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Common Interior Design Errors and How to Fix Them

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Interior Design Errors

One of the main reasons people choose to hire a professional designer is that it’s so easy to take a space from Wow! to What?! Even with all of the online resources available, not to mention books and magazines bursting with design tips, there are a variety of common interior design errors we see again and again in the homes we were brought in to redesign. In fact, even hiring an interior decorator doesn’t save you from the most common mistakes, since most people eventually want change things up a little.

There are good ways and bad ways to decorate a space. Here are the common errors we see and what you can do to avoid them.

There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Display Collections

Most people seem to have a favorite thing they collect. Ceramic figurines, travel souvenirs, plates, thimbles, pretty much anything can become a collection. For example, my mother started collecting teapots years ago. I don’t know why, she doesn’t even drink tea, but she now has dozens of them.

There’s nothing wrong with your collection of ceramic figurines, just like there isn’t anything wrong with my mom’s teapot collection. It only becomes a design issue if you display them incorrectly.

Many collectors scatter their favorite items throughout their home. A figurine on the mantle, one on an end table, still another on a shelf in the foyer. It’s much better to display these items in groupings, preferably arranged in groups of three (design is all about the rule of three). For example, I arranged my mother’s teapots in small groupings in multiple areas throughout the kitchen and dining areas; a pot shelf, a window sill, a repurposed lazy Susan on an area table, all became displays areas for her much-loved teapots.

A Room without Character

A room that’s too perfectly matched feels sterile and impersonal. You’re at the greatest risk of making this mistake when you buy an entire room of furniture, plus accessories, in a single go, such as when you buy a “room” from a furniture store. Sofa, love seat, chairs, tables, lamps, even throw pillows are often included with these sets (they remind me of those bed-in-a-bag sets). It may be convenient, and you may even get a great deal, but the resultant look is “showroom,” not “room where people actually live, love, and laugh.”

You build a room with character over time. An interesting piece you found at a flea market. A great painting you found at an art festival. That comfy, beautiful, handmade throw your grandmother made for you. These are the items that make a space truly yours, but they don’t happen overnight. Go ahead and buy your matching sofa and chairs, but don’t be afraid to spice it up with a few things you love.

Furniture Placement without Thought or Design

Corner Reading NookSo many people shove all of their furniture against a wall and call it a day. They give no thought to where it’s placed, much less how it’s placed. Instead, really think about it; look at the space, consider the activities that normally occur there, and arrange your furniture accordingly. Do you love to read? Create a reading nook near a window, and don’t forget a lamp and a table to set your favorite drink or snack, or even a small bookshelf. Create intimate conversation areas in living spaces. Add a bench or chair in your dressing area for laying out your outfit or slipping into a pair of shoes. With imagination, you can create furniture clusters and still achieve the flow of great design.

The Smart Way to Hang Wall Art

Photo arrangement on stairs, Design to Reflect, Phoenix AZJust about anything that you hang on your wall becomes wall art. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to understand the best way to hang these items. Pieces are either too high or too low or grouped too close together or spread too far apart. Luckily, there are tricks to help you arrange your wall art so that it looks like a pro did it.

First, if you hang pieces at eye level, you want the center of the piece to hang at a height between 55″ and 60″. The top of the item rests much higher, but you get an overall eye level (unless the person viewing your art is extremely tall or extremely short).

Now, how to arrange your items. This can be tricky because experimenting tends to leave tiny nail holes all over your walls. I’m convinced that’s why most people just hang the darn thing and leave it there, even if it’s too high or too low. Instead, try this designer trick: trace the item on a piece of paper and then cut out the shape and experiment with various placements using a small amount of tape (use a light touch so that you don’t peel away the paint). This allows you to experiment with size, color, and texture to find the best way to display your treasures.

Understanding Scale and Proportion

Achieving scale and proportion may be one of the most difficult things for a non-professional to do. You need a combination of varying heights and sizes throughout the space, from furnishings to wall art to window treatments, to create that “right” feeling. This can be tricky without the help of a professional designer. Too many large, bulky items cause the space to feel crowded and small. Too many small items make it look cluttered, in part because the eye keeps darting around, searching for a focal point. To create an attractive space, you have to master scale and proportion.

Ask an Expert

Even if you want to go the DIY route with your interior design, you can still talk to a professional. Many designers offer hourly rates and are willing to provide their expert advice on color, furniture arrangement, fabrics, and more. Or, hire a designer to tackle one or two rooms, and then apply the lessons you learned during that process throughout your home.

If hiring a designer is outside your budget, bring in a friend – or a group of friends – to appraise the room with fresh eyes. You don’t have to take their advice, but you may find it valuable. Finally, keep reading and experimenting. With a bit of practice and know-how, you can take any space from blah to fabulous.

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