12 Interior Design Mistakes You Should Never Make—And How to Avoid Them, According to the Experts

“Making sure a room is properly lit is challenging. Lighting can make or break a space. Using a professional lighting designer is recommended, but if doing yourself be sure to work on three levels of lighting: Ceiling lights to wash surfaces such as tables and artwork, floor lamps to provide ambient light throughout the room, and task lighting such as table lights or reading lights for specific tasks such as reading or working.” –Nicole Hollis, NicoleHollis

Not Measuring Your Space

“Not measuring the room properly, so furniture doesn’t fit. How to avoid this pitfall? Measure twice, then measure again!” –Joy Moyler, Joy Moyler Interiors

“Not measuring first. . . eyeballing seems like an easy skill (one for which Sister Parish had a famed and uncanny ability). That is until you can’t fit a sofa through your front door! It has happened to the best of us. I also recommend going back to measure a second time; there is nothing like inverting a number or two to really hammer that point home.” –Alexa Hampton, founder of Alexa Hampton and principal of Mark Hampton Inc.

Bringing in an Interior Designer Too Late

“A common interior design mistake is that people don’t bring designers on early enough in the process. We should be there immediately after you say to yourselves, ‘We’re ready to make these changes,’ or, ‘We want to redesign or redecorate the house.’ Oftentimes, clients reach out after they’ve bought the house and launched the contractor to renovate the kitchen and bathrooms. A third of the way through construction, the new homeowners are overwhelmed with all the decisions they’re needing to make, plus the thought of furnishing it afterwards. Reach out when you’re in escrow or have closed escrow, and don’t launch a contractor until you’ve spoken to a designer first.” –Mandy Cheng, Mandy Cheng Design

Too Small—Or Too Large—Furniture

“Understanding scale is always a challenge, even for seasoned designers. One thing I see people do frequently is put something really tiny or really massive into a room that inhibits its functionality and dooms its aesthetic. If you know you need an enormous sectional for your Super Bowl parties, don’t forget to think about the size of the coffee table and rug that will accompany it. An 8’ x 10’ rug will likely look like a postage stamp paired with most modern sectionals, even though it may seem like a reasonable size for the room. (My general rule with rugs and sofas, specifically, is that a sofa should sit fully on a rug, leaving at least a foot of space on all sides, and rugs should either be centered in a room with at least two-thirds of each upholstered piece sitting on top of it, or be a small accent that sits in front of the sofa, with a coffee table on top.)” –Martha Mulholland, Martha Mulholland Interior Design

Choosing Aesthetics Over Comfort

“Not understanding ‘the sit’ of furniture before you buy it. Try to get yourself to a showroom and sit down / lie down on the upholstery. If you can’t do this, have someone sit in if for you to attest how it feels. These are expensive pieces that you want to enjoy comfortably. Try before you buy!” –Alexa Hampton

Improperly Hung Art

“Hanging art too high. This is a pet peeve of mine. For some reason, most homeowners think they should hang art high and it therefore looks more important. Really your art should hang at eye level so that you can really see the main portion of the art very well. Also, avoid placing one art piece per wall. This will look very static and uninteresting.” Young Huh

Not Taking Risks

“In my opinion, the biggest mistake people make is not taking risks. They’re afraid to try something new or go for something they haven’t seen done before. This is one thing that leads to everyone’s homes looking the same. My advice is to take some time before you start, collect images and scraps of things you love, test paint colors and look at them at different times of day in different lights, maybe even different seasons. And then go for it!” –Frances Merrill, Reath Design

Being Too Maximalist

“Too many patterns, florals, prints all over the place can disturb the eye. Coco Chanel famously said, ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.’ I think that can be applied to interior design also.” –Joy Moyler

Asymmetrical Spaces

“A common mistake when laying out a room is not considering symmetry. It creates balance and allows everything to align, from lighting to furnishings. To create symmetry, draw a line down the middle of the room and measure to be sure it’s the same on both sides. Then start laying out the furniture working from the centerline outwards.” –Nicole Hollis

Accent Walls

“Ah, the accent wall. I detest them. (Generally—there are always exceptions!) Unless you are doing some artful color blocking like Le Corbusier or decorating an office or restaurant where they make more sense, stay away from accent walls. They feel non-committal, trepidatious, and often make the remaining, unadorned walls in the room look sad and forgotten. They can also make a room feel off balance.” –Martha Mulholland

Skipping the Rug Pad

“Not using carpet pads under rugs, and sliding into the furniture! Every carpet should have a carpet pad for safety. They are inexpensive and so worth it! ” –Joy Moyler

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