6 Interior Designers Reveal the Worst Decorating Mistakes They Ever Made
Don't do this at home.
Hey, it’s OK! So you painted your bedroom bright orange, who hasn’t? Take comfort in the fact that even the pros made design mistakes when they were starting out. Sometimes interior design is all about trial and error, that’s how you learn, right? These pro interior designers graciously shared some of their more cringe-worthy slip-ups. Lessen your learning curve by avoiding these common design mistakes in your own home.
Not Checking (and Double Checking!) Measurements
"The worst design mistake I ever made was not quadruple checking measurements on a project—on one of the first projects I ever did, I ordered nightstands that were two inches too wide for a bedroom. Luckily, I was able to return them. The best way to avoid this is to measure twice, purchase once!"
—Ariel Okin of Ariel Okin Interiors
Not Calling in the Pros
"Early in my design career, I mistook myself for someone who likes color and decided to paint the bathroom of my Brooklyn apartment a bold, rich crimson. (I think I must have been reading too many Regency romance novels at the time and was having visions of an elegant portrait gallery in a British manor house circa Jane Austen.)
My mistake wasn't in the color I chose, but rather I wasn't experienced enough to know that a hue like that needs an impeccable application to pull off successfully—in other words, it's best left to professionals. My shoddy, DIY paint job, with its drips and uneven spots, made my bathroom look like a kill room on the TV show Dexter. Serial killer chic was definitely not the vibe I was going for, but it's definitely what I got!"
—Anne Sage, interior designer
Going Trendy Instead of Functional
"Designers make far more mistakes with paint colors than we’ll actually ever admit to clients. I'd just moved to my first apartment in Harlem, and was super-excited about indulging in a Hermès orange bedroom. So what that the space was tiny and warm colors make the walls advance? When I got home post-painting, I thought the painters had left the lights on. They hadn't. The south-facing room seemed neon-bright (which Hermès orange definitely is not), and the walls seemed to close in on me. It was my worst night's sleep ever. That’s what I get for trying to be trendy.
I was the first person at the paint store the next morning and opted for a restful chocolate brown instead (four coats to cover that darned orange)—which I loved."
–Elaine Griffin, interior designer
Thinking More Is Always More
"I have always been more of a maximalist than a minimalist. My designs incorporate an amazing mix of pattern and color! But when I look back at some of my earliest photos (that I took myself), I definitely over styled my spaces. As I’ve refined my aesthetic, I’ve learned to edit, edit, edit. You can still be a maximalist and give the eye a rest. Choose your favorite accessories, style, and then take something away—then take a step back and do it one more time!"
—Dee Murphy of Murphy Deesigns
Prioritizing Furniture and Accessories
"When we were starting out, it was hard not to get caught up in all of the flashy new trends and products, but over time, our most successful projects have been the ones that put the architecture of the home ahead of the furnishings. Fine-tune your layouts, fine-tune the flow, and always focus on texture. Ask yourself, where can I add style and texture that will elevate this room? Is it the trim, windows, the ceiling, or is it a textured wall or built-in? So if you’re thinking about which areas are the best places to spend your money—remember the house will always win."
—Blair Moore, Moore House Design
Skipping a Step
"We once had custom curtains made before hanging the hardware, which altered the length. We prefer to hang hardware higher than the actual window frame to elongate the scale of your windows and make ceilings appear taller. To ensure you end up with the proper window treatment length, it’s safer to install your hardware and then measure curtain length."
—Gen Sohr of Pencil & Paper Co.