If you could go back in time to when you first moved in to your current home, what would you do differently? For many homeowners, far too many things come to mind.
Whether it’s a lime green accent wall that gives you a headache if you stare at it for too long, or a modern, sculptural chair that gives you serious back pain, your home’s decor can either help or hurt you.
Create a space you won’t regret by avoiding the 10 most common design mistakes made by homeowners:
Following trends that aren’t your style
While trendy items can be a fun way to spruce up your space, the key is to only buy into those that fit your personal style. Neil Jonsohn, Principal Designer at Toronto-based interior design firm Union 31, said to use discretion with trends, especially if you’re looking for something timeless that you’ll love for longer than a few months.
“If it’s the type of place you’re going to live in for three years and then you’re basically just going to throw everything out or hopefully donate it to people who need it, then go ahead and buy the most trendy piece of furniture. But if it’s something that you intend to live with, then make sure it’s something that you’ll be able to live within five years or ten years,” he said.
First and foremost, Jonsohn said, the pieces in your space should reflect your own unique style.
“I always think it’s fantastic when you walk into a space and you know the person and they wear the space that they’re living in. I think it’s a mistake to just follow a trend because it’s trendy if it doesn’t suit you,” Jonsohn said.
Photo: Mary Clark/Flickr
Jonsohn also cautioned against using too much of the same color, pattern or texture. He said that layering fabrics and materials can help create a multidimensional, interesting look.
“One thing I see a lot of people do is they’ll buy everything in, let’s say, leather. But you need to mix things, you can’t just do everything in black and white leather, it just doesn’t read right. You need to mix different textures and what not,” he said.
Not only is it important to mix textures and fabrics, but Jonsohn said that buying pieces and accessories from a variety of different stores and brands can infuse the space with more life and movement.
“I remember when I was younger having friends whose entire place was IKEA and you knew it. You walked in and it was the IKEA sofa and the IKEA coffee table and I suppose it’s easy, but I much prefer spaces where it expresses who they are and their personalities,” he said.
Letting your space dictate your lifestyle, not the other way around
Photo: Kendyl Young/Flickr
All too often, homeowners will design their space based on norms and societal expectations, when they should be letting their lifestyle dictate how they use the space. Before diving into the decorating process, Jonsohn suggested taking a step back and thinking about what you need from your home.
“I think people need to think about how they live. A lot of times they have the dining room because everyone has a dining room, but if you never have people over for dinner and you usually eat on the sofa, why don’t you just use the whole living space as your living room?” he said.
Trying to accomplish too many things at once
Another mistake people tend to make when decorating is trying to incorporate too many themes, colors, textures and ideas all at once. While variety is important, too much clutter and noise in a room can make it feel overwhelming and busy.
“I think you often need to edit ideas. You may have six great ideas for your space but maybe the space isn’t big enough for six ideas, maybe it’s only big enough for two of them. You kind of want a narrative that runs through the entire space,” Jonsohn said.
Succumbing to copycat disorder
While trying out new ideas in your space can be exciting, it’s important to take into account the size, shape and overall feel of your home. Jonsohn warns that not everything you admire in a magazine or a friend’s home will work in your own space, and trying to force things will only lead to disaster.
“I think it’s an amazing idea to draw inspiration from visual imagery whether it’s Houzz or Pinterest or a magazine, but it has to be a similar space to yours. You may love that oversized Italian sofa in the magazine, but it’s not going to work in your space because it’s too big. So maybe hold onto that idea for your next home. Sometimes you have to let go of ideas,” he said.
Jonsohn emphasized the idea of personalization and individuality in design.
“I think it’s really about making the space your own. It’s your house, it doesn’t matter what your friend thinks. You need to live in it and you need to enjoy it and it needs to function for your lifestyle,” he said.
Buying furniture too big or too small
Photo: Juhan Sonin/Flickr
One of the most common mistakes people make when they’re designing their homes is buying furniture pieces that don’t fit the space. A couch that’s too large for the room can give it a stuffy, crowded atmosphere, while one that’s too small can make it feel bare and cold.
Jonsohn cautioned against leaving your measuring tape at home when furniture shopping.
“People buy furniture without measuring and they buy pieces that are too big for their homes. You really do need to measure out the space beforehand and try to draw something that’s relatively to scale and make sure that the furniture fits,” he said.
Jane Lockhart, the founder of Toronto-based boutique interior design firm Jane Lockhart Interior Design, said that people tend to overestimate their ability to visualize the size and scale of a space.
“It’s only about 15 per cent of people that have the ability to visualize anything within a space without being in the space. So it’s a very low chance you’re going to get it right,” she warned.
Doing absolutely nothing
Photo: Daniel Rothamel/Flickr
Surprisingly, Lockhart also said that one of the worst things a new homeowner can do when decorating their space is nothing at all. She said that when people become too hesitant to make a move, they end up with a bare, empty room, which certainly isn’t a good look at all.
“People paralyze themselves — analysis paralysis — so they analyze it to death and they do nothing. So the number one problem is having no plans, no goals, no time limits on what it is you want to get done,” she said.
Lockhart suggested motivating yourself early on to tackle a new aspect of the home every so often so that even if it’s a slow process, the house is still gradually becoming more of a home with every new project you take on.
Going overboard with the kids’ rooms
When decorating children’s rooms, it can be tempting to go all out with bright colors, fun prints and expensive novelty items. But the reality is that kids tend to grow up before you can say “but I thought you loved your Elmo bedding!” Lockhart said that it’s best to choose bright, childlike items that can be easily changed or removed on a dime.
“People tend to buy expensive drapery for the kids thinking that they’re going to love it forever and they’re always going to love those colors. I would do what you want with kids’ rooms, but think about how to make it inexpensive to change in the future,” Lockhart said.
Cheaping out on important things
Photo: Phil Nelson/Flickr
On the other hand, foundation pieces like sinks, flooring and doors should not be done on the cheap. Lockhart said that there are a few things in every home that should never be done quickly and inexpensively because it will only lead to problems in the future.
“The thing I would say is that if you’re going to invest, invest in things that last. Things where it matters like your toilet, don’t cheap out on your toilet because it only causes a hassle later. The one other area would be your closet. Spend the money. Make that part of your budget,” she urged.
She said that it’s crucial for new homeowners to rip off the Band-Aid and splurge on the things they use every day. There are simply no benefits to procrastinating or taking shortcuts when it comes to everyday items that aren’t easily changed or removed.
“Art work can come, drapery can come, but you need to do the bare necessities in order to live. Unfortunately, they’re expensive bare necessities, but they’re things that we don’t have time to worry about today,” Lockhart said.
Buying carpets that are too small for your furniture
Finally, Lockhart said that one of the most unanticipated mistakes people make in their homes is buying a carpet that’s not to scale. According to Lockhart, this is especially tricky in the dining room.
“Carpet size is a really tough one. Most people have no idea how big the carpet should be so they buy the carpet before the furniture, but they don’t know how much space the furniture takes up and so they end up with a carpet that’s too small. It often makes the room look disjointed and definitely not complete looking,” Lockhart said.
Luckily, she has a simple formula she uses with her clients to ensure that they don’t end up with a carpet that’s not the right size.
“So the simple math on a dining room carpet is the width of the table, plus two feet, plus two feet, plus traffic path, which at a minimum is two to three feet. Knowing those dimensions can really help,” she said.