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Interior Design Faux Pas to Avoid At All Cost

Updated: Apr 17

Thank you to all of you who listened and loved my Podcast with Wannabe Clutter Free: An Award-Winning Designer’s Secret for Clutter Free Cohesion with Adina Hall . We have received your requests for our list of Design Faux Pas, so we decided to share it with you here.

Eight years ago when my husband and I moved into our penthouse condo we quickly realized that the closet space was not as generous as we had hoped. So we headed to Ikea, spent hours picking out a Pax system, designing all of its interior components and doors, and then proudly waited and waited and waited for our new investment to arrive. When eventually it did show up, lo and behold, it was too big for the spot we had in mind. And all other spots as well. Although I had measured the wall, I did not take the time to sketch it out and take into account the clear passage width required between the closet and the bed. Ha! I had fallen in Design Faux Pas number one.

Interior Design Most Common Mistakes

1. Not Measuring Your Space and Sketching Out The Layout

Clearly, it happens to the best of us. I never eyeball a design for clients, yet somehow I thought I could eyeball a layout for myself. Lesson learned. Always measure your space a couple of times, check your measurements and make a sketch with the existing conditions and proposed furniture. As you measure your room, remember to also measure the doorways, hallways, stairways. There is nothing like receiving a sofa and figuring out that it does not fit through the door. For our Adler on the Park project we had to remove and reinstall the door in order to get even this slim sofa through the doorway.

home office interior design

Adler on the Park Showhouse by AHD

2. Rugs That Are Too Small

Think of your rug as your island: the bigger the rug the more spacious your island will feel. As a rule of thumb for living room rugs, at least the front legs of sofas / chairs should be on top of the rug. The rug should extend 12"-18” beyond the sides of the furniture underneath.

living room interior design, two way fireplace, art, contemporary design

Forever by the Lake by AHD

For a bedroom, the rug should extend at least 30” on each side of the bed to allow generous walking space. Your nightstands can sit in front of the rug, allowing you more rug length at the foot of the bed.

master bedroom design, board and batten wall, green wall, arched bed, wool rug, end of bed settee

Urban Dream Home by AHD

Rugs under the dining table should extend sufficient space so that the legs of the chair sit on the rug when the chair is pulled away from the table. However, for a dining table used every day, especially in a home with small children, consider skipping the rug and dressing up the room in other ways such as installing wallcovering, art and mirrors.

dining room design, dining room chandelier, antique buffet, wallcovering, wallpaper

Enchanted Forest by AHD

3. Curtains That Are Too Small

This is such a common mistake that I see in most homes I walk into: curtains start right above the windows and stop on either side. If you want to obtain a luxurious aesthetic, mount your window treatments to the ceiling using a S-fold track (typical hotel install) or on the wall as close to the ceiling as possible. Choose minimal hidden hardware such as ripple-fold track and extend your curtain wall to wall. The width of the curtain material should be double the length of the wall they span in order to obtain the fullness necessary when the curtain is closed. For a cost saving solution, you can plan on looser waves at 60% extra length. Wall to wall and floor to ceiling window treatments give the impression of larger windows and more spaciousness.

master bedroom, green wall, green wallcovering, sheer window treatments, modern decor

Zen Beach House Retreat by AHD

4. Dark Bulky Sofas In A Light Room

Ok this might not be so much a faux pas as it is my personal pet peeve. I find this to be a favorite for families with kids as an antidote for dirty hands. Unless the room is specifically designed to be a moodier environment, where darker elements are strategically designed to flow and coordinate together, a dark bulky sofa (especially one with individual seat cushions) will weigh down the space from day one. While it may conceal dirt better, depending on the fabric, it may show every piece of fluff and become the most prominent element in the space, being the largest and darkest element in the room.

Instead, choose a Performance Fabric for your sofa that incorporates stain resistance, moisture repellant technology as well as double rubs over 50,000 ideally. Crypton fabrics are the best in class, this is the stuff used in hospitals and hotel lobbies, however this is rarely offered on retail soft seating. Performance fabrics are next, most manufacturers will offer a few of these options.

Other fabrics may have no treatment, in that case you can treat your soft seating with a Scotchguard spray to create a moisture barrier.

ocean living room, room with a view, live edge coffee table, boho beach home, coastal design

Castaway by AHD

5. Wall Finishes That Transition on an Outside Corner

This is a big giveaway for me that the space was not professionally designed. Think of your walls as planes of a volume, rather than a stand alone plane and apply the same treatment to the entire volume. If you have an opening within the wall that you are applying treatment to, think about installing a frame around the opening. The frame will provide a protrusion for the wall finish to die into. Besides an aesthetical issue, ending a wallcovering on an outside corner also poses a longevity issue as the wallcovering may start to fray, peel or buckle over time when installed on an outside corner. In rare situations where an outside corner cannot be avoided, install a Fry Reglet corner trim to cap the edge of the wallcovering.

bathroom design, wallpaper, vanity

Adler on the Park Showhouse by AHD

6. Insufficient Lighting or Incorrect Temperature Lighting

Have you ever wondered how to choose the right lighting for different rooms in your home? The lighting design is one of the most important elements in the space. We make sure to not only calculate the lumens needed in each room as well as on the task areas but also make sure that the lighting temperature is adequate for each space.

Identify the recommended lighting level: Different activities require different levels of lighting. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Ambient lighting: 10-20 lumens per square foot for basic tasks, 30-40 lumens per square foot for more detailed tasks.

  • Task lighting: 50-75 lumens per square foot.

  • Accent lighting: Varies depending on the desired effect and the objects being illuminated.

Identify the ideal lighting temperature: In social spaces, lighting should be warm, flattering and inviting. 2700K is the magic number for setting the mood in areas such as living rooms, dining rooms, lounges, etc. 3000K for the workhorse areas of the home such as the kitchen, bathroom, office where you need task lighting for accuracy. When it comes to light temperature, the higher the number the bluer the light. Bulb temperature above 3500K becomes too blue, unflattering and uncomfortable.

lighting temperature

Identify the number of light sources per space: As a rule of thumb, each room should have at least 3 light sources: ambient light, task light and accent light.

Ambient lights are your overhead ceiling lights: either downlights or a chandelier that at full power can provide the necessary lumens to cover the entire square footage of the room.

Task Light: this could be a pendant, a floor lamp or a table lamp that provides the necessary foot candles on the worksurface: desk, countertop.

Accent Light: these can be sconces, uplights, art lights, wall washers, or decorative floor / table lamps that add a twinkle of light throughout a room, and illuminate parts of the room that might feel dark on dungenous when the lights are dimmed for a more intimate setting.

When it comes to choosing the size of your fixtures, err on the side of too large. I prefer chandeliers that take up space, fill the height of a room and create a statement.

home office design, wallpaper, wallcovering, floor lamp, interior design

Adler on the Park Showhouse by AHD

6. Purchasing Furniture Sets or Shopping at One Store

This is especially common with bedroom sets as people will purchase the bed, nightstands, dressers as a set however we have worked with clients that in the past had purchased all their furniture at one store and the home looked like a showroom for that store. Though any store will be happy to sell you pieces for your entire home and you will save a bunch of time and legwork, this will result in a flat look, devoid of your unique personality and will not present much interest to your guests.

Rather than matching pieces, it is best to select coordinating furniture pieces . Also, avoid committing to one style, instead, find pieces that speak to you, play well together and complement each other.

guest bedroom, grasscloth wallpaper, moody design

Modern Minimalism with Kids by AHD

This creates a layered and rich aesthetic of a room that has been collected over time, and offers more interest and intrigue.

We like to use items collected by the owner from their travels or heirlooms that have been handed down through generations. In some cases we are starting from scratch and while most of the furniture will be new and custom made, we like to source some antique / vintage items that show their age through their patina or design and have a soul and a story that ties into the story that we are creating through the room.

7. Too Many Small Plants or Decorative Items Spread Around the Home

We all love plants and I am at fault of this as well, I love collecting plants, I love propagating them and I love finding gorgeous ceramic pots to showcase them. However, it is best to have a few large and medium plants that feel like “trees” within your space, they will create the sensation of volume and spaciousness while many small plants will create a cluttered aesthetic. If you are like me and cannot give up on your plant babies, think of ways to cluster them together or combine them on tiered stands.

When it comes to displaying items, rather than spreading them around the house, try to create vignettes by grouping 3 or more items, using items that have varying scales: large, medium, small and try to vary color and textures, while sticking with a theme.

interior design, artwork, accessories

Adler on the Park Showhouse by AHD

8. Partial Height Tile in Bathrooms

Ok, this is not so much a design faux pas as it is one of my personal pet peeves. This might stem from cost savings approach however the cost of adding the additional tile to the ceiling is minimal and the aesthetic impact is tremendous. While from a practicality standpoint you may not need the tile more than a few inches above the sink, your eye will be carried upwards in the space and your bathroom will appear larger and more luxurious.

Exception: when the design of the wall incorporates an accent wallcovering or other treatment intended to complement the partial height tile and the wall composition is fully thought out to make a statement then the design will look intentional and not like the project ran out of funds to complete the tile installation.

bathroom design, shower curb, round mirror, subway tile, herringbone tile

Modern Minimalism with Kids by AHD

9. Small Furniture in a Small Room

It might seem counterintuitive to place large furniture in a small room however maximizing the allowable dimensions for your furniture while maintaining sufficient circulation space within the room will create the impression of a more generous room size. This is a simple tip for maximizing space in a small room.

When working with small spaces, I prefer to keep the lines of the furniture long and clean (think bench-style sofa, long parsons table or console) to help the eye travel around the room.

This rule applies to artwork as well: choose large impactful art pieces for small rooms, rather than small pieces to create the sensation of expansiveness.

home office, sheep home office, pastoral, modern design, vintage, eclectic

Adler on the Park Showhouse by AHD

Exception: create a gallery wall using small pieces or a long art shelf that spans the length of a wall.

10. Wrong Sources of Inspiration

Often times people hand us inspiration images that look like they have been collected from builder’s real estate photos or amateur DIYers. If you plan to create a vision board, take a minute to discover 5-6 professional designers that have completed a body of work that resonates with you and demonstrate knowledge and skill in their area of expertise.

11. Not Creating a Story for Your Room

Last but not least, a pretty room without a story can fall flat and feel meaningless. Before starting the design process, take a minute to craft a story for your space that feels personal and relevant to your personality, lifestyle and values. Read How to Create a Room That Tells a Story to learn how to do this successfully.

Would love to hear your comments below if you ran into these Faux Pas or others yourselves and if there are others that you would like to see added to the list.

If you’re interested in working with us to bring your dream home to life please reach out! We would love to learn more about you and your space and help you create a design that makes you shine every day.

Contact us to set up your complimentary design consultation!

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