What Interior Designers Learned From Creating Their Own Homes

Spoiler: It's okay to take your time.

Photography by CODY GUILFOYLE

You’ve pinned all the rooms you love on Pinterest, scrolled through endless inspo on Instagram, and taken a mental note of all the swoon-worthy homes from your favorite TV shows. But while you may love all things interior decorating, when it comes to your own home, taking on the details of the design process can be both exciting and anxiety-inducing.

Not to worry though: Even the pros make mistakes, or regret certain design choices. The art of design is that it's a continual learning process. So we asked a few of our favorite designers about their biggest lessons from designing their own homes. Here's what we can learn from them.

Bold choices pay off
“If you're wavering between a neutral or bold color when shopping for upholstery or wallpaper, you're more likely to fall passionately in love with the bold choice, and be somewhat satisfied with the safe one.” says Sarah Wittenbraker on going taking a design risk.

But that being said, don’t be afraid if that risk doesn’t turn out the way you wanted. Susana Simonpietri of Chango & Co. stresses, “It's okay to make mistakes because it means you are taking risks. And without risks we would never come up any anything new, right?”

A bold wallpaper makes a chic statement in this home office.  Photography by CODY GUILFOYLE

Learn from your mistakes
It’s important to take each design “mistake” and use it as a learning experience, according to New York-based designer Neffi Walker. She says, “The first home I ever designed was my own and I did two things horribly incorrect: I placed a towel warmer next to the toilet, and didn’t pay attention to sealing the marble countertops in my kitchen—a very expensive oops that I never repeated again.”

It’s too expensive to cheap out
Natalie Myers advises us, “You don't have to go balls to the walls on every single thing, but give yourself permission to invest in the pieces you will be using every day. When you go cheap to save money in the moment, those items break apart before you can blink. You end up spending twice or three times as much as you would have originally if you had gotten the better quality sofa/chair/tile/light/handle you had really wanted. I have learned the hard way too many times.”

Photography by CODY GUILFOYLE

Keep it simple
"I found in design less is more. You don't need a lot to make a space feel styled and complete. Even adding a simple vase with fresh flowers and a few cutting boards to a kitchen makes it look beautiful," says Becki Owens.

Take your time
“I've done rooms very quickly that months later I didn't like anymore,"  Stephanie Watkins of CasaWatkins remembers. "It's okay to take your time and allow the room to become something you love organically. "

Shea McGee of Studio McGee agrees. She advises that people take their time and go with streamlined classics for the biggest ticket items. “I have found that quick design usually ends up being changed out just as quickly." 

Rug size is key
The biggest lesson I have learned is to make sure an area rug is sized appropriately," tells Lauren Rasken. "If a rug is too small it will make the room feel smaller. It’s best to size a rug to the room to avoid feeling like a postage stamp on an envelope."

The properly sized rug in this living room makes all the difference.  Photography by AARON BENGOCHEA

Acknowledge that your style may change
"When I first bought my house, I thought I had my aesthetic dialed in, but now two years later, I've discovered that it's totally different than what I had in mind," Joanna Hawley of Jojotastic says. "I have such an appreciation for color, yet my home is predominantly white, black, and navy blue. It just goes to show how unexpected designing your own home can be!"

Set expectations ahead of time
"You have to make sure you have a full grasp on the vision, and budget," Lindye Galloway says. "Be understanding that it is completely realistic for the project to go over budget and not be finished by the deadline. In the end it will all be worth it!"

When all else fails, leave it to the pros
"Having a project manager for construction is always a good idea if you can swing the cost. We're all about DIYs at Sugar & Cloth, but having an advocate for making sure things are done just right with contractors while you're not around is worth every penny," says Ashley Burdette.

Get more expert designer insight:
The Designer's Guide to Dressing Up Your Small Space
Where Interior Designers Shop for Affordable Decor
Designers Share Their All-Time Favorite Ikea Hacks

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Published on April 22, 2018 - 5:15am EDT

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