When it comes to good design, there are a lot of people who think there are "rules" you need to follow to achieve good results. I tend to be of the mindset that rules are made to broken, and that sometimes the best results come from breaking the mold. With that said, there are handful of best practices I've garnered throughout the years that help my designs to be the best that they can be. Are these rules? Definitely not. But not making these design mistakes has allowed my spaces to look cohesive, intentional and more aesthetically pleasing.
Putting all of Your Furniture Against the Walls
I'm starting off with one of the most common design mistakes I see, and it's something that specifically applies to living rooms. It's hard to determine where this tendency originated from, but we've all seen it. I would venture to guess that 99% of living rooms in America have all of their furniture against the walls! Now, if you have a small space, it's probably likely that you don't have much of a choice. That's not what we're talking about here! Larger rooms with furniture placed solely around the perimeter (oftentimes with a sad, undersized coffee table in the middle), just look cold and uninviting. Let this be my TedTalk to you to get your sofas and chairs off of the walls and into the middle of the room. This will be way more aesthetically pleasing and create a cozy and inviting space to entertain guests or be close with your family.
Buying Too Small of a Rug
Most common mistake number two: buying too small of a rug. In fashion, we're all accustomed to the idea of dressing for our body types. Shorter people might avoid clothing that's very bottom-heavy, as it accentuates their lack of height, for example. Rugs are like the clothing of the room, you have to consider the space's "body type" before purchasing. The purpose of a rug is to anchor a space. You've probably heard that a lot, but what does it really mean?! To me, rugs create "zones" within your home. This is especially helpful in open concept homes or just generally larger or multi-purpose rooms. The image above is in my hearth room, which is open to my dining room, which is open to my kitchen. Without a rug here, the space would feel more like it's a part of the dining room (which would be awkward) and less like a room all it's own. Hence, it feels "anchored" because of the rug! See how the rug sets the tone for the space? Good! Now, back to size. You want the rug to frame your space in a way that it feels like corrals all of your furniture and decor. Plan your furniture placement (off the walls, of course!) and aim to put the front two feet of any sofas or accent chairs on the rug. Typically, this is going to require a much larger rug than you originally thought. If you find yourself in doubt, unsure, or deciding between two sizes, you should almost always go with a larger rug.
Buying Off the Shelf Without a Plan
This is one I've been particularly guilty of in the past, and even have a hard time shaking this mistake despite doing design professionally. It is so DARN easy to buy a piece of decor, or a pillow, or piece of art simply because we like it and think it's cute (hence why I try to avoid the home section at Target). But how many times have you done that, only to come home and realize you have no where to put it?! Or even worse, that even though it's cute on your own, it doesn't go with the rest of your decor. I'm not saying everyone needs to have modeling software to mockup their decor in 3D ahead of time like I do, but the mistake here is not being more intentional. Before you buy a piece for your home, think "where could I use it?" and "is it within the same style range of my home". This will save you money over the long term, and help you avoid having a closet full of useless decor you never got to fully appreciate.
Not Budgeting Enough for Decor
Of all of the design mistakes I see, this one hurts my heart the most. You run into this more often when people are doing large scale remodels or new builds, and they don't work with an interior designer or they engage a designer too late. Regardless of the situation you're in, if you're budgeting to redo a space, stop everything you're doing and go back and increase your decor budget by at least 30%. Yes, I said AT LEAST. I once hear a designer buddy of mine say "homes eat decor," and she was SO right. There is nothing worse than walking into a room that has a fresh sofa, brand new coffee table, and built-ins that cost tens of thousands of dollars and they are all.... empty. Decor is what gives your home life and style. Decor is what MAKES the design. Trust me on this one. Budget a little bit more for decor, you don't have a spend a ton to have great style.
Taking Trendiness vs. Timelessness Too Seriously
One thing I find my clients getting hung up on frequently is trends. Some people love them, some people want to go as timeless as possible because that's what they think is going to make their investment last. Here's the thing, even the most timeless design trends come in and go out. And some things that might be considered trends for a time, end up becoming timeless. Take mid-century modern design for example. Obviously, it had its hay-day in the middle of the 20th century, but elements of the style have become staples in our lives 80 years later. It's impossible to predict design trends, just like it's impossible to predict the weather. I hear people say "I don't like that table, I think it's too modern." But modern isn't really a word that encompasses any one look! Instead, don't focus on any one singular item in your design and focus on the bigger picture. That modern table might actually make a lot of sense placed in room full of other items you consider more timeless, and is what will make the room feel more "now."
What do you think? Are you guilty of making these design mistakes? What design mistakes do you hate to see? Let me know in the comments!
Hackett House Studio is a boutique interior design firm located in Columbus, Ohio offering full-service and virtual design services, as well as concierge styling and interior photography. Please visit the services page of our website to learn more about us, and to inquire about working with us.
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