Pitfalls & Platitudes – Avoiding 6 Major Mistakes with a Little Creativity

Designing a room from the ground up can be a very daunting task.

Inevitably, we are often confronted with too many life-changing decisions all at once. And while the challenge is what ignites our passion for the work initially, for the layman and novice, it can often become just too much of a ‘good thing’ or worse; a whole lot of head-scratching and heartache destined to confound, confuse and thoroughly sour the unprepared on the process of achieving their own design nirvana. Well, fear not. Because real design is quite often not about doing everything. It should definitely never be about doing everything all at once! So, let us consider some of the options.

Choosing paint first?

Well, while picking exactly the right hue to tint your abode is, in many ways, one of the biggest decisions requiring your time and energy, it most certainly does not have to be the first decision that you make. Consider that once you have settled on an essential fabric in your home furnishings (e.g. rugs, pillows, draperies, upholstery, etc.), it will become relatively easier to pick a coordinating color from the fan deck or paint chips for your walls, ceiling and trim.  After all, there are only so many colors that go with the color you have already chosen to decorate your salon or dining room. So perhaps finding a fabric you truly adore is the best way to kill two birds with one stone: the color of the fabric telescoping the selection of color choices on the fan deck.

Buying furniture without measuring.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to judge the scale of furniture when it is sitting on a vast showroom floor. Everything looks small in a store because its surroundings are so big. This is why homeowners are sometimes shocked to discover the beautiful sectional or coffee table they selected in the showroom all but dwarfs or swamps the natural surroundings of their own living rooms. This problem is easily alleviated if you know your measurements. Cold hard numbers do not lie even when your eyes might be playing tricks.

So, measure – then measure again. Bring your room measurements with you and stick to them. If you fall in love with something out of your size range, ask if it comes in a smaller, or even ‘condo’ size that will be more accommodating to your needs. Need a better ‘visual’ on the footprint your new sofa or sectional will make? Take down the measurements of the piece in question while you are at the store. If you forget to do this, telephone your sales rep to do it for you. Then, mark the spot at home with some masking tape.

Buying a whole set.

This is another designer ‘no-no’ despite the fact it still is something of ‘the most popular’ shortcut. A set implies coordination of your aesthetics when actually, all it really achieves is a homogenized look. Everything is the same. Boring!  Instead, try a little eclecticism. Mix styles. Bring elements of varying inspiration together with a little more thought and finesse.  How? Settle on one major piece – the piece you absolutely cannot live without. Then turn to different manufacturers for items that coordinate – rather than copy or perfectly match; such as mix-matched side tables. The end result carries far more personal flavor than anything simply annexed wholesale from a catalog or showroom floor.

Never making a bold choice.

While nobody wants to spend an extra weekend painting over last weekend’s mistake, being fearful of taking the proverbial plunge on an adventurous decision can conspire to create a space that feels bland and unsatisfying. Risk-taking, within reason, is not only an admirable quality, but wholly necessary. Think outside of your comfort zone.  Rest assured that if you do choose a dramatic wall treatment, you can always layer over it with light and breezy pieces, such as white wall art or neutral-colored furniture. If the look you have chosen seems overpowering at first, many times you can ‘tame’ with just a little creativity until it feels more livable to you. Some looks are timely – others, timeless. But if you love it, it will bring years of pleasure at a glance and envelope you in the proverbial lap of luxury for many good days yet to follow. Ultimately, everything ‘gets old’ But if you tire of what you’ve done sooner than later just remember, you can always change it. Nothing, not even a faux finish, is carved in stone.

Making everything bold.

This is the opposite of the previous mistake.  You should never expect every piece you choose to be the dazzling showstopper. Even in very dramatic spaces, some elements are visually subservient to others; the main staples taking the proverbial backseat to the focal points. Otherwise, what we get is a war of contrasts – too much eye-popping spectacle turning into gaudy glitz rather than heart-warming pizzazz. Think of your design elements like the ingredients in a good recipe. A great recipe may have tantalizing spices added, but it will also require the more elemental components like humble salt to serve as the base and make the flavor sing. Pragmatically, this means that if you have a bold art piece, beautiful curtains or some vibrant fabrics, then let the other pieces in your room (your sofa upholstery or a large rug) be beautifully simple and understated. The eye should be drawn into the living space, not at war with so much color and bling it doesn’t know where to settle its gaze. So, when choosing a new item or fabric to integrate into an existing color scheme be sure to consider how it will fit into the entire palette. A solid-color pillow or demure gray blanket may not pop out at you immediately when you’re shopping. Nevertheless, it might be exactly what your space needs to complete ‘the look’.

Never letting go of the past.

At some basic level, we are all creatures of habit. It’s hard to get rid of clutter because everything acquires a sentimental meaning with time. Some of what we accrue over time will forever be a part of our lives. But some of it will transgress into mere stuff fit for the garage sale or junk bin. Compounding the issue is the fact it is harder to shake bad design memories. However, just because you lived through an awful trend should not put you off a beautiful idea forever. For example, if you are turned off by the shiny golden fixtures from decades’ past you may still want to keep an open mind to the matte brass fixtures that have become trendy again today. We’ve all watched an old movie or looked at photographs taken of us twenty, thirty, forty years ago and silently thought, ‘Oh God, what was I thinking?!?’ But ugliness, just like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  So, never abandon a powerful decor tool simply because your past experience with it was less than stellar. Today more than ever, one’s options are more varied and better. So, if pumpkin orange isn’t your thing, then perhaps tangerine orange is.  Go ahead: give a tempting design trend another chance.  Because in design, unlike life, you really can live it up more than once as everything old becomes new again. And if you stay open to both new and old trends you will be amazed at how many bold new looks you are able to achieve.

Bringing in a professional to help with your decorating ideas is always a safe bet. It can also save you time and money.  Mistakes are costly.  Avoid them by hiring The Room.


By the Room at Coulter’s





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