How To Avoid These 7 Interior Design Mistakes
Lauren Nowacki7-Minute Read
UPDATED: July 25, 2022
One of the best parts about owning a home is that you can decorate it however you want – including painting the walls and adding permanent fixtures. It’s exciting to be able to express yourself, but home decorating can quickly become overwhelming. With so many different styles, paint colors, pieces of furniture and accent options, it’s easy to make a few interior design mistakes along the way.
Avoid common home decorating blunders and, instead, create an interior design that matches your style. This article can help guide you in your process, whether you’re decorating your living room, dining room, primary bedroom or kitchen.
Common Interior Design Mistakes
Decorating any room in the home can be intimidating, from choosing colors and furniture to making sure you have the right measurements and lighting. Luckily, we’ve enlisted the help of a few professional designers to show us the way. Here, they explain how some common mistakes can impact the look and function of a room and how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: Having A Single Light Source
According to Rebecca Langman, interior designer and owner of Revision Custom Home Design, the two biggest problems that come with using a single light source in a room are that it can create unwanted shadows and make certain spaces less functional.
“A single light source will create unnecessary shadows, making the wrong things be the focal point,” she says. “You will also have potentially unusable spaces within the room because the lighting is inadequate for the use of the space. It's really difficult to have a reading corner with no light to read by.”
To avoid this mistake, choose various light sources and layer them. You don’t just want to use overhead lighting. Instead, consider different levels and use lamps of various heights to achieve this look. It’s also important to use natural light to your advantage, which can brighten a room at no extra cost. If you have spaces within the room that you use for certain reason – like a workspace or reading nook – add a small lamp or other task lighting to use specifically for these purposes.
Mistake 2: Not Measuring Your Space Before Shopping
This mistake can cost you time and money as it’s likely you’ll need to return a few items. Without measuring first, you run the risk of them not fitting in the space where they’re supposed to go – or, worse, not fitting through doorways.
Before you shop for furniture and other decor, measure the room, the space you wish to put the item and any doorways or hallways you’ll need to pass through to deliver the item. It may be wise to write out the measurements and draw out your room layout and take that information with you as you shop. Remember to provide some leeway when it comes to hallways and doors. You’ll want to make sure the object is a few inches smaller so you can easily move through.
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Mistake 3: Not Considering Scale
“Scale calls attention to how well your pieces fit in the room,” says Benjamin Stenson, CEO of The Norseman, a home remodeling and custom cabinetry company. “Even though this is a slightly mathematical aspect to consider, it is highly important. If you do not consider the scale, your pieces will look out of place and won’t fit well in the room.”
When you don’t consider the size of furniture relative to the size of the room, you could feel overwhelmed in a small room with big pieces or feel like you’re standing in a completely empty room because the furniture is too small for the space.
When it comes to considering scale, balance is essential. Bigger spaces may require bigger furniture, while smaller spaces should have less furniture and pieces that are a smaller size. You’ll also want to consider height. If you have low ceilings, a tall table may make the ceiling feel even lower.
Mistake 4: Hanging Art too High Or Too Low
Art is meant to be seen and enjoyed, but if you hang it too high or too low, it may not be seen – or seen in the way the artist intended. Not only that, but a room can feel off-balance or disjointed if the artwork on the walls isn’t the right height.
To make sure you’re hanging the piece correctly, don’t just rely on the popular “rule of thumb” that states eye level is best.
“Many people use the eye level rule, but this only works if everyone is the same height,” notes Marco Bizzley, certified interior designer and consultant at HouseGrail. “If you’re hanging [art] on the wall, typically 50 inches to 65 inches [above the ground] works best. If you’re hanging it above furniture, you want to go 4 inches to 8 inches above it.”
Mistake 5: Chasing Trends Without Considering Your Lifestyle
When overwhelm kicks in, it can feel easier to just use one of the newest decorating trends. After all, you’ll be able to find plenty of images to use as inspiration and since it’s trendy, you’ll be able to find pieces at the store. What could be the problem here? For one, trends fade and your home could quickly look outdated. Second, when you chase a trend, you may be designing for someone else’s style and not considering your taste or lifestyle.
First, consider what you like and what you need. If your lifestyle calls for big, comfy couches, blankets and soft lighting, decorating your room with formal dining sets, large bookcases and brighter lights just won’t work. If you don’t know how to style your room, consider classic designs, with modern or traditional pieces that have stuck around as staple pieces for years. If you still want to incorporate something trendy, consider doing so with small pieces that can easily be replaced.
Mistake 6: Using The Wrong-Size Rugs
“Rugs are meant to highlight a defined area and set boundaries,” says Stenson. “Choosing a wrong-sized rug minimizes the sense of order in the area. The worst mistake you can make is to choose a very small carpet. It looks cheap and awkward.”
“When selecting a rug, measure the size of your room and then subtract almost 2 feet from each dimension,” advises Stenson. “When you lay the rug down, the floor beneath creates a beautiful border.”
Langman has another helpful tip for getting the right size. “The rug should solidly anchor the room, and the best way to do this in a living room is to have at least the front two legs of all furniture on the rug and, in the dining room, the entire table and chairs when pushed in.”
Mistake 7: Overstuffing Your Rooms
While, according to Langman, everyone has a different tolerance for the amount of stuff in a room, “overstuffing a room becomes a problem when the amount of ‘stuff’ in a room makes the task of the room difficult.” Langman continues, “If you have too much stuff on your kitchen countertops it makes it impossible to prepare meals. If you have furniture that's too large and encroaching on traffic paths, it makes it dangerous to move around your space.”
To help avoid this problem, Leonard Ang, CEO of iPropertyManagement says to take things step-by-step. “It's best to take it slowly when adding new furniture or decor to a space,” he says. “Assuming you have the storage to allow for it, start with your minimal functional setup – the things that simply must go in this room. From there, add things slowly and carefully over days or weeks.”
Decorating your home and making it your own can be an exciting part of homeownership, but with so much to consider, it can become stressful. These decorating tips will help you avoid certain design mistakes and help take some of the stress away. However, the most important and most helpful thing to remember is that, as long as you feel comfortable in each room and your house feels like a home, you’re doing it right.
Don’t let the cost of decorating your home stress you out. It can be helpful to hunt for items at the local thrift store or at a flea market, but a personal loan can also help make paying for these expenses more manageable.
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