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Interior designers make sprucing up a space look so easy, don’t they? Whether you regularly scour interior design blogs or mindlessly scroll through your favorite decorator’s Instagram, you'll find that every room they touch is perfectly proportioned, well-accessorized, and, filled with enough sun-drenched windows to illuminate a small town.
But it wasn’t always that way. Honing in on a skill—whether it’s decorating, cooking, even DIY-ing—requires time, patience, and plenty of trial and error. Interior designers may be experts in their craft now, but they’ve all had slip ups along the way. In the spirit of learning from our missteps, we asked four design firms about their biggest design mistakes. Their misses run the gamut from rushing their way through a design scheme to messing up custom orders, but it’s clear that no one is perfect.
With any luck, you can use their mistakes to get yourself one step closer to becoming a design guru. And don't worry, we paired their mistakes with some beautiful images to further inspire you.
1. Ordering Custom Too Early
“Ordering custom automated roller blinds—those are not cheap people!—before hiring the framer to come and open the ceiling to make the pocket niche. Then finding out on-site that the header stuck out almost a foot beyond the window! We’ve learned that those pesky architects are so crafty at preserving a beautiful architectural window. We ended up tinting the windows, but that was a hard one to address with the client.” —Lauren Schneider and Kelli Granello, co-founders of Transition State
2. Choosing the Wrong Sizes
“Creating custom pillows and ordering the fills at the same size, and then ending up with a lot of droopy saggy décor. We needed to switch out fast the day of before the owner came home. Always order your fills at least one inch larger to get the plump full shape you see on Instagram!” —Jenna Rochon, co-founder of Transition State
3. Leaning Too Vibrant
“In college, my taste was really different than it is today. I had a hand-me-down dresser that I painted vibrant teal. At the time I loved it, and so did my friends, but you wouldn’t catch me doing that ever today.” — Alessandra Wood, interior design expert and vice president of style at Modsy
4. Taking a Wall Risk
“I once had a client who was away at her winter home in Florida, and we were going back and forth about the final choice for the paint color. Initially, her living room was dark with heavy window treatments. She was insistent that the drapery stays because the previous owners paid a lot of money for it. As for everything else, it was a clean slate. So furniture, accessories, and the rug were chosen. She left the paint color up to me. I chose a beautiful yellow, which was super bright and yellow. The client's husband, family, and friends love how the room was transformed. The client, however, was so turned off by the yellow that she painted the room beige a month later. From that point, I never allow a paint color to go up on the walls unless the client signs off on it and a swatch is up for them to review.” —Gail Davis, founder of Gail Davis Design
5. Shopping Without a Plan
“Buying furniture on a whim without having a place for it to land in your home is always a bad idea. In the past, I would see something I really liked, grab it, and then become frustrated when I couldn't make it work. Take the time to measure your space to make sure you know what scale is best, keep a running list of your wants, and be prepared to invest in them as soon as you spot them.” —Abbe Fenimore, interior designer and founder of Studio Ten 25