First-Time Decorators: Avoid These Common Decor Mistakes

Take some advice from the pros instead.

A bold color is complimented by simpler furnishings in this room so it doesn't feel overwhelming.  Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Despite all the hours spent watching our favorite design shows, scrolling through our most inspo-worthy Instagram accounts, and pinning up trendy rooms to Pinterest boards, not all of us are natural interior designers. And honestly, that's okay. Designing your first place on our own can seem like a daunting task, and making mistakes is part of the learning process.

But in an effort to avoid some of those errors and ending up with a room you hate, we polled a few our our favorite designers for their expert advice. They shared some of the most common first-time design mistakes, plus tips on how you can avoid them.

It's important to take in the whole space before you dive into design.  Photography by Aaron Bengochea

DO: Set up a plan

Take it from designer Jacquelyn Clark: “Don't ever start anything without establishing a solid game plan.” If you don’t know where to start, try looking for resources online.

If you're tackling your very first place, try looking for something like this first apartment checklist, or, if renovations are in your design future, here are a few things you should know before you get started. Map out what you want and how you're going to achieve that. It’s all about smart, strategic planning that will save you the headache (and design regrets) later. 

Properly scaled furniture in this apartment makes all the difference in making the living space feel bigger and more open.  Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

DO: Take scale into account

Designer Katrina Blair Sullivan says, “Buying a piece of furniture or rug that's too large or too small can throw the look of the room off.” If you don’t where to start on how scaling, Heather Bullard suggests doing some spatial planning by measuring and laying out rooms and furnishings using and online tool or grid paper to make sure whatever you put in the room fits and flows with the space. Here, a Domino writer talks about how the huge difference selecting low profile, smartly-scaled furniture made in his tiny space. 

DON'T: Rush into the design

There’s something to be said about taking your time to really think through all of your choices. Even though it can be tempting to snatch up the first furniture items that catch your eye, Amber Lewis believes some of the best finds are found when you’re not looking for them. “Trust me, this is a process that takes time. I truly scour every inch of the planet to find the right pieces for my clients. Patience is key!” she says.

Shavonda Gardner agrees. The SG Style blogger says,  “I think the biggest mistake first-time decorators make is rushing it. Trying to decorate a space before living in it for a while can be costly and frustrating. Once you get a feel for the space and how you use it and how you need it to work for you then start investing in decorating it. That way you make intentional purchases that will be long lasting. "

Bright colors and fun accents in this NY apartment make it feel fresh and exciting without being overwhelming.  Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

DON'T: Play it too safe

Sarah Wittenbraker says, “I think first-time decorators play it too safe. Don't be afraid to make a statement. Dip your toe by selecting a bold paint color. It's easy to change and instantly give the room a dramatic vibe.”

To that same point, often times when approaching your first space it seems easiest to make everything match. Stephanie Watkins of CasaWatkins notes that this is a classic first time decorating mistake: “Furniture, pillows, or art doesn’t have to match. Mixing items can grant you longer usage since old items can coordinate with newer pieces. Definitely a mistake I’ve made myself."

DON'T: Make too many bold statements

Claire Zinnecker is the queen of more pared down design. Take her advice and don’t try to make too many bold statement moves in one room. “Edit, edit, edit!” she says. “Let your eye be able to rest in a space.”

Joy Cho of Oh Joy! Agrees. Though it can be tempting to go with a dark, bold color just because it was a named the trendy, color of the year, think first about what will work best with the space and furniture you have. “Some people often go very bold with color when trying to make a change,” says Cho. “Whereas instead they should look to wall colors that will complement, but not overwhelm, the room and bring in additional color through accessories.”

A neutral palette with fun accents like pillows is an easy way to make your space feel cohesive. Photography by Aaron Bengochea
We love how this small New York apartment used muted tones but added an intricate Persian rug for depth. Photography by Aaron Bengochea

DO: Think about your lifestyle needs

Last but not least, think about and envision yourself actually living in the space. This isn’t a magazine page or Pinterest board. Robin Wilson makes an excellent point by saying that many first-time decorators do not listen to their clients (or their own) needs when it comes to lifestyle.

“They'll suggest things that will not work for an active family (light rugs or upholstery) or serious cooks (white marble),”  says Wilson. “And they forget that the foundation of the home (roof, flooring, plumbing, structure) should be done first, because it does not matter how pretty it is if there is a leak spot on the ceiling.”

Tackling decor, determining your style, and finding what will work in the space and with your life can be a lot to consider when it comes to turning your space into a home. But it’s definitely worth it to take the time think about what you want to accomplish before you dive into the design process. Instead of making these mistakes yourself, learn from them.

A functional kitchen is best when it's design is well thought out.  Photography by Aaron Bengochea
Published on June 14, 2018 - 6:30am EDT

Next Story

49 Percent of Americans Would Give Up Sex for Closet Space

People are also pulling a Carrie Bradshaw and storing their clothes in the oven. It's a mad world.

Read Next Story
from around the web