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15 Common Interior Design Mistakes Experts Always Spot

24 September 2019

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When it comes to curating a beautiful home, there are a lot of little things that have to come together to create the perfect space. Things like achieving balance, having a cohesive theme, and ensuring your furniture is the right scale can make the difference between a room that you love and one that just doesn’t feel right.

Our Ultimate Guide to Interior Design can help you learn the ins-and-outs of designing a space. But sometimes, knowing what not to do can be just as helpful as knowing all the rules. We’re giving you a heads up on 15 of the most common interior design mistakes so you can spot them before they happen. If you already have some of these design faux pas in your home, read on for how to fix them so you too can have a fabulous home.


The 15 Common Interior Design Mistakes That Experts Always Spot

  1. Not Having a Plan
  2. Not Budgeting Properly
  3. Failing to Establish a Focal Point
  4. Thinking Everything Has to Match
  5. Having your Clutter on Display
  6. Holding onto Heirlooms (you don’t like)
  7. Using the Wrong Size Area Rug
  8. Having Only One Light Source
  9. Hanging Curtains Too Low
  10. Placing Furniture Right Against the Wall
  11. Choosing the Wrong Size Furniture
  12. Ignoring Traffic Flow
  13. Choosing Paint Colours Before Furniture and Fabrics
  14. Exposed Outlets and Cords
  15. Plain Walls and a Lack of Accessories

 

 

    


woman in designer kitchen

Take time to develop a plan for your interior design project /// Image credit: Tina Dawson/Unsplash

Starting a design project without first making a plan is like driving to an unknown location without looking at a map. You might get to where you want to go in the end, but you will make a lot of wrong turns along the way.

While not all design projects will require scale drawings and a full set of specs, you should always establish a few guidelines before you begin. No matter the size of your project, following a consistent design style and colour palette will ensure the space feels cohesive.

You should also take the time to evaluate which items in your home will stay and what new pieces you will need. Make a list of things you will need to complete the project and keep it with you when shopping. This will help you avoid impulse purchases that don’t fit your aesthetic.

 

   


skull art with mirror wall

If you want the luxurious finishing touches make sure your budget for it /// Image credit: Andreas von Einseidel/Alamy

Many people fail to realize just how important establishing a solid budget for your design project is. And unfortunately, this is one area that can actually make or break your entire project. If you don’t budget carefully, it’s easy to overspend on a few items and be left with no money for the end of the project.

The first is to determine how much money you have available and are comfortable spending on your interior design project. Then you get to make your “dream list”. This is a list of everything you want to do in your home. While you may not realistically be able to do everything on the list, it gives you a place to start.

Once you have both of these things ready, you can establish your scope of work. If you’re hiring a designer, this is the time to meet with them and they will help you form the project parameters. If you are doing the project yourself, you will have to get quotes for contractors and calculate the cost of the furniture and supplies you will need to complete the project. Make sure you leave a little extra room in your budget to allow for contingencies.

      


luxury dining room

A focal point such as a dining room helps to centre a room /// Image credit: Yann Maignan/Unsplash

A well-designed room starts with a focal point. The focal point provides a center of attention and helps anchor the space. It should be a visually prominent feature that draws attention and gives the eye somewhere to land when you enter the room. Architectural features such as a fireplace or large window are among the most common focal points. If the space does not have any prominent features, you will have to establish one with furniture or artwork.

In the absence of an architectural focal point, the largest piece of furniture in the room usually becomes the focal point. Depending on the room, that could be the couch, a bed, or a desk.  A large piece of artwork also makes an excellent focal point and allows you to express your individual style. Once you have established a focal point, the layout of the room should further draw attention to the main attraction

     


designer furniture in white room

Mixing colours and styles can make a room vibant /// Image credit: Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Your home should be as unique as you are. And the best way to create an interior that expresses your tastes and individual style is to select each piece carefully. It might seem easier to take a page from your favorite catalogue to guarantee everything in the room matches. But you’ll also get a room that lacks character and interest. Or worse, you might end up with the exact same living room as your neighbor.

Never be in a rush when decorating your home. You’re far better off to live without something for a little while than to buy furniture that doesn’t fit with your design plan. The wait will be worth it when you discover that perfect piece. And choosing individual pieces rather than matching sets will make it easy to swap out a piece when it’s time for a change.

 

     


tidy shelves

Keep your shelves tidy if your cultter will be on display /// Image credit: Jason Leung/Unsplash

Even the most beautiful spaces look less than their best when filled with clutter. Clearing your clutter will not only make your home look better, it will also free up more time and reduce stress in your life. Start by getting rid of the things you don’t use or need. Then find a home out of sight for what’s left.

To successfully keep clutter from reappearing, try incorporating helpful organization ideas into your design. Look at where clutter usually accumulates in your home and then find solutions that work for you and your family.  If mail piles up at the front door, add a console table and baskets to catch what comes in the door. If you have stacks of paperwork in the office, add a space with trays to keep it sorted until you can put it away.

 

      


vintage style room with painting

Too many pieces from granny can make a room look dated /// Image credit: Flaunter.com/Unsplash

Using vintage, bespoke, and custom pieces in your home will create a unique space that expresses your personal style. But just because you already own vintage or heirloom furniture, doesn’t mean you’re obligated to keep them.

If a piece is in disrepair or doesn’t fit with your design style, it’s OK to let it go. If you have family heirlooms that hold sentimental value, consider passing them to another family member who will also appreciate them. Or, look at having items refinished to match your design style. With the right colour and materials, an updated antique may become one of your favourite pieces.

      


rug and wallpaper in contemporary home

The right size rug holds a room together /// Image credit: Thanos Pal/Unsplash

Area rugs are often the last thing people consider when decorating, but they are actually an important element of the design. The right area rug can help anchor a room, define a space, or pull together a colour palette. The options for colours, patterns, and style are almost endless so be sure to keep your plan and colour palette in mind when choosing your rug.

It’s also important to choose the correct size rug for the room. One of the most common mistakes designers see is rugs that are too small for the space. Here are some general guidelines to help you choose the right size rug for your room:

Living room and family room rugs should be big enough to fit at least the front feet of all furniture on the rug. If you are able to use one large enough to include all the furniture completely, even better.
In the dining room, your rug should be large enough to allow all dining chairs to be pulled out from the table and still have all four legs on the rug.
Bedroom rugs should extend a minimum of 2 feet from the side of the bed. A good rule of thumb is 8’ x 10’ for a queen bed and 9’ x 12’ for a king bed.

     


rattan chair by patio door

Ensure you have plenty of natural and installed lighting /// Image credit: Taylor Simpson/Unsplash

So often, people move into a new home and never think twice about the lighting. Builders generally use the least expensive fixtures and install only enough to provide basic light. This leaves most homes with either dimly lit spaces or harsh lighting. Or sometimes both!

The trick to ensuring every room in your house is comfortable and well-lit is to make a lighting plan that includes ambient, task, and accent lighting. You can achieve this by layering your lighting at different levels and intensities. A combination of overhead lights, wall lights, and floor and table lamps will provide even lighting throughout your home.

A well-thought-out lighting plan will ensure each room has enough light to perform any task that is usually done in the space. Each room should have overall (ambient) lighting to allow you to move around safely. Tas well as task lighting for performing specific activities such as cooking or reading. And accent lighting to highlight noteworthy items such as artwork or architectural features.

 

    


white curtains with a love seat

Hanging curtains at the right level will incease the sense of space /// Image credit:  Hutomo Abrianto/Unsplash

Another all-too-common interior design mistake is hanging curtains at or just above the window frame. This can make windows seem smaller and actually blocks natural light if the curtains don’t open wide enough to leave the windows completely unobstructed.

Hanging curtains just below the ceiling and allowing them to extend all the way down to the floor, will make windows appear larger. Be sure the rod extends far enough past the window frame to ensure the window is completely uncovered when the curtains are open.

 

      


contemporary home with fireplace

Allowing space between furniture and the walls lets the room breathe /// Image credit: Orlova Maria/Unsplash

Unless you have a really small space and there’s no way around it, pushing all your furniture up against the wall can make for an awkward arrangement. This usually leaves large, empty spaces and results in furniture that’s too far apart for conversation. Unless you’re designing a library intended for quiet contemplation, your furniture plan should facilitate comfortable conversation.

To achieve the right spacing, try placing your living room sofa facing your focal point with enough room behind it for traffic to flow freely. Add in additional seating, ensuring the distance between chairs does not exceed 12-feet. Keep in mind that you should allow at least 30-inches for people to move between furniture. And a distance of 14 to 18-inches between a coffee table and sofa will ensure drinks are within reach.

 

     


sofa and coffee table in designer home

Choosing the right size furniture for a room improves the visual flow /// Image credit: Jodie Johnson/Shutterstock

Scale and proportion are some of the hardest areas of design to master. Many people believe that if you have a large home, you should fill it with large furniture. Likewise, if they have a small home, they decorate with only small-scale furniture. It’s OK to use a large-scale piece in a small space to make a statement. But you have to balance it out with small or visually light items to avoid a room that feels crowded.

The ideal space will have a mixture of different sizes, shapes, and heights. Imagine your home as a cityscape and create an interesting “skyline” by filling it with tall and short and large and small pieces. This will add interest and variety and help draw the eye around the room.

When selecting furniture of varying sizes, you should also take proportion into consideration. A tall chair next to a low coffee table will look awkward and feel out of proportion. Always measure both the space where the furniture will go and the pieces near it to ensure you get the size right.

 

   


doorway in luxury interior

A clear traffic flow in your home is an important element of interior design /// Image credit: Andreas von Einseidel/Alamy

Few things are more frustrating than bumping into furniture whenever you try and move around your house. You can completely transform the feel of your home by rearranging the furniture to improve circulation and maximize traffic flow.

Use a floor plan or sketch to establish optimal traffic patterns without your existing furniture throwing you off. Start at the room’s point of entry and find the easiest path to the next entryway. In a room that has only one entrance, the traffic must flow around the furniture and back out the same doorway.

 

       


green wall in designer home

Choose your fabrics before you choose a strong paint colour /// Image credit: Andreas von Einseidel/Alamy

It might seem easier to paint your home before you move in or before you fill it with new furniture. But this decorating mistake results in walls that don’t relate to anything in your home. And with all the thousands of paint colours available, it’s much easier to match your paint colour to your décor than to find furniture that coordinates with your walls.

Instead, start with your fixed finishes or large-scale pieces. If you’re doing a major renovation, the floor and counter finishes should come first. When decorating a room, start with the big pieces such as the sofa or area rug. These are the items that are going to have the biggest impact on your space so they should really speak to you. From there you can work your way down in size by adding accent furniture and décor. Once all of that is place, you can choose paint colours that help tie everything together.

    


interior designed room with TV

Keeping cords and wires off the floor makes your room design crisp and clean /// Image credit: Loewe Technologies/Unsplash

Nothing ruins a beautiful room like an ugly tangle of cords and wires. Electrical cords may be unavoidable but that doesn’t mean you can’t disguise them or tuck them out of sight. The best way to hide cords is to run them inside the wall so they disappear completely. But this isn’t always an option. Alternatively, you can paint cords the same colour as the wall to make them less noticeable.

Thankfully, with homes becoming more automated and an ever-increasing stream of gadgets to charge, creative ways to integrate technology in your home are on the rise. Nightstands, desks, and side tables are now available with built-in charging stations. Cord covers also come in a number of stylish colours to help disguise cords that run around the room.

 

       


 

plain scandinavian interior design

Plain white walls can make your home too cold and stark /// Image credit: Jodie Johnson/Shutterstock

You might think that once the furniture is in place and the walls are painted, the design job is complete. But the final step in any design or decorating project is adding accessories and artwork. This will help pull the design together, reinforce the colour palette, and add interest, texture, and personality to the space. A home lacking colour and décor can feel harsh and uninviting

While white walls are on-trend right now, plain and empty walls are never in style. Large walls with no colour or artwork look bleak and make your home feel unfinished.  Adding a large piece of artwork will make a big impact on a space. There are plenty of options online for unique and affordable art if the cost of original work is out of your reach.

Accent walls are another option for turning a blank wall into a stunning focal point. Whether you choose a bold colour, painted pattern, or wallpaper or wall mural, an accent wall will add interest and colour to your space.

When choosing accessories look for items that fit your colour scheme and include a variety of textures and finishes. Travel souvenirs, vintage items, and personal photographs all make unique accessories that tell a story and differentiate your décor. Don’t forget to add plants and flowers to help bring a space to life.

The secret to successfully displaying accessories is to look for ways to group them by shared characteristics. Forming groups of similar objects will create more impact than displaying singular items. Arranging accessories in groups of odd numbers is more appealing than even groupings. Including a combination of different heights, textures, and shapes will produce the most appealing and interesting arrangements.

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