INTERIOR DESIGN MISTAKES
Last week, I received an email from a client informing me that her huge new beautiful king size bed wouldn't fit through the door of her home. It was something she had purchased prior to me coming on board the project, so she was asking for guidance. Since the headboard was the culprit, luckily she was able to exchange it for a shorter version. These types of things happen often, and on every. single. project. While this wasn’t my mistake, it easily could have been.
Everybody’s done it, no one’s perfect. Iconic designers, famous architects, and renowned artists have all made design mistakes throughout their careers, so of course little ole me is no exception. I know this to be true, but it doesn’t make swallowing my design mistakes any easier. I want to shed some light on common mistakes I've made (and my clients) in the past to hopefully prevent you from doing the same. Learn from them.
A little advice before we dig in. Always and I mean always, sample before you commit. Order the swatch of fabric, rug, or wallpaper, take the time to test out your paint beforehand, have your wood stain sample prepared and keep it to confirm the final color. It won’t prevent every mishap, but it will help to keep the numbers down. I always check the return policy before I buy any furnishing, and I save all of the packaging. I like to try on and live with a piece before I fully commit. It may be neurotic but the system works.
WHERE IT BEGAN- My first design mistake was as a teenager when I was redecorating my childhood bedroom. My dad was building a bookcase to fit into a nook in my room. I measured and re-measured the width of the space and gave him the dimensions. Of course the bookcase didn’t fit, because I failed to account for the depth of the baseboards. The nook remained empty, and it became a floating bookcase on another wall. The good thing about mistakes is that you never forget and rarely repeat them.
GO BIGGER- Floating rugs, squat window panels, and too small light fixtures are common occurrences in the decorating world. What usually happens, and I’m guilty of it as well, is that we fall in love with an item and either can’t afford the larger size or it doesn’t come any bigger. Unfortunately, improperly scaled items mess with the proportions of your room, and end up causing more visual harm than good. Your best bet is to get the size right, and then look for a piece that you love and fits within those parameters.
PAINT- Selecting paint colors is my least favorite part about being a designer, and the most requested service. Choosing the perfect paint color is subjective, and dependent on so many factors. I’m never 100% sure of my choice until it’s up on the wall, and I’m 100% sure it’s terrible. Repainting rooms is a common occurrence, and you shouldn’t shy away from taking a risk on your paint color in the fear you may have to repaint. I’ve chosen to take the power away from the paint color. In reality, one or two shades difference in color isn’t noticeable when it’s up on the wall, especially if it isn’t a vibrant color. I pick a few options that are in the range I would like, put up 1-3 samples and make the selection. No matter what color I choose, I always think the colors that get left behind would have worked better. Instead of second-guessing I move on to something more fun and you should too.
INVESTING IN QUALITY- Putting budget over quality. Recently, I learned this one the hard way. When moving a client’s buffet full of dishes and topped with lamps, the legs broke off causing the furniture to fall on its back. This left us with broken furniture, cracked glassware, chipped dishes, and a major pain. The company refunded the cost of the furniture, but we knew the quality of the buffet wasn’t great before making the purchase. In the quest to save a few hundred dollars we created more problems. I normally avoid discount suppliers for this same reason, but we decided to take a chance and it failed. Managing budget and quality is a complicated process and sometimes you lean too far one way and things come crashing down (giggles).
PREVENTION- Here are a few other mistakes that don’t require a whole paragraph, but are still teachable moments.
-Steam iron your curtain panels before you install hardware. Otherwise they will grow an inch and be too long.
-Blocking, anchors, and supports are necessary. Don’t try to hang artwork, mirrors, shelves, and cabinets without them.
-Peeling paint is a nightmare. Hire a professional or follow the rules (Google) for prepping the surface and buy the appropriate products.
-Have your electrician install junction boxes and cut holes in your ceiling/wall for all light fixtures after all millwork, furnishings, and accessories are installed. You want your chandelier centered over your table, not the room.
-Ensure the size and hanging height of the bathroom vanity mirror accommodates tall people. 6’ plus people need to check their reflection too.
-Check the height of tables. Most people concentrate on width and length when it comes to coffee, side, or accent tables, especially since those are the dimensions shown in plan. The height is equally important. You want to ensure the proportions of the table work well with the arm and seat height of the chair or sofa.
-Order extra materials. When purchasing flooring or natural tile, always order more than your expected requirements. 10% is normal but follow the instructions of the product. Dye lots vary and tile is often cut from the same slab of stone and packaged together. An order at a later date will result in a noticeable color difference.
This job is really all about problem solving when it comes down to it. How to create a stylish, functional, and affordable space that fits the personality and lifestyle of the inhabitants? Every single project comes with hiccups. I would prefer not to add to the mix, but it’s inevitable. It’s all about preventing, managing, and learning from the mistakes.