me. Bob isn’t sacrificing a damned thing except the poor trees they robbed to create this drek.

I realize that’s nasty. But, so is the deforestation of one of our most precious resources.

If your budget is meager, that is not a problem. Here’s one of my favorite posts about how to score free or nearly free furniture.


10 common interior design mistakes


However, when it comes to decorating, the words “matched set” need to be obliterated from the land!

And, what you see above is NOT Queen Anne!


1st dibs set-of-eight-queen-anne-chairs $45,000

These are real Queen Anne chairs from the early 18th century. Well, except for three of them which were made 100 years ago. Since they were not made in the original period for Queen Anne which is roughly 1700-1760,  they should be referred to as “Queen-Anne Style.”

And don’t get me wrong. I’m all for cheap furniture. (that doesn’t look cheap) But the matchy Queen Anne-faux-style furniture above doesn’t look natural. There’s worse, but no matching like that please. Remember the woman whose husband insisted that everything match?


The best rooms look like they evolved.


I KNOW that most of you already know all of this, but some of you many not. So, please bear with me.

But, just as bad if not worse, is lining everything up against the wall.


10 common interior design mistakes

Plus, we have another matched set of ersatz, fake, phony so-called “traditional” furniture.

You can see more of the same and even worse, here.


And while we should strive for a balanced symmetrically pleasing design, too much symmetry can make a room feel contrived, stagnant and tiresome.


I have to be careful to put up examples of doing it wrong and it’s a fine line

By, too much symmetry, I mean like there are two of the same for practically everything. The room is like 20 pairs of identical twins!

Mirrors, lamps, sconces, chests, candlesticks, urns, chairs, occasional tables, floor lamps…

And that’s only one side of the room.


Well, how many pairs are enough?


Good question. I’m also not usually fond of nothing is the same, either. Then it can look like a hodge-podge.

However, below is a good example of symmetry that is pleasing without going overboard.


one kings lane blue and white living room vignette - cool etageres - symmetry


But, if it was any more, it would be too much. And I can see that the main furniture is balanced but different. Plus, there are a lot of single pieces as well. Those etageres are way cool!

For more of my furniture favorites click here.

And, of course, check out this page for more obessively curated furniture, lighting and all home furnishings.

And, if you’re looking for bargains, please shop my hot sales pages!


Shot for OKL in NYC on Jan 16, 2018 www.onekingslane.com Story: Michael Bastian Home Tour www.michaelbastiannyc.com Producer: Niki Dankner Stylist: Anthony SantelliShot for OKL in NYC on Jan 16, 2018

Story: Michael Bastian Home Tour www.michaelbastiannyc.com
Producer: Niki Dankner
Stylist: Anthony Santelli


Above is a great example of symmetrical balance. This is more difficult to achieve, I think. i realize that some will think this too busy. But for this collected style, I think that it is very well-done.

LIGHTING can present many challenges and interior decorating mistakes aplenty!

The Chandelier is too big


10 common interior design mistakes

Pretty room but this chandelier is way too big for this very skinny table. Actually, the table is ridiculously skinny and in this case, probably the bigger problem!

Want some great ideas for inexpensive but great looking chandeliers?

A good rule of thumb for dining chandeliers: The diameter should not exceed the width of the table by about 10″, so if your table is 42″ wide, I would not do a chandelier more than 32″ in diameter– tops.


This chandelier is also hung a bit too low.


Generally, it should be hung about 30″ above the table, but sometimes it can be a bit lower. This is too low, I think, especially because the guests at this table will be black and blue from knocking into each others’ knees and feet and then they will conk themselves in the head on the chandelier. They will hate you and never come back.

In addition, you should have at least one foot between the tallest point of the chandelier and the ceiling as an absolute minimum.. So, if you have an 8′ ceiling, the maximum height of your chandelier or pendant can only be about 24″ tall. Table height is at 30″ + 30″ + 24″ + 12″ = 96″


Or, the Chandelier is too small. But better too small, than too big.


10 common interior design mistakes

This chandelier is too high, as well. Although, I think that this is a very pretty dining room.  One other consideration is room size and ceiling height. This is a generous dining room with a large table; the table is probably about 42-45″ wide.



The room height is about 9′ to the ceiling.



This chandelier looks to be about 24″ in diameter. I think that a good size diameter chandelier for this table would be an absolute minimum of 28″ (and with more going on than this, like some crystals) but more like 30-34″. It also needs to come down about 12-18″ +/-. Hard to see exactly from a photo.

A good rule of thumb to use loosely for chandelier diameter is to take two sides of the dining room and add the numbers together. For instance, 11′ wide x 15′ long = 26″ in diameter chandelier. But, for more detailed info about this and 333 other things, please check out my 200+ page rules & tips guide

My rule of thumb is if in doubt scale down with lighting fixtures.


Also, please be careful with table lamps. They keep getting bigger and BIGGER AND BIGGER!!!

I am now seeing table lamps that are as much as 34″ tall with a 20″ wide shade. There are rare exceptions, like I have a friend with a very cool classic-contemporary living room. She has low side tables with tall retro lamps that are sensational.

But, if you have a normal height end table that is say 27″-28″ high and then you add a lamp that is 34,” it is probably going to look almost comical. Just be careful.



Above  is a beautiful, traditional dining room that demonstrates my point where everything is just right.

by James Michael Howard. (aka: Jim Howard, husband of Phoebe Howard)


This is a perfectly executed dining room. The chandelier is in perfect proportion to the room and table and hung at the perfect height. The furniture is not a matched set but looks great together as the lines and colors are complimentary.

To finish off lighting, one of the worst interior design mistakes is the single flush mount down light. This post explains in better detail why it’s so bad and what to do instead.


Lighting is everything. That’s how important it is and if careful consideration is not given, your room is going to be a horrid place to be in, at night, no matter HOW beautifully decorated.

you may tweet that. ;]

For more about lighting please click to read this post as well.


One thing I think it’s better to go a little over-scale than under-scale is a wall mirror. And art too, for that matter. Dinky mirrors and art are not chic.

Love Tory Burch’s gorgeous painting here and the rest too.


On the subject of hanging art. There is a tendency for a lot of people to hang it too high. The center should be at approximately eye-height. Of course, there are exceptions.


Choosing fabrics, carpeting, etc in the store without looking at in the lighting in your home.


I had a friend years ago who sheepishly told me that her new pink carpeting looked beige in the store. Lesson learned.

Speaking of carpeting.


Wall-to-wall carpeting is usually a mistake with the following exceptions.


Except a very small room, den or a bedroom, unless it’s something like sea grass or a cool leopard print is going to bring your room down a few notches. Now, I realize that a lot of you have wall-to-wall broadloom.


Oh, make no mistake. I had it too! For five painful years. And it was the happiest day of my life when they ripped that pink sucker up!

However, if you like it, then fine. If you’re doing it because you want to save money, I’d try to figure something else out. I would rather see a cool sealed concrete floor than wall-to-wall broadloom.


And please watch your area rug sizes!


Most living rooms need at least an 8 x 10 rug. If you are layering, you can sometimes get away with a smaller rug. Here’s one of my favorite ways to layer rugs.

This is another common decorating mistake


 I Need To Figure Out the Room’s Theme and Then Just Run With It.


When I was having my second child, a good friend asked me what was the “theme” of the baby’s room? She was horrified to hear that I had no “theme.” You don’t have to have one either. And if you do, please keep it subtle. (very subtle)


missnauticalAnchors Away!!! LOL


Oh, it’s so hot and I need the air to move and I also need light. Here we go!


10 common interior design mistakes

No, sorry; here we
don’t go!
The problem is not the fan. I love fans. And I know that my southern readers would rather stick their head in the oven than live without their fans.

The biggest problem here are the three search lights glaring down over the room.

They give off THE worst light. And you do not EVER have to have light coming from the ceiling.


Okay, except for the kitchen. And even then you can have lamps and sconces to augment any ceiling fixtures. More about kitchen lighting here.    and here is another good post about kitchen light fixtures.


Generally, if the ceiling is light or pale, I prefer a white fan.


The exception is this wonderful apartment that has a vintage fan. This is fabulous!

And here is a post all about fans that I love!

Speaking of ceilings. The belief that the ceiling ALWAYS has to be white is a mistake. It’s not the biggest mistake one can make, but you might be losing out on something special.  And, painting your ceiling a deeper color will make it look higher. Dark colors recede as we saw in this post.


Remember the fabulous shimmering ceiling in this post?


miss atlanta homesAtlanta Homes and Lifestyles

And one of my favorite posts that has lots of ideas for ceilings. Actually wait. There’s this post too!

Oh, geeezzz. This one too.


Uh oh. IF you are doing an accent wall, meaning one wall that’s either painted or papered in something that the other three walls are not, there better be a bloody good reason. And there definitely ARE some times when an accent wall is wonderful.


laura-tutun-interiors - fabulous Chinoiserie accent wallOne of my favorite accent walls that enhances this bedroom so beautifully, is this lovely by my local colleague, Laura Tutun. I’ve never met her, but she’s one of the top interior designers in Westchester County, for real!

The worst reason to do an accent wall is because you’re afraid that if you paint the color on all four walls, it’ll be overwhelming. Actually, it’s going to make the color MORE overwhelming to paint it on only one wall! And it may very well look like you forgot to paint the other three walls!


Some Make The Egregious Decorating Mistake of Getting Wimpy With Paint Colors.


This is why I wrote my paint guides and created the palettes. Oh, that reminds me. One of the sweetest readers, a woman named Pinkie, who always comments on my posts on facebook, just posted a little vignette using Dolphin’s Cove. One of the Laurel Home 144 paint colors.

Hang on… I just put her two images together.



How pretty is that!

Here’s another post that has a lot of my favorite colors and you can see how great they look in the photos, as well.

But, related to playing it safe, is not knowing how to work with colors.


The ol’  Crest Toothpaste living room. Or sometimes called “hospital green.”

Please check out this post about beautiful muted green and blue color schemes. And, you’ll find out some of my favorite shades of serene green in this range. And, here too.


10 common interior design mistakes

not to mention a whole boatload of other problems in this sad room.


  • the rug is way too small
  • insufficient and horrible lighting
  • a ceiling fan with a light. just no…

I could go on with this one, but we’ll let it be.


leeann thornton mint green living room

And then there’s fabulous Lee Ann Thornton who can take a pale – minty – crest-y – hospital-y green and it’s fabulous.

What’s the difference?


Well for one thing, she fulfilled the number one mistake that people often forget. And that’s getting the architecture right.




  • The furniture is beautiful and light.
  • The tone on tone nature is soothing.
  • And, the room is punctuated with some handsome dark accents.


Oh, one more. Kind Mary who writes the best comments kindly reminded me one of the biggest interior design mistakes which I wish I had remembered.  But, am adding it in 13 hours after publishing.


Picking your paint colors first is a huge decorating blunder. I should say, potential blunder.


Why? Because until you have a solid direction and know what the other furnishings are going to be; or, at least the big pieces, you are well nigh going to paint yourself into a corner!

Sorry, I know that’s a lame platitude, but obviously, that didn’t stop me! :]

However, trying to work with a wall color that ends up not being a good choice can be a real headache.

If, you are moving and the previous owners colors make you want to hurl, that is different. But, I would still recommend working on as much of a plan as you can before selecting your wall colors.


21 interior design mistakes you need to stop making now

Please pin me


Phew! That was a lot. Are you still here? I hope I didn’t kill you. If I did, my sincere apologies. ;]


Well, there is SO much to creating a beautiful room; it’s a lot to digest, I realize. Perhaps bookmark this post about some of the most interior decorating mistakes for future reference.

One other terrific post is this quick start interior design guide.

***However, for a far more comprehensive guide; (much of the information is not anywhere on this blog.) please also consider purchasing my new 333 Hard to Find Rules & Tips You Need to Know Guide. It’s only $49.00 (for the time being) and over 200 pages filled with my best advice.!*** (please note this is a PDF file that gets downloaded to your computer.)***




7th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2020 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Donna - August 8, 2018 - 1:17 PM

    Great design tips here. Thank you for posting. I agree in dining room the french country dining table is ridiculously skinny – people would be knocking their knees! I do like the idea of a large and long french farmhouse table though where everyone gathers.ReplyCancel

  • Audra Slinkey - August 2, 2018 - 7:04 PM

    Laurel, I’m a huge fan and love/will share this post to my group…do you ever sleep? 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 2, 2018 - 7:21 PM

      Hi Audra,

      Thank you so much!!! I very much appreciate that! About once every six months I’ll spend 12 straight hours sleeping. That usually fixes me up for a while. hahaReplyCancel

  • Michelle Marceny - August 1, 2018 - 7:04 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    This is a wonderful article, and I have both pinned and bookmarked it. Thank you! Another one of my pet peeves (which falls under ‘have a plan’) is when people buy what they like without thinking about whether it would go well in their home. Then they get it home, and the space starts looking cluttered.
    This is an article that I’ll also refer to my client in the future.
    Have a wonderful day,

  • George - August 1, 2018 - 10:03 AM

    This isn’t really an interior design mistake but one thing I am guilty of doing is making a decision about something (paint color, tile) just because I’m exhausted and I want the project to be done.

    A painter may say, “I’m ready to paint tomorrow”, but I still wasn’t able to sample the paints.

    Years ago I was like, “Painter said I needed the paint ready so I guess I’ll pick something because I just want this room done!”

    But, now I’m way better and do not feel this pressure. I’m paying. If I need more time, I ask for more time. I’d rather it look good and take another month then look bad but be done faster.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 1, 2018 - 10:44 PM

      Hi George,

      Actually it IS an interior design mistake. And it’s one that definitely needs to be pointed out. Oh, we’ve all done it, but it’s really a crapshoot that usually ends up costing money.ReplyCancel

  • Lori - July 31, 2018 - 12:06 PM

    This could or maybe has been a whole post…but filling up all wall space with some kind of art leaving no breathing room, way too many family photos on walls and any wall plaque from Home Goods that says things like “Happiness is…”, “It’s 5’oclock Somewhere” etc. I probably just insulted a bunch of folks, but my clients are always amazed how the sophistication factor rises when we take out all the misc. stuff and add fewer, larger pieces of art. My answer for displaying personal photos has been creating BIG plexiglass cases and collaging photos & momentos or blowing up artful photos of kids in black and white.ReplyCancel

    • Naomi - August 1, 2018 - 1:23 PM

      I agree re those maxims. However re art: crowding a wall with real art can be tricky. But there are plenty of examples of how this can be done (thinking of Lehmann Coll., Barnes, etc.). Few can do everything perfectly, and IMO subbing out the hanging of art to an art installer can be a good idea.ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - August 1, 2018 - 10:45 PM

        You are so right. Most people don’t know how to hang their art. Better left to a pro.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 1, 2018 - 12:27 AM

      I’m with you 100% on the Hallmark-type platitudes on the wall. In fact, I’ve written about it, but not sure where it is now. Hang on a sec… I just remembered.


      And there’s another one about decorating over the cabinets.ReplyCancel

  • Carol - July 31, 2018 - 11:43 AM

    Love this post Laurel! Found your blog more than a year ago, and have been a big fan! Am at the beginning of working on a large tudor style home!ReplyCancel

  • Michael - July 30, 2018 - 7:41 AM

    A great list of things to be kept in mind. Bookmarked!ReplyCancel

  • Cyndi schneider - July 29, 2018 - 6:12 PM

    Laurel, I love your blog and have been a long time fan.
    I would love for you to post regarding “why my house is not selling”
    Please see my movie on Zillow 19 Kings Lane, st Simons Island, Georgia 31522
    I know you won’t do specifics on my home, but maybe a general post on a broader subject
    Cynthia SchneiderReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 30, 2018 - 1:12 PM

      Hi Cyndi,

      I have no idea why your home isn’t selling. It’s freaking GORGEOUS! But, there can be some factors beyond your control that could be the problem. A glut of other houses in your price range making it a buyer’s market. The house is over-priced. (I doubt that’s the case here) The location is not the most desirable. (ditto) The house is worth the money, but it’s the most expensive home in the neighborhood. (also doubtful).

      But, the property, decor, curb appeal, outdoor space are all sublime.

      For me, my only reservation is that I’m not fond of completely open concept and it looks that is what we have here on the first floor. There are ways to keep it super open, but also create the feeling of rooms as opposed to everything being all in one huge room. However, there are also people who would love the layout you have.ReplyCancel

  • Mary Anne - July 29, 2018 - 5:17 PM

    Lovely Sunday Post Laurel!! I have a couple of thoughts to add to your marvelous post/comments section! We built a new home 2 years ago.

    We did this by looking at “paper” plans and no model home. We were each living alone( after divorces) so now we had to mesh together HIS/HERS!! The large Great Room was the only room we did not have the seating furnishings for.

    We took a regular piece of graph paper and drew to scale everything!!! Outlets, windows etc. Then we figured out how much wood floor we wanted to have showing around the edges….we had an antique desk and an antique drop leaf table. That number turned out to be 24″. We measured what size sofas would work and also knew we wanted 2 club style chairs.

    We actually put 3 cable TV outlets into the room as well so we wouldn’t be tied to just 1 area for the TV!!! Everything was cut out and assembled onto our graph paper. We actually found a very large square coffee table , so that now matter where one sits, you have a piece of the coffee table.

    Also used 2 brass floor lamps, in addition to table lamps. The room is 19’x19′ by 19′ high. Fortunately my husband has gorgeous collection of American Impressionists and New Hope Artists. We decided which paintings would go onto the walls in this room first and pulled out an apple green color to use as accents.. gray sofas, cream chairs, large nubby texture rug, several green plants….it is a cozy room, with dark gray drapes, light gray walls.

    No matter where you sit you can read with nice lighting. My point is that by taking our time and measuring everything before we bought anything was a great plan!! We have 3 entrances into the seating area. So now after 1 year, the models were built and our particular model used a HUGE sectional in the room!

    So guess what???? Everyone who builds that model does the same thing!!! It just doesn’t make sense as one of your pictures showed that very same issue. Okay, I just wanted to say, take your time when making purchases. We found that people in furniture stores really just want to sell you something and it may not look right in the room! OR, the one I cannot take is:EVERYONE is buying a sectional for large rooms!!! A quick suggestion…our chairs swivel which is great for TV….everyone loves to sit in one! Thank you!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 7:52 PM

      Hi Mary Anne,

      YES! That’s exactly how you do it! I don’t expect you to read every post I link to. After all, I realize that people have other things to do today. haha But, this post, I believe goes over how to do a floorplan with graph paper. In fact, that’s how I did it for 20 years with all of my clients. Dozens of floor plans and it worked fabulously.ReplyCancel

  • Lorri - July 29, 2018 - 4:35 PM

    I knew all of these, but it’s great to have them all in one place. Thank you for the suggested measurements of chandeliers and sofa backs, etc …

    Also, kudos for mentioning the jarring look of a dark ceiling fan on a light ceiling. Annoys me every time, yet it seems to be the default. I don’t see this mentioned by designers too often.

    Light Ceilings = Light Ceiling Fans
    Dark Ceilings = Dark Ceiling FansReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 5:22 PM

      Hi Lorri,

      I always say there’s a lot of logic in this business. Folks who aren’t in the biz, generally just go out and start getting stuff without thinking of the entire picture.

      I’m quite positive that John Singer Sargent knew how a painting was going to turn out before he even starting prepping the canvas.

      Well, I think that rooms are exactly like that and a house is like a series of paintings meant to go together.ReplyCancel

      • Lorri - July 29, 2018 - 6:47 PM

        The reason I love interior design, is that it’s like three-dimensional art that you LIVE in.

        You experience it every day and with all five senses.ReplyCancel

  • Mary Jane Macaluso - July 29, 2018 - 4:09 PM

    I’m still here Laurel and I love this post! SO much good info. I told my sister to paint Dolphin’s Cove in her daughter’s room and she LOVES it and her daughter loves it. Thank you so much for all the great advice and your signature wit. By the way how is your head? And did the city move that stupid thing out of the sidewalk?!?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 5:19 PM

      Hi Mary Jane,

      Well, that’s awesome about the color in your daughter’s room. It’s the perfect shade of aqua/turquoise, I think.

      And thanks for asking about my head. It’s all healed. And no, the city of Yonkers (did you get that GOOGLE?) has not moved the freaking thing. My neighbors are all appalled that it’s there, not only from a safety standpoint, but the thing is bloody ugly. This is supposed to be a quaint mostly residential area and that huge steel pole is something we would expect to see spanning an eight-lane highway by a suburban mall. Right?ReplyCancel

  • mrsben - July 29, 2018 - 3:37 PM

    Fantastic post and informative read, Laurel! (Also appreciated your included links.) Per your question ‘a big design mistake that may have been missed?. Not sure if it comes under said umbrella but what about ‘how the choice/presentation of windows coverings when viewed from the outside of a home can affect its curb appeal’? Just a thought! ☺

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 3:56 PM

      Hi Brenda,

      I hadn’t thought of that one. It’s possible if there are a lot of windows and a lot of different things showing from the outside. But, it’s an excellent point and something to be mindful of, for sure.ReplyCancel

  • Jane - July 29, 2018 - 2:44 PM

    What a wonderful post! I have one of those “Queen Anne style”dining sets that I’ve been trying to “figure out.” In the past I thought I could just change out my chandelier and reupholster the chairs, but after reading this post and others, getting rid of the table and chairs plus chandelier seems like a good option. Thank you for all of the inspiration!

    I recently contacted a designer that I have previously worked with to set up an appointment. I’ve asked her to help me create a several year plan to update, freshen up and modernize this house, not only so I can enjoy it while we still live here, but also to have it ready to sell when we are ready.

    Love all the advice you give on so many aspects of decorating.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 3:15 PM

      Hi Jane,

      I can’t see your chairs, but sometimes just adding a slipcover, even a skirt to the chair changes thing immensely. Or painting the chairs. That way, you can spend your money on something else. I know that there’s a dining room post where I talked about this and I might’ve even linked to it. I’m feeling horribly lazy at the moment or I’d go and look for it, but if you feel like it, there’s a box in the sidebar. If you put in dining room, the post should pop up, but there will be a lot of others along with the one I’m talking about. Also put in slipcover. I think there’s a good one where the headline is something like “I Just Inherited all of my Granny’s old furniture.” something like that.ReplyCancel

  • Kristine Lewis - July 29, 2018 - 1:50 PM

    Hello Laurel,

    Thank you for a beautiful well written post. It helped me to confirm the things I have done right as well as what to change. So helpful!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 2:51 PM

      Hi Kristine,

      I’m glad that you didn’t read it before 8:30 this morning. I had a couple of unforgivable typos that a kind reader gently pointed out to me. And so glad that it’s helpful!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - July 29, 2018 - 12:27 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    Another great Sunday is being spent reading your post. I’m finding more & more how critical it is to have a plan. It will save you so much money in the long run.
    I know one post can’t cover every mistake but I’d like to add one. And that’s picking your paint color first. Before your decorating plan is in place. That’s just asking for problems.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 2:35 PM

      Hi Mary,

      Bingo! I swear I was thinking of that one earlier, but then forgot even though I made a list. I need to go and add it, but I’ll say that you reminded me!ReplyCancel

  • Dana Cannon - July 29, 2018 - 11:40 AM

    I could never understand how the builder of our house ever thought a sofa could be placed properly in our combined kitchen/family room until my husband informed me that there was a pool table under the tray ceiling portion of the room when he bought the house. #itallmakessensenow #itsnotahouseitsapoolhall #architectureiseverythingReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 2:31 PM

      haha! I was going to say that he *wasn’t* thinking, but now I see what was really on his mind. I did have two clients who put a pool table in their living room, however. It’s not as weird as it sounds. One of them already had two family rooms!ReplyCancel

  • Peggy - July 29, 2018 - 10:54 AM

    Thank you for your many fabulous ideas. I like how well versed you are in design styles, scale, history and color. In fact, your posts are becoming more interesting and deep in information as time goes on.ReplyCancel

  • El - July 29, 2018 - 10:51 AM

    This is amazing!!!
    Laurel, could you write about how to get architecture done right? In-depth post with all possible options. Please go on and on and ooonReplyCancel

  • Ellen Cox - July 29, 2018 - 10:33 AM

    Hi Laurel, guilty as charged! On your first rule that is, I’m on my second expensive sofa, and it sits alone in our main living space, unfortunately I am design, scale, and color challenged,not to mention clueless about mixing styles of furniture. This Four Season’s skirted, rolled arm Sunbrella covered sofa in an oatmeal color with navy contrast welt, replaces a too small Apt.2b sectional light blue. So hence these choices were so completely wrong that I’m afraid to purchase pieces to go with my sofa, I know that I need to mix it up, but for the past 6 months I’ve yet to come up with a plan.
    This is a small room that flows in to the kitchen, with 3 doors and 2 double windows, and to complicate things NOTHING is symmetrical, oh and throw in a stone fireplace. I’m thinking beanbag seating. UghReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 10:47 AM

      Hi Ellen,

      Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve goofed in the past. I once got a couple of chairs for myself (fortunately) and they were just wrong in the space. Too big! So, I put them on Craig’s List and they were gone in days. It was such a relief when they were gone and then I knew exactly what to get.

      It’s not easy. Particularly, in a small space and also for pieces that aren’t as far away. It’s true. Something lives farther in the room can be a little bigger and if it’s too small, might look a little dinky.

      If the room is small, I wouldn’t go higher than a 34″ high back for most sofas and club chairs. And depending on the style, usually no more than 38″ deep. These are over-all measurements.ReplyCancel

  • Leslye - July 29, 2018 - 9:39 AM

    Another great post Laurel. As a transplanted Southerner I cannot love fans, but your picture of the lights and the popcorn ceiling is classic “NO’.
    I also liked your past post on kitchen lighting. You just gave me permission to trust my gut feeling not to do pendant lights over my island. In my case I think it would be too much hanging stuff and a cluttered focal point.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 10:18 AM

      Thanks Leslye! Did you see this post?


      No pendant lights here either and I love it. Although I do like pendant lights too. But in this case, it would’ve interfered with the view of the stunning windows, from the living and dining areas; so I think it was the right choice.ReplyCancel

      • Leslye - July 29, 2018 - 2:30 PM

        Oh yes, I just reviewed that post. Another fantastic example of the white paint miracle. I don’t think pendants, cute as they can be, belong in this kitchen either.
        I’m going to get out my newish IPad pen and try to draw pendants in my kitchen.
        This reminds me of a blog request…Photoshoping apps.
        For example…trying out exterior paint colors, or interior colors and maybe wall art arrangements. I just bet you have some ideas. 🤔ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 3:12 PM

          Hi again. I do have an i-pad mini but never use it. It was a mistake, but I keep it as a backup for emergencies. I do everything on my macbook except post to instagram. It’s one reason why I’m not fond of it. And that’s because I can type ten times faster on a regular keyboard. I can only type with one finger. Oh, I’ve tried. My brain only allows one finger for the phone. And yes, there is voice to text. I always forget about that one. But it makes mistakes too.

          Anyway, I use picmonkey for all of my graphics. You can use images as overlays and layer them. That is how I made all of my paint palette boards. Aside from that, I’m sure that there are apps that you can purchase, I just don’t know which ones are the best. But I suppose you could do a search for that.

      • Susan - July 29, 2018 - 11:47 AM

        Thank you Laurel for sharing your expertise and humor!

        I am building a new home and am putting pendants over the kitchen island, but do not want to put a chandelier over the dining table (in front of the island) so as not to impede the view to the mountains outside. Suggestions for lighting the table? I haven’t seen any wireless lamps that would work – either too big or too small. Lots of candles?!ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 2:34 PM

          Hi Susan,

          Well, that leaves ceiling lights (recessed downlights, most likely. But I prefer the smaller ones) and maybe sconces. And if all else fails, one or two of those skinny floor lamps from Wisteria that’s on the hot sales page

  • Barbara Kemp - July 29, 2018 - 9:24 AM


    Good morning! Let me just say the room featured with the fireplace and ticking stripe chairs is exquisite. I’m thinking, time to grab a book and head for a chair, but, but who does all the dusting, cleaning, etc.? Or is this photo merely for show? Do people live in this house? Do they drop their cookie crumbs in the chair when they are reading? What about the mess from the pets? What about the children, grands too? Just wondering because I am exhausted thinking of all the work to keep everything just so. You see I am a bit of a fuss pot, but I, we, live in our home and it cannot be perfect, besides it is exhausting. Sorry I am rambling!

    One last thing! You are one creative gal and how I ever found you I do not know but thanks a bunch. Keep it up!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 10:14 AM

      Hi Barbara,

      Good questions! People do live here. Does it look like this all of the time? Maybe. Maybe not. There’s almost always some additional styling that happens for the photos. What looks good IRL and in a photo are not always the same. What looks “busy” in a photo, does not look nearly so much IRL I have discovered. As for dust and dog hair? Maybe they have an I-robot? lol Do those work?

      You most likely found me either from a google search or on pinterest.ReplyCancel

  • D.K. - July 29, 2018 - 8:45 AM

    I would add to your post about matchy-matchy, costly but “cheap” looking sets…one way to easily avoid this is resist the temptation of catalog shopping. At least shop vintage to supplement catalog shopping (if you must have new.) There’s so much value out there (real wood, cheaper than mdf!) on these re-sale sites and it helps give a home a collected look. Save a 🌲 and don’t buy new!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 10:10 AM

      Hi D.K.

      Well, some catalogs are great and some aren’t. Some a good for what they are. But I do love vintage furniture and you are right, there are some fabulous beautiful pieces to be found. Sometimes they need a little work, but a lot of it, they just don’t make any more. They should, IMO, but they don’t.ReplyCancel

  • Margaret - July 29, 2018 - 8:09 AM

    Great post Laurel. I would add that for all the folks on very limited budgets, and there are many, remember you dont have to do everything at once. You can hire a decorator to get advice for something that you plan to do immediately like painting a room or two, but get advice for future work, like renovating a kitchen while you have them. This gives you something to work toward with a general idea of how much money you may need to save to make the changes.

    I have a tip for an inexpensive solution for artwork. I find many of my clients have their artworks in unsuitable frames: too small for the art; too garish; colour competes with the art……you get the idea. We all know how expensive framing can be. I usually get them to haul out all of their artworks, and any extra frames they might have (you’d be surprised at how many extra frames people have). Then I take the best artworks. If the frames are the right size, and a nice shape but hideous colour, I just take the works apart and paint the frames and remat the works if they need it. Sometimes I can take one of the spare frames that might look decent and paint it and remat one of the artworks that’s in an inappropriate frame to go into it.. I’ve repainted dingy coloured but beautiful wood frames that surround lovely oil paintings. Its an inexpensive solution. I know not everyone can do this, but for the folks who are on tight budgets, you can often find an artist who independently frames their works who would be willing to help with this or you can paint the frames yourself and hire a framer to cut new mats.

    Thanks for sharing all your great ideas.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 10:06 AM

      Great ideas Margaret! Those small details do make a huge difference. And, yes, ask the designer everything and take notes!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah McDonnell - July 29, 2018 - 6:50 AM

    You have just vindicated me! Overhead fan lights only illuminate the dust from the floor! HA!ReplyCancel

  • florida1 - July 29, 2018 - 6:39 AM

    I agree with some of your statements…ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 9:59 AM

      Hi florida1

      As you can see, I deleted most of your comment. Inflammatory remarks are not allowed on this site. If you care to write in a respectful manner, I’ll be happy to publish it, otherwise, no.ReplyCancel

      • Red Ellie - July 29, 2018 - 1:57 PM

        More than a decade ago GardenWeb had a great fun decorating board but there was always a couple of people who just had to post mean-spirited or inflammatory comments. Hated that. I am continually glad that you delete nasty comments and carefully edit blog trolls, Laurel.


        • Laurel Bern - July 29, 2018 - 3:06 PM

          Usually, I just delete them. This one just went on and on and on. Complete with … and many CAPS AND quotation marks. Condescending much? And I can’t publish that because all I need is someone agreeing with them which happens. I don’t expect everyone to love everything I post and say. That would be bizarre if they did. Hell, I’ve gone back and looked at old posts and gone, “yuck, did I really post that?” lol OR, “did I really say that?” yep. I did. oh well…

  • Korina Ann Trew - July 29, 2018 - 3:02 AM

    Lovely post… I am stuck on my kitchen lighting. I have a good size kitchen but it has a big fir beam running across the middle where the island goes so i dont think i can even pull off a pendant or sparkly chandelier…the beam also will be centered over where the stove is so am having a hood built that will similar to DeVol ones or Patina Farm. (Surely there is aname for that type of hood that looks like an old hearth?) Planning on doing sconces since not doing uppers. But the ceiling is one of those the starts at 9 feet and goes to 15 so I could do hanging lights on either side of the beam, I just don’t want too much visual craziness. I am sure I will figure it out.

    By the way, big thank you to pointing me back to the post on white floors after drooling over Bland’s floor. I found 12 inch wide plank flooring that I can either either bleach or whitewash or paint white. Happy happy girl. And the price is reasonable enough that if my original fir floors are horrible then I won’t be terribly bummed. Actually I may end up with planks because omg they are sooo beautiful!ReplyCancel