I’ve had my fair share of home decorating mistakes, ranging from the easily remedied (avoid sequinned pillow covers) to the expensive mistakes (a sofa I couldn’t return).
Whether you’re starting out in a new home (apartment) or redecorating a family home, it’s worth learning from others and finding out which decorating mistakes to avoid.
Decorating mistakes to avoid include following latest trends, ignoring your own taste, not considering your lifestyle, not measuring twice, forgetting to paint sample wall colors, and leaving lighting decisions until last. Avoid having too many accessories, colors, and patterns in a single space.
Speaking from the experience of poorly chosen window treatments and gruesomely painted bathrooms, I believe that few decorating mistakes result from bad taste.
Most are the result of poor planning and impulsive decisions. Let’s look at the top seven home decor mistakes and how to avoid them.
7 Common Interior Decorating Mistakes You Should Avoid
#1. Mindlessly Following Latest Trends
This is a very common mistake! With access to the endless stream of gorgeous interiors social media provides, you’d think you couldn’t go wrong with decorating ideas. But trying to replicate a look you’ve seen in a magazine without considering your tastes, budget, and lifestyle is a design disaster waiting to happen. Here’s why.
Falling into trend traps means decorating your house according to short-lived fashions, which means your interiors will soon look dated. I have a feeling that those millennial pink walls are going to be a source of regret for many Barbiecore lovers. The best interiors are timeless and classic.
Also, remember that Instagram shows you only a tiny slice of reality and that magazines employ stylists and designers to curate the beautiful interiors pictured on glossy pages. Installing the massive chandelier you’ve seen in a loft apartment or a large living room in a small studio with low ceilings is not going to work.
#2. Ignoring Your Taste
This decorating mistake leads on from following trends. When decorating your first home, you may feel that you don’t have the know-how or confidence to follow your own ideas. It’s easier to follow trends and buy what everyone else is.
However, if your heart is secretly set on a romantic Boho boudoir, you’ll feel miserable in a white minimalist bedroom, however stunning it is.
Another result of ignoring your creative impulses is settling for suites of furniture from a store. Unfortunately, the overall look of your home won’t be a genuine reflection of your family, with all its unique personality and creativity. It will end up being too matchy and soulless, like a bland hotel room or showroom.
#3. Not Considering Your Lifestyle
Does anyone else have a story about buying a gorgeous couch, upholstered in white linen? This could turn out to be a very big mistake.
Light upholstery is not necessarily a design disaster in itself, but add pets and children, and you’re facing an unpleasant decorating mistake. Pale fabrics look grubby very quickly – the all-white look only works if it’s pristine.
However much you feel drawn to a specific interior, consider whether it works with your current lifestyle. I’ve bookmarked an all-white living room for a future home, but I am thrilled with my sofa’s removable covers that I can pop in the washing machine.
#4. Measuring Only Once
This is one of the most common interior design mistakes. There’s an excellent reason for the adage, “measure twice, cut once,” and the caution applies as much to interior design as it does to carpentry. Poor measurements can lead to very costly errors and a host of decorating mistakes.
One example is incorrectly measuring items for your bedroom and finding that you can only fit one nightstand into the room. The result will look unbalanced and annoy whoever gets to put their book on the floor every night.
Another common mistake is not considering the hardware when measuring the dimensions of curtains and finding the resulting drapes too long, too short, or too bare.
An awkwardly small rug is not just a novice’s measuring error – I’ve got carried away with the colors, furniture, and accessories and bought a poorly sized rug at the last minute.
Be sure to know the size of the room. Forgetting to measure floor space often means buying rugs that are just too small, upsetting the proportions of an entire room. A rug anchors a room, so measure carefully – a useful rule of thumb is to go bigger rather than smaller.
#5. Forgetting to Test Paint Colors
This mistake is up there with not doing a quick swatch when coloring your hair – the color on the box (or tin) isn’t always what you’d expect. Paint color can look completely different in full sun, under artificial light, and at different times.
Lighting brings out unexpected tones in even the most neutral of paint colors. So it’s worth painting a couple of sample patches before discovering that your beautiful dove gray looks yellow by lamplight. Getting the right paint colors is the only way you can achieve the desired wall color.
#6. Inadequate Lighting
Creating a peaceful, romantic, or cheerful mood in your home is as much a decision about using color and accessories as it is about carefully choosing light fittings.
Inadequate or bad lighting can ruin a mood instantly, undoing all your other decorating efforts. For example, while a brightly lit kitchen is necessary, you don’t need your bedroom to be glaringly bright.
Similarly, not having a convenient floor lamp can make reading in a comfortable armchair unappealing. Anyone with perfectionist tendencies will find their teeth on edge if a pendant light hangs off-center above the dining room table.
Consider how a space will be lit when planning furniture placement so that it can be carefully layered (including ceiling, wall and table lamps) and correctly placed.
#7. Too Much Stuff
My sister is a card-carrying member of the maximalist brigade and have always loved the more is more philosophy.
However, even for lovers of the eclectic collection, there is a point where a charmingly curated shelf or gallery wall becomes a confusing mishmash, especially in a small space. And remember that too much furniture and other stuff can make your living space look cluttered and untidy.
Maybe it’s not a shelf full of gran’s ornaments but an overabundance of throw pillows on the sofa or bed. Or too many different wallpaper designs in one space, clashing patterns, colors, or fabrics.
It’s hard to go wrong with a less is more approach, so start slowly and edit if you want to achieve a cohesive look instead of the opposite effect.
Final Thoughts on Common Home Decor Mistakes to Avoid
You can avoid many decorating mistakes by being honest about your budget, family’s needs, lifestyle, and taste. Planning ahead can also head off decorating disasters, so measure twice, collect swatches and color samples, and create the look you want slowly and lovingly. Your home should reflect you, not a passing trend.