It happens to everyone— you are shopping and see the perfect home decor accessory. You give in to the impulse buy and excitedly bring home your new-found treasure— only to discover that what looked liked the ideal accessory looks hideous when you get home, and you are left saying, What was I thinking? Where did I go wrong?

What most of us don’t understand is that interior design takes a very keen and knowledgeable eye. We may be out shopping and see something we love, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will look perfect in our home.  Interior designers understand how color, lighting, room size, scale, and placement all affect how items look in a room and dictates whether they will make or break a room design.

There are a lot of common mistakes that almost everyone makes when designing their interiors. A few small tweaks to your space can make all the difference. Knowing right from wrong can transform a cramped and chaotic space into one that is organized and tranquil that creates a sense of order and balance. Read on as I clarify.

Scale and Proportion

Scale and Proportion

Scale is the number one mistake that almost everyone makes when it comes to interior design. Scale refers to the size of things and proportion is best described as the relationship of size in relation to each other and the room as a whole.

Current trends of open floor plans and vaulted ceilings make it difficult for homeowners to integrate the right scale and proportion that is crucial to your design. Designing a large space is intimidating and is where most people struggle.

The secret to proper scale is a mixture of different shapes, heights and sizes.  If there is only one thing that you hire an interior designer for, it is help with proportion and scale.  With the right scale your room is well on its way towards a successful design.

furniture placement

Over-furnishing Your Room

It doesn’t take much for a room to turn from well planned and thought out to one that closely resembles a dumping ground of collected furniture and accessories. Your furniture should fill your space and create a space that is both appealing as well as functional. There should be enough space in the room to create movement and flow. A room should never look and feel cramped. If it does, try moving or removing one piece to see if this helps.

Sometimes it’s not a matter of too much furniture, but the placement of the furniture itself. If after moving a piece or two around, your space still feels tight, then remove a piece altogether. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. Overly furnished rooms not only make your room seem smaller than it is, but can also make it hard to maneuver around. This tip is extremely important when trying to sell your home as it will turn off potential buyers.

remove clutter

Removing Clutter

There’s no need to over-clutter. In terms of accessories less is more, as with furniture. A sense of order, balance, calm, flow and movement are essential to any well-decorated space. When there is too much clutter there is too much distraction. Take a look at what you have and divide them into two categories: the things that are important and matter; and, those things that you can do without.

No matter what the accessory is, it is best to display them in arrangements and groupings. There are some steadfast rules to arranging items into groups—called the rule of three. So, gather what you love into groupings and display them proudly and properly.

hanging artwork

Hanging Art

You can literally turn any wall of your home into your own personal art gallery. Everyone should display some form of art in his or her home—whether it is a rare oil painting or a cherished drawing from your child’s pre-school days. The road block that most encounter is how to properly hang art.

The best way to ensure there are no mistakes, and nasty nail holes to fill, is to trace and cut out the frames outline on paper. Simply tape the paper cutouts onto your wall, trying numerous placement options until you have the desired outcome.

Have fun with your arrangements, playing with size, color, and texture, remembering to avoid the number one mistake that most people make—scale (mentioned above).

texiles first

Buying Fabrics/Textiles First

A common mistake that most of us are guilty of—painting first. Put the paintbrush down! First, you need to find an inspiration piece to pull paint colors from, be it a piece of artwork, an area rug or curtain fabric. Why is this? Because it is much easier to find artwork, fabric or rug than it is the other way around. Your inspiration piece will hold a main color and other complimentary colors. Design your room around this piece. From it will come your paint color, your furniture color, your pillows and case goods.

Establishing a Focal Point

Every room needs a focal point—it offers a place for the eye to rest and assigns a room with a function. This is a very common mistake—forgetting to give each room a purpose or point to focus on.

Some rooms are simple—in a TV room the focal point usually ends up being the TV and the unit it is placed on, while all the other main objects in the room (i.e. couches/chairs) are focused and pointing towards the TV. In the bedroom, the bed and headboard are the focal point. In the living room, it’s usually the fireplace. Each room has a focus or purpose, understand its purpose so you can place the furnishings around that focal point.

Showing Your Personality

Your home should speak to who you are; it should be like a personal memoir of your trips, your loves, your life. There is nothing worse than walking into someone’s home to be greeted by beige walls, brown furniture and one mass-produced print on the wall.

Character is built within your interior design by adding that odd chair you found at the flea market or the amazing painting that a street vendor was selling. Try a small shopping excursion on the weekend, slowly over time you will find things you love and build your homes character. Bring in all the things you love, making your home a unique oasis that welcomes you at the end of a hard day and also tells an intriguing story to your guests.



Lighting is key. It is one of the most important elements of design. Your space should have as much natural lighting as possible.  Do not block natural light sources with poorly placed curtains and accessories. Even a cloudy day allows for a lot of natural light to pour in. Enhance natural light with the placement of mirrors directly across your source to allow the light to bounce around the room. You will want to add to your overhead lighting.

You should have more than one source illuminating your room. Add proportionally sized and well-placed lamps and sconces to enhance your lighting when needed. Your lighting should be bright enough to function under but not so bright that it is jarring. Dimmers should be added to all ceiling and overhead lighting.

paint samples

Testing Paint Colors

Almost all paint companies offer small sample jars. You want to paint up either poster board or foam core (the bigger the better) with 2 coats of the sample paint. Since color is affected by the other colors around it, you want to move your board around and see how the color looks next to all the fixed color elements in the room.

Hold it behind your sofa and next to your window treatments. Hold it next to your carpet, artwork and any other fabrics in the room. If it is for a kitchen hold it next to the granite counter tops or tile and next to your cabinets. Move it EVERYWHERE and make sure you like how it looks next to all the other colors in the room.

Look at your color sample board at all different times of the day. The color of the paint samples will change under different lighting situations. The color may look just great in the morning but then at night it could look very different. Think about the time of day you will use the room the most and make sure you like the color at that time.

Lastly, take your time when choosing color. Plan some time to “live” with the color and make sure you still like (love) it days later. Although we always hear the saying, “It’s only paint”, painting is still a hassle and the one decorating element you want to get right the first time.

 Design Advice

Sometimes a room needs a fresh set of eyes to spot the problems. Ask a friend for an honest opinion on color choice, fabrics, or room arrangement. If it is feasible, hire an interior designer for guidance—you don’t have to hire one for an entire design project, as there are plenty of designers who charge by the hour – like I do. Interior designers are full of clever design tips and tricks that can transform your home.

As you have read, there are a lot of common mistakes that can be easily made when it comes to interior design. Luckily, there are also plenty of easy solutions to fix these mistakes. Have fun and enjoy the process!