10 Most Common Decorating Mistakes

As discussed on the Pete and Brenda radio show, to be aired today, 3/10/10, 12:40pm & 9:40pm PST:  Stream from the Web          

10 Most Common Interior Decorating Mistakes


I’ve developed a list of the 10 most common decorating mistakes I have found  from meetings with clients.  Below is an outline, and I’ll elaborate on each one with room photo examples…          

  1. Room Arrangement
  2. Game plan
  3. Starting point
  4. When to paint
  5. Where to put color
  6. Dealing with trends
  7. Era of the home
  8. Choosing paint colors
  9. Waiting too long to get it done
  10. Compromising with spouse

1.  Room Arrangement          

Mistake:  Outlining parameter of the room with furniture          



Solution:  Group your furniture in a more intimate seating arrangement better geared toward conversations.  Area rugs function as anchors for the furniture, as shown below.  Additionally, when arranging your furniture be sure to keep in mind the focal point of your room as well as the functions in the room.           



Focal point of the room above:  The beautiful window wall and fireplace.  However, television watching also needs to be taken into consideration.  Notice how the area rug anchors the furniture so that it doesn’t appear to be floating in this large room.  Also the area rug really helps to tie the colors together!          

Four chairs


Points for the room above:          

1.  Focal point:  Notice how the furniture is grouped around the fireplace, emphasizing the fireplace as the focal point in the room, (and an important room feature).          

2.  Symmetry:   Some people have to have symmetry or they go crazy, but it is not a requirement for good design.          

3.  Furniture types:   A living/family room doesn’t always have to have a sofa!  4 chairs is a great layout inviting friendly, intimate conversations.  PS… Be sure to have a table to set drinks on.  (Some people leave these out, and you know who you are!)          

Four chairs


 Above:  Notice how the area rug anchors the furniture          


Two sofas


The room above:   Two sofas is another great arrangement!  Again, the fireplace is the focal point.           



Above:  Again two sofas around a fireplace, but also situated for television viewing, and notice the clever way the television can be hidden .          


Above:  There is no fireplace.  Conversation and television viewing are the primary functions of  the room.  The armoire creates an attractive TV wall that can be hidden away for company.          

Multi Functions


 Above:  Always plan for other functions the room needs to have as well.  Notice the little dining area, and how the focal point of the room is the doors opening up to a beautiful yard.  The fireplace is secondary in this room.          

2.  Game Plan          

Be sure to have a game plan (design plan) before you start purchasing and/or painting…  I frequently run into people who begin purchasing items or painting without a plan, and end up wasting money and time unnecessarily!   The most important elements in your game plan are the color scheme, design style, and floor plan arrangement.   (More details on these plan elements below.)          


3.  Starting Point
A  key element of your design plan is knowing where to start.  If you have existing art or area rugs, those are great starting points because they can be the hardest and most time consuming to find and match up with other existing design elements otherwise.  If you don’t have either, then look for magazine photos you like, or even the color scheme of a place mat or dishes that make you happy.   You can also look in your closet to see which clothing colors you’re most drawn to. 



 Above:   We used the existing picture as our starting point, and then found an area rug, and window treatment fabric to coordinate.  The style of the furniture was based on the era of the house as well as the existing decor style elsewhere in the home.          

4.  When to Paint          

Whatever you do, don’t start painting until you have your game plan figured out.  For example, the client below went ahead and chose a bright accent wall color for every major room in their brand new house when it was being painted.  They did not have a design plan in place yet, and now have the very difficult task of trying to match furnishings with some hard-to-match paint colors.  It is an extremely time consuming task, while on the other hand it’s very easy to match paint colors to furnishings, and just paint one accent wall after a plan is in place…          



5.  Where to put color          

It is more cost effective to have your major purchase items in neutral colors, such as your wall-to-wall carpeting, and sofa.  Then you can add the color in your accessories, art, throw pillows, draperies, area rug.  This also makes it much more cost effective to change the look of your room when you get tired of it, or even change the look with the seasons, i.e. change from light sheer draperies in the summer to heavier velvet draperies in the winter.  Also paint is a great way to add color… painting is one of the least expensive ways to decorate… if you do it yourself!          



Above:  A clearly outdated living room.  The floral sofas of the 80’s quickly became dated!  Not a good item to go trendy with if you don’t want to have to update it in a few short years.          



 Above:  The sofa is now a neutral color.  Obviously these people tired of having a color over kill, but the splash of color was added in the side chairs.   And there is nothing wrong with having a lot of neutral colors, as long as it’s done right.          


Cost effective color


 Above:   If you hate to paint, there is nothing wrong with neutral walls.  Here the color was added in the area rug, throw pillows, draperies, and accessories.  Great example!          

Not as cost effective


 In the example above, it will be more expensive to change out the orange color in this room, since it was added through the two custom upholstered chaise lounges and a custom cornice box on the window.  If you have a small budget,  add the color with paint and accessories.          

6.  Dealing with trends          

There is nothing wrong with going trendy in your decor, just be prepared to change it out in a few years, or it will look dated very fast.  Also apply the same  principles I mentioned above on where to put color, i.e. invest in trends for the lower cost items such as the throw pillows, area rug, accessories.   It’s very expensive to replace wall to wall carpeting so it’s better to keep it and other flooring types in neutral colors.          



  Above:  The decade of this room decor stands out like a sore thumb!   Teal-green carpeting, mauve sofa, florals, and more florals!  Looks pretty dated now doesn’t it?   And they probably put off updating the room because of the cost to replace the big ticket items.          



  Above:  Ahhh, this is so much better, and so much more soothing and relaxing with these calming colors!          

8 Responses to “10 Most Common Decorating Mistakes”
  1. Agnus Dinola says:

    This blog is great. How did you come up witht he idea? 7 6 9

  2. There are some stunning transformations shown here.

    As a decorator myself I realise what a difference,paint,wallcoverings and material can make,truly awesome.

    We will be featuring some of our work at our site in time


    Please feel free to check out some of our examples we’ll put up shortly.

    All the best.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hello, I just wanted to take the time to make a comment and say I have really enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for all your work!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] you make a plan for the interior decoration of your home you will avoid the common decorating mistakes and end up with great room designs.  Not kidding!  And if you follow the plan and stick to it […]

  2. […] loves to give their expert comments, so just use them to correct the mistakes you made while interior decorating your […]

  3. […] loves to give their expert comments, so just use them to correct the mistakes you made while interior decorating your […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: