8 Common Decorating Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

BY NANCY MATTIA ON APRIL 17TH, 2017

blog-image Light and shadows can change the color a room, which makes it important to test a paint color before redoing an entire room – especially dark paint colors. Image courtesy Behr Paint (Sea Serpent pain shown).

Anyone can make a poor choice when it comes to DIY decorating, from choosing a paint color that’s too dark to buying a couch that’s too long. Many mistakes are costly to remedy and could put your budget in a bind. To help you avoid making any decorating faux pas, we rounded up a handful of the most common scenarios and offer advice on how to do things right.

1. Pushing all the furniture against the walls

Assigning every sofa and table to a wall may make the room seem bigger, but it will also create an unnatural layout and poor traffic flow. It’s particularly bad for conversation – expect people to be shouting at one another to be heard from across the room. What works better is creating a “furniture floating” vibe by pulling the seating units out at least a foot from the wall and avoiding empty spaces in the room’s center.

2. Not testing paint colors

Tiny swatches do an inferior job of showing paint’s true color. “Don’t ever paint a whole room without first test painting [large parts of] at least three walls and seeing how the color looks at various times of day,” says Sharon Flatley, owner of Sharon Flatley Design in Dallas. “Light and shadows can change dramatically throughout the day so what you see in the morning will not be the same color you see at dusk.”

3. Eyeballing furniture

An experienced designer may have the skills to glance at a piece of dining table in a showroom and be fairly confident that it will fit into the space she had in mind. But a non-pro? Not likely. “A professional will still double and triple check the dimensions before ordering to make sure that the item will work as planned,” says Sarah Barnard of Sarah Barnard Design in Los Angeles. “Resist the temptation to make impulse purchases, but if you must, ask the sales associate to hold the item for twenty-four hours while you verify your plans.”

4. Choosing furnishings that are the wrong size

Buying things that are not the right proportion is common, says Flatley. “That small darling lamp may have been a steal or just the perfect color but if the proportions are off, it’s not going to look good.” The item you’re considering shouldn’t be too small for the space or it will get lost but nor should it be too big, which will overwhelm.

5. Going matchy-matchy

An inexperienced decorator often talks about things matching. But, says Barnard, an artful composition does not have matching elements but rather complementary ones. “In most cases, a beautiful, well-composed interior shows signs of the owner’s past, the places they've been and the things they've collected.” Think “coordinating” not “matching” to create a custom look.

6. Buying blindly online

Before purchasing anything online, you need to know the quality and source of the product. “There are lots of companies who provide photo images of products that don’t come close to the image when you receive them,” warns Flatley. To avoid problems, buy only from reputable companies and know the return policy.

7. Not hiring a pro

“Most people wouldn't attempt to rebuild their car's transmission or cut their own hair after watching a few reality shows where they made it look easy,” says Barnard. “A professional interior designer provides guidance that helps homeowners avoid costly mistakes.“ Says Flatley, “You may think your friend Sally has a knack for decorating but if you don’t know the fundamentals of design, do not attempt this on your own.”

8. Failing to do your homework

“Experienced interior designers know that ‘pretty’ alone is never enough,” says Barnard. Some furniture finishes can be toxic to indoor air, beautiful fibers might burn or rot in the sun, and many textiles or simply not rated for heavy duty use like upholstery, she says. Research the fiber content and wear rating on a textile before choosing it on a sofa. “Educate yourself so you can make informed decisions that are sustainable for your family.”

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