written by:
February 8, 2013
Did you know? We've recently launched a national partnership with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Throughout 2013, look to Dwell and ASID to bring you loads of interior design advice and ideas. This week, we asked 18 members, accomplished interior designers all, to weigh in on some of the most common design mistakes people make—and how to avoid making them!

Laura Britt, RID, ASID:

"One of the most common design mistakes we see is with scale and proportion. This element of design applies to all aspects of a project, whether it is with scale and proportion of furnishings, kitchen details, or even accessories. Most people are afraid of going too big, but the old adage of 'bigger is better' sometimes does apply. Don’t be afraid to be bold!"

Rachel Blindauer, Allied ASID:

"Steer clear of plain white walls, unless the architecture demands it. 90% of the time white walls make everything against the wall visually float. Using a mid tone wall color or neutral unifies all of the pieces. The only times white works is if it is a conscious design decision with a limited palate, utilizing lots of texture or contrast."

Cindy G. McClure, ASID, MCR, CKD, GCP:

"Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Be it with color, room use, scale, or placement of furniture and fixtures. Even if you are comfortable with your own design sense, getting another opinion can give you peace of mind and help you avoid costly purchases or the repainting of rooms. Many designers work on a hourly rate and are approachable."
Gail Doby, ASID, Author of How to Design Your Perfect Interior:

"The biggest design mistake I see home enthusiasts make is working without having a budget, or without a realistic idea of what it takes to create a beautiful interior.  If they are hiring a professional, it's like working with a Realtor. You have to tell him or her what you're thinking of investing.  It's important to educate yourself about costs, and the internet makes it easy."

Jonathan Baron, ASID:

"The most common design mistake to avoid is not to carefully pre-plan any space before making any purchased of furnishings, fixtures or equipment. I have been hired more then once when people had purchased furnishings because they loved it, like sofas, armories, tables, chairs, wall units, but then got the items homes and could not figure out why they don't work. Usually it is the size, shape of scale. That is why pre-planning is the most important."

Rona J. Spiegel, ASID, CID:

"There are many common design mistakes, but one that glares out in a space is when artwork is hung improperly, either too high or too low. The art can be exactly right, but proprotion and scale are important for the art to work well in a space."

Darlene Molnar, Allied ASID:

"Mistake #1: Skipping the planning phase of design and succumbing to impulse buys. It’s better to have a complete concept developed before buying something you think you love on a whim only to realize later that it doesn’t coordinate or, in the worst case scenario, even fit in the room. Mistake #2: Painting before deciding on furniture and fabrics. It’s much easier to match paint to fabric than vice versa!"

Laura Gills, ASID:

"Never go shopping without a plan. Knowing your layout is the beginning of all good things."

Jennifer Reynolds, Allied ASID:

“It is uninspiring to walk into a space where everything is so new that it lacks the warmth and character of a room that has been thoughtfully composed with a vintage treasure or cherished antique. Adding just one precious heirloom or an original piece of art can help a room transcend from the ordinary into greatness. And isn’t it about how a space makes us feel that matters most?”

Bonnie Sachs, ASID:

"Always use a cohesive design thread through your project. Whether using color, pattern or other design elements—this thread creates an instant sense of flow, calm and comfort."

Linda Floyd, ASID and CA Certified Interior Designer:

"When you enter a room, it should be like a city scape...a combination of different heights. You never want everything in the room to be at the same level. Accomplish this with different heights in your furnishings, art placement and window treatments."

Antoinette C. Prisco, ASID:

"Never assume your workroom or contractors are 'on the same page.' Always check twice and keep up-to-date documents in everyone's hands, clients included. Information is power and the key to success."

Catherine Schager AKBD, Allied ASID:

"A big design mistake: Not being mindful of the scale of patterns in the room. Pattern scale should be varied to create interest."

Ann J. Chapdelaine, Allied ASID:

"Don't live with anything you hate just because someone gave it to you or you inherited it! Remove it from the room immediately and you will feel so much better."

Shannon Miranda, Allied ASID:

"Never apply paint samples to a wall and always order full size swatches to move easily throughout the room at different times of the day. Use two samples in corners to show the intensity of a color reflected off itself - four painted walls can look much different than one."

Annette Phillips, ASID:

"Too carefully coordinating a room leaves it flat. It is the unexpected item that elevates and personalizes the room, The souvenir from your vacation, the special gift or the toss pillow that grabbed your attention, these are the things that make the room alive."

Marcia Wood, Allied ASID, APLD, CAPS, NCNLA:

"Failure to have or address the focal point of the room. There either isn't one or there are too many. The space should work around a focal point."

Valerie Steil, ASID:

"Installation of artwork is critical. Don't do the 'shotgun' approach, with one piece hung on every wallspace at about the same height. Don't hang your artwork too high—floating on its own. And don't forget to leave some space for your eye to rest. Every wall surface does not have to be covered. Consider the entire composition of the room."

Note: Love the interior image featured in this story? It's from Dwell's latest Interiors issue, on newsstands now!

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