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How to Avoid the Most Common Decorating Mistakes

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I’ve been in a lot of clients’ homes, heard a lot of stories, and have seen many decorating mistakes. Of course, there’s no shame in that. We all make mistakes. Some of them are unavoidable… hello 1980s haircut that was on-trend at the time – can you say mullet? – but causes us to look back and laugh at our obvious lapse in judgement. Ha!

Decorating mistakes can be avoided with some prior knowledge, thoughtful consideration, and a plan of action. That’s where I want to help you. I’ve noticed some common recurring mistakes working with my clients in Vancouver, and they are all avoidable.

Today, I’ll help you identify whether you’re committing any design faux pas, show you how to avoid buyer’s remorse, and help you determine the right time to hire a design professional.

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Mistake 1: Shopping Prematurely

The Problem

The single most common mistake we see clients make is shopping without a plan. They find themselves wandering aimlessly through stores, looking for a sofa with no idea of the size, colour or style that is appropriate for their space, and getting more frustrated and discouraged by the minute.

Ultimately, they give up, convinced that they will never find a sofa that they like. These shopping trips end in defeat, often halting the project before it begins.

The Solution

There are several actions you should take before you go shopping in order to be successful, including identifying exactly what you are looking for. This is why shopping (or sourcing, as we call it in design-speak), is Step 4 in our process, not Step 1.

Prior to setting foot in a store or even browsing online, we walk our clients through our well-honed process to determine needs, wants, preferences, scale, aesthetic, lifestyle, and so much more.

In order to avoid a failed shopping experience you have to start with the big picture, rather than focusing on the individual pieces. We encourage you to start with an overall concept for the space and work with a scaled floorplan to determine the best layout and the size of the pieces that you need.

If you’d like an expert to weigh in on your furnishing project and help you create a plan, we can help. Our Design Discovery Session is an investment that will go a long way toward helping you create a home you truly love.

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Mistake 2: Buyer’s Remorse

The Problem

An even bigger mistake than shopping too early happens when clients experience the above frustrations, but instead of giving up, they go ahead and purchase a piece that they deem “good enough”, only to regret their decision later.

Since people, more often than not, begin their furniture shopping by purchasing the largest, most important pieces (i.e. a sofa or sectional, if furnishing the living room), this can be a $3,000-$10,000 mistake. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

If you don’t get this decision right, more time and money is spent either trying to correct this costly mistake or having to work around it. It is such a shame when we hear that someone has built their whole room around a mistake, investing so much in a space that they will never truly love. You deserve a home that makes you happy.

The Solution

Much of what we mentioned as a solution to the first mistake applies here as well — having a well thought-out plan. Always lay out the design of your whole space before shopping. Have your desired home aesthetic in mind when entering a store. Know the scale of the room to be furnished and the size range of pieces that fit. Not too big, not too small.

If you’ve been meandering through the store and are feeling frustrated, take a break. Never ever purchase an item that feels “good enough”, because you will almost always regret that decision later.

Lastly, please don’t hesitate to call in the reinforcements. We’d be more than happy to help you through the process of selecting the ideal furnishings for your home, ultimately saving you money on costly decorating mistakes. But this is not just about the savings — it’s about coming home every day to a place that genuinely feels good. 

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Mistake 3: Incorrect Scale

The Problem

As designers, far too often we walk into a small room and find several tiny pieces of furniture lining the walls. This is a direct result of a lack of knowledge about scale, causing homeowners to think, “small space, small furniture required”.

Yes, we’ve had at least a few clients who, prior to working with us, purchased sofas that didn’t fit into their basements due to tight corners or low ceilings. In one instance, the client was unable to return the item so they were forced to put it elsewhere in their home.

It’s an honest mistake. Nothing to be ashamed of but definitely one to be avoided.

In these situations, the best case scenario is that things are the wrong scale and the room looks scattered, or is difficult to navigate. The worst case scenario is living with the sight or weight of these decorating mistakes… month after month, year after year. Even small, daily irritation adds up to a space where you never feel at home.

The Solution

Understanding scale and its impact on your space is the key to shopping for and purchasing furniture that accentuate the best features of your home, that function well, and that flow seamlessly with the surrounding areas.

While it may seem counterintuitive, when working with a small space it is actually better to choose fewer pieces that are larger in scale. Fewer but larger pieces of furniture in a small room can actually make the whole space feel bigger. This is just one of the many nuances of furnishing a home that most people don’t know.

Again, this is another place where a designer is valuable asset.

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Mistake 4: Subduing the Design

The Problem

Another mistake we see time and time again are spaces where homeowners were so fearful of making a design mistake, that they play it too safe, so “safe” and neutral that the room feels lifeless, uninspiring… even boring. These rooms lack personality and depth and they definitely don’t reflect the lifestyle, hobbies, or passions of the client who lives there.

It is at this point that clients often call us, thinking that their room just needs a few “finishing touches” to infuse that missing personality. I wish I could tell you that a few pillows would do the trick, but when we arrive on the scene, the reality is that the space needs complete resuscitation.

The Solution

You don’t have to shy away from colour, texture, and patterns; these are great ways to create a home that inspires you and brings you joy. If you are decorating a room yourself, start by compiling images of spaces that you love and analyze what it is that appeals to you in these photos. Do the spaces have certain colour or design elements in common? Consider how you might incorporate these elements into your own space.

Working with the right design professional will ensure you end up with a space that has just the right amount of colour, the right mix of pattern and texture, in short, a space that is far from boring, a space filled with personality that feels like you.

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Mistake 5: Saving Accessories for Last

The Problem

The final most common decorating mistake that I see is leaving the accessories to the end of your project.

All too often, we see clients spent their entire project budgets on the renovations and large furniture pieces for the space, leaving little to no allowance for accessories. Many people consider accessories extra… but believe me, they are essential to a space that feels finished.

Once they realize that their room is missing something or doesn’t feel complete, off to HomeSense they go to purchase generic inexpensive accessories that cheapen the look of the space and bring down the beauty of the design.

Seeing this always makes me sad… why not curate items intentionally that have both meaning and value?

The Solution

Consider accessories from day 1 as part of the overall design scheme.

In order to create a personalized space that is beautiful and unique to you, you’ll need to curate a collection of objects that fit the overall design scheme and have some meaning to you.

If you have a beautiful art collection that is the centre of your room’s decor, then you’ll need to select furniture and other accessories around those pieces. If you inherited an heirloom chaise lounge that you want to be a focal point in the room, then other furniture and decor should be determined accordingly.

Furniture and accessories go hand-in-hand, working together to create an individualized space that reflects your personality, functions well for you, and brings a smile to your face or an ahhh to your day. Together, we can help you create a home you love.

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As you can see, there’s a theme here. The biggest decorating mistakes are made when someone gets ahead of themselves and rushes through a project without careful consideration. The only way to successfully complete a room is to start with a comprehensive plan and that is where a professional can help.

If you’re ready to furnish your space (and love it), let’s chat.

We would be delighted to design the perfect furnishings plan for you sourcing refined, comfortable pieces that help you and your family make the most of each and every moment at home.

Until next time,
Lori

P.s. If you’re not quite ready to hire professional help, no problem. You can get more helpful tips and insights in our monthly newsletter. Join here!

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