Interior Design “Mistakes” Regular People Don’t Care About



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Let’s face it, there are some interior design mistakes that we just don’t care about.

Multiple times a year I come across articles, blog posts, and videos with the top interior design mistakes according to designers. But I’m here to tell you, and them, some of these things we just don’t care about.

Photo Credit: victorzastolskiy

Design vs Decorating

Before I dive into the mistakes I just want to take a moment to make the distinction between interior design and interior decorating.

Interior designers study the art and science behind interior spaces, spatial relationships, and how we behave and interact within structures.

Interior decorating, on the other hand, is about accouterment. It’s about how we fill our spaces for aesthetic purposes.  Things like decorative accents, furniture layout, textures, color palettes, and how to weave these items throughout your home to create a cohesive look.

Interior decorating or interior styling is just that, styling.

I wanted to make this distinction because decorating and style are totally subjective and therefore, there are no mistakes.  What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander, so to speak.

In contrast, head clearance height or the amount of space needed to move between furniture is not debated.  This is a matter of spatial relationships and about what is needed to actually function properly within a space.

That being said, many of the things on the list of mistakes according to interior designers are more about interior decoration than design.

Having a background in architecture and landscape architecture, I do strongly agree with the criticisms regarding design.

However, the types of things that I’m going to talk about in this post have nothing to do with design.

Later on, I will throw in a few tips that I do believe are worth considering.

So, let’s get started on the list of “mistakes” and why regular people don’t care about them.

interior design vs interior decorating

Interior Design Mistakes According To Designers

1. Too Short Curtains

By far the complaint that I see the most from interior designers is about curtains being too short.  Meaning, your curtains do not “kiss the floor”.  Instead, they are floating 4 or 6 inches above the floor.

While curtains that drop all the way to the floor do provide a nice elongated effect to your window, no regular person is going to notice nevermind criticize the length of your curtains.

Moreover, the view of the bottom of most curtains in your home will be partially obstructed by the furniture within your space.  Not a single person visiting your home is going to peek behind the back of your accent chair to size up your curtain length.  It will never happen.

These are criticisms of people in the industry whose job it is to analyze spaces.  So, if you’re not competing for the cover of Architectural Digest or Better Homes and Gardens, don’t give this “mistake” a second thought.

It is highly unlikely that anyone visiting your home will be such harsh critics.  After all, they’re coming to spend time with you and your family, not dissect your decorating choices.

They’re more likely to notice the color, pattern, or texture of your window treatments than anything else because that’s what’s at eye level.

So, again I say if you see this on a list of interior design mistakes.  Disregard.

curtains too short
Photo Credit: Clay Banks

2. Matching Furniture Sets

Matchy-matchy furniture sets is another “mistake” that lands on a lot of lists.  Here they’re talking about the full room furniture packages like the ones you see at places like Rooms To Go and Ashley’s Homestore.

It’s when the headboard, nightstands, and dresser in your bedroom all match perfectly.  It’s the living room set whose sofa, loveseat, and accent chairs are identical in style.

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In the interior design world, these types of furniture packages are a big no-no.  And while I do agree that a mixed and matched room offers a much more comfortable and curated feel, I would never turn my nose up at the sight of a matching furniture set.

Moreover, when you’re decorating on a budget, those room packages are much more cost-effective when you’re trying to furnish an empty home.

Individually buying a sofa, loveseat, accent chairs, end tables, and coffee tables from different retailers is way more expensive and time-consuming than purchasing a full room furniture package.

full room furniture package
Source: RoomstoGo.com – Sofia Vergara West Loft Teal 7 Pc Living Room

How To Use Full Room Furniture Sets

If you want to save money furnishing and decorating your home I say go ahead and buy the set.  Just break up the pieces and move them throughout your home for a more styled look.

For example, if you have a tall boy dresser, a dresser with a mirror, and matching nightstands tables; don’t place all of these in the same room.  Instead, use those nightstands in your guest room while keeping the a dresser in the master bedroom.

Or, if we’re talking about a living room set, let your home office have one of those matching accent chairs.  Or, move the love seat in your master bedroom instead of arranging them all together in the living room with the matching sofa.

This is the way I would go about addressing the issue of a too matchy-matchy room.

Side note: The same strategy works well for sets of decorative pillows.

full room furniture set
Source: AshleyFurniture.com

3. Curtain Rod Hanging Height

Another “curtain foul” is hanging your curtain rods too low on the wall.

Most designers recommend hanging curtain rods as high as you possibly can towards the ceiling.

In my personal opinion, I don’t think that this makes that much of a difference.  Much like having your curtains run all the way to the floor, this is an elongating technique.

Frankly, it’s impractical for most people.  The initial installation process alone may require the assistance of a tall ladder (that most people don’t have) or the assistance of a handyman.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to hire a team of professional installers to come in and hang my curtain rods.  Executing this particular element of design does not mean you won’t be able to create a beautiful room.

Again, regular people are not designing their homes to pass an interior designer’s checklist.  They simply want a comfortable space that they enjoy.

Moreover, before you start hanging your curtains 16 feet in the air, consider the maintenance of your drapery.  This is not a one-and-done solution where you can hire someone to come in hang your curtain rods and your curtains and be done with it.

At some point, you’ll want to launder them.

So you’ll need to decide whether or not you’re going to be able to do that task on your own or will you need to hire someone to take them down and then return the next week and put them back up.

hanging curtains too high

Tourist Art

The last interior design “mistake” that I’d like to address in this post is tourist art.

I’m increasingly seeing this one land on designer’s lists of no-no’s.

So, what are they talking about?  They’re talking about landmark imagery from iconic places around the world such as a mass-produced print of the Eiffel Tower, or the Taj Mahal, or the Grand Canyon.

You can find these at thousands of different retailers.  They aren’t considered unique, or even art at all for some.  They’re more so seen as the wall decor version of trendy fast fashion.

I’m not sure about you, but it doesn’t bother me in any way shape or form to see the same decorative accent in my home that I see in another person’s home.

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In fact, it makes me feel a sort of kinship with them.

We both saw something we liked in that piece.  It’s a shared interest and a shared sentiment.

Home decorating is not a contest to see who can have the most unique and original space.  It’s about creating warmth and comfort in your individual home for your and your family to enjoy.

So if you absolutely love that black and white upshot of the Eiffel Tower that you’ve seen a million times over; put it in your home.  I don’t care and neither do your friends or family.

No one is going to think you’re uncultured or uninspired.

That is a critique of professionals whose job it is to curate art.  What I think many of them fail to realize is that when most of us are decorating our homes, we’re looking for things that make us smile.  That is all.

Beyond that, we’re looking for things to coordinate with the other items in our space.  We don’t necessarily feel the need to have an original certified piece of artwork.

And, this isn’t about not supporting artists or having taste.

Easy accessibility in terms of both cost and acquisition drives the purchase of these items and there’s nothing wrong with that.  One shouldn’t be shamed for buying canvas wall art from Home Goods versus an art fair.

Don’t buy into that nonsense.

tourist art
Source: Walmart.com

Interior Design Tips You Should Listen To

Now that we’ve talked about the advice you should ignore, let’s talk about the tips that make good sense.

1. Measure Before You Buy

The first piece of sound advice that you will hear from an interior designer is to measure before you buy.

Not doing this is a mistake that many people make.

You need to know how big your room, entryway, hallway, window, wall, or whatever it is that you’re trying to decorate before you go shopping.

Not having proper measurements may lead to big problems in your space especially when it comes to furniture.

A sofa or a bed that is too large for the space will create maneuverability issues in your room.  We’ve all experienced this before.

Being in a room where you need to shuffle around a coffee table or between a sofa and a loveseat is a nuisance.

Things like this happen because furniture is oversized for a space.

The easy fix for this, is to measure before you buy.  Especially when it comes to large items because returning them can be a hassle.  So much so, in fact, that many people would rather just keep the wrong thing than hassle with returning it and finding something else that they like.

And that sets you up for a long-term issue in your home.  So measure before you buy and you won’t find yourself in that predicament.

measure your room before buying

2. Area Rug Size

An area rug that is too small for your space does tend to stick out like a sore thumb.

While it’s not the end of the world, your furniture floating around the edges of your area rug is awkward.

It can also be physically uncomfortable if you’re seated and your heels are on the hardwood floor but your toes are on the rug.

Visually speaking, it also creates a focal point where you may not have intended to create one.  The ability to clearly see all of the edges of your rug creates a picture frame effect on your floor.  It’s framing whatever is in the center, which is likely your coffee table.

Area rugs are meant to be the glue that holds all of the pieces of furniture together in a seating arrangement.   It does this when you either have the front feet of your furniture or all of your furniture on the rug.

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So, it’s important to buy the right size area rug.  This ties back to the first mistake which is not measuring your space before you buy.  If you know how big your space is you will know how big your area rug needs to be.

I have a whole post on area rugs for reference here.

area rug
Source: Rugsusa.com

3. Furniture Lining the Wall

Another big interior designer mistake that I agree with his lining your walls with furniture.

Pushing your sofa and chairs all the way to the edge of the room is something that should be reserved for small spaces.

By doing this you may run into trouble reaching things on accent tables or coffee tables.  You will likely see run into the aforementioned area rug problem as well.  Even if you have a generously sized 8 x 10 rug, if you don’t arrange your furniture around it properly it will end up floating in the middle of your room.

Lastly, not placing your furniture right up against your wall will help protect your wall.  You’ll avoid scuff and prevent paint from wearing away unevenly if there is nothing set right up against it.  Particularly, something that may move incrementally as people sit down and get up repeatedly.

furniture against wall

Lighting

I concede that the lighting design of a room makes a big difference.  A two dimly-lit kitchen or a two brightly-lit bedroom is a nuisance.

Because of this, lighting concerns often make the list of interior design mistakes, and I wholeheartedly agree.

While lighting design is a profession unto itself, most people require lighting at a few basic levels.

You want lighting for when you are standing.  These would be overhead lights, pendant lights, and chandeliers.

You also want to have supplemental lighting for when you are in a seated position like floor lamps, table lamps, and desk lamps.

Finally, there is feature lighting like picture lights, spotlights, under cabinet lights, and other decorative lighting.

These are used to highlight decor and other focal points around your home.

The right lighting scheme can make your space look incredible. So, advice regarding lighting in your space should always be taken into consideration.

lighting

Wall Art Hanging Height

Last but not least, the final interior design mistake that I tend to agree with is hanging your wall art too high or too low.

The standing recommendation is that wall art should be hung at eye level or just above.  You want to be able to look directly into the center of a piece of artwork when you are standing.

For sure, if you have to tilt your head to look at a piece of wall decor, it’s hung too high.

hanging art too high

Conclusion

That’s it for my list of interior design mistakes that regular people don’t care about.

Are there any “mistakes” that you’ve heard that you think should be disregarded?  Let me know in the comments below.

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