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.
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.
Early sofas, called Canapés (in French) did not have skirts.
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
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.
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!
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?
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.
Plus, we have another matched set of ersatz, fake, phony so-called “traditional” furniture.
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
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. ;]
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.
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)
Anchors Away!!! LOL
Oh, it’s so hot and I need the air to move and I also need light. Here we go!
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.
DO YOU HEAR ME??? ;]
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!
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.
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.
- When it makes architectural sense.
- A dark wall behind a TV to “hide” it. For more about ways to conceal or hide the TV click here.
- Behind a bed in a boring boxy bedroom.
One 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.
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.
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.
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.)***