HGTV Bloggers Reveal Their Biggest Design Fears and Fails

White rugs and wall demo and picture hanging...oh my! Forget about ghouls and goblins: It's design mistakes and our personal decor phobias that really get us scared.
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While our jobs here at HGTV.com are to provide you with expert design tips and tricks, design fails and failures-to-start happen to everyone — even HGTV design bloggers! That's why we're revealing some of the worst design disasters and fears that still spook us.

Monica Reese

Monica Reese

Team Drew member, Monica Reese, shares her fear of the unfamiliar on HGTV's "Brother vs. Brother."

From: Brother Vs. Brother

Are you haunted by design fears and fails of the past? You're not alone. Read on to discover some of our scariest moments, and how to avoid committing the same design faux pas

Hung Up

Inserting Chalkboard Into Wood Frame

Inserting Chalkboard Into Wood Frame

Once dry, insert chalkboard into frame using small nails hammered into sides of frame to secure it.

Hand me a hammer and a questionable nail and I immediately get the shakes.

Once upon a time I tried to hang a huge shadowbox frame on a wall, and because I used the wrong hardware it violently swung off and went through the drywall on the adjacent wall. It gets better: this wasn't my house. Whoops. Now it doesn't matter what size frame I am hanging, you can bet your bottom dollar that frame will be anchored into the wall, maybe even all the way into the exterior siding if I can help it.

Are you hung up on picture hanging? Flip through this informative gallery to learn all about finding the right hanging hardware:

Finding the Right Hanging Hardware

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Don't Be Intimidated by All Those Little Bins

The fastener aisle in the hardware store houses thousands of screws, nails, bolts, hooks and more. Don't let it scare you off. It's easy once you learn a few general rules of thumb, what the numbered sizes mean and how to determine what length you'll need.

Photo By: Ryan McVay

The Classic Wall Anchor

The first thing to consider is the wall type. Most newer homes have drywall. For small picture frames 8" x 10" or smaller and weighing a few ounces, a simple nail driven into the wall at a slight upward angle will do the trick. No need to worry about catching a stud. For larger and heavier frames it starts getting more complicated. Keep in mind the weight of the object as many fasteners have weight ratings. In a perfect world, a stud would be in the exact place you want to hang a picture, but we know our tastes and sightlines don't match construction techniques. Enter wall anchors. The classic wall anchor is tapped into place through a pilot hole, then a screw is driven through it. In this image, the screw causes the anchor to expand and grip the drywall with fins and expand in the back, making an anchor truly an anchor.

Wall Driller

A wall driller is driven into the wall with a driving bit, rather than inserted into a pilot hole. It can have a screw driven through it like a classic wall anchor, or a hanger can be placed over the head of the fastener.

Toggle Bolts

A third common wall fastener is a toggle bolt. Like a classic wall anchor, it is inserted into a pilot hole. What makes it unique is the spring inside, which makes the fastener pop open once it reaches the cavity behind the wall and creates a grappling-hook effect.

Deck Screws

Time and weather take their toll, which makes your choice of fasteners for exterior projects very important. Deck screws are ubiquitous when it comes to outdoor projects. They are specially coated to resist corrosion and come in a large range of sizes, most commonly from 1 1/4" to 3". They are also considerably less expensive than stainless steel screws and aren't prone to head stripping, as stainless steel sometimes can be.

Nails or Screws?

Surprisingly, there are a wider variety of nails for exterior use than screws, whether it's for decking, fencing, siding, roofing or outdoor furniture. In this image, notice the twisted shank of a galvanized deck/fencing nail. This variety offers the increased holding strength of a screw with the value of a nail.

Deck Screws vs. Lag Screws

As their common name indicates, deck screws are clearly designed for use in deck construction, specifically for attaching deck boards, but their use extends well beyond to other projects such as outdoor furniture. For heavy-duty construction using large dimensional lumber (4x4s for example), such as deck support, pergolas, arbors, treehouses and wood swingsets, use lag screws. They come in galvanized or stainless.

Nails

Nails (and brads) are good for basic construction (building a box) and when adhesives are used. For outdoor applications, use stainless or galvanized brads or nails. Brads or finish nails are best for attaching trim and molding and for furniture assembly. They are identified by their smaller heads versus a prototypical nail. Why? The smaller heads are driven below a surface and can be concealed by wood filler.

Brad Nails

Brad nails are very often used in pneumatic nailers and come bundled in clips rather than loose. A variety of sizes are available. For example, if a brad is labeled #18 x 1 1/4. The #18 is the thickness or gauge (the lower the number the thicker the brad). The 1 1/4 is the length in inches. In contrast, with nails, the higher the number, the thicker the nail. An example of a common size for nails would be 4d (thickness) x 1 1/2 (length).

When to Use Screws

Screws work best when forces will be applied in multiple directions such as against a joint, or if extra weight will be applied, such as a bookshelf. Use screws if you don’t plan on using additional adhesives. If you are building a simple shelf or bookcase, you can use glue and nails, but you'll feel much more secure about it if it fastened with screws. The threads of a screw grip and “bite” into the wood to make a joint stronger and more secure.

Pre-Drilling

When drilling pilot holes for screws, be sure to match the diameter of the shank and not the threads. The gauge (thickness) of screws are listed similar to brads (#7, #8), but are more like nails in that the higher the gauge, the thicker the screw.

Carriage Bolt, Hex-Head Bolt, Phillips Oval-Head Bolt

Nuts and bolts work well for projects that may need to be disassembled at some point or heavy-duty applications. They provide tremendous holding power, as you can use mechanical force (a wrench) to tighten the nut. Unlike screws, a pilot hole for a bolt should match or be slightly larger than the diameter of the threads and, of course, be drilled completely through. Bolt sizes are listed by diameter and length in inches.

What's the Correct Length to Use for a Fastener?

It depends on the application, but when joining the faces of two boards, you'll want to drive the fastener at least halfway through the adjoining board, but not completely through it. This image shows two 3/4" boards with a 1 1/4”-long screw. At that length, the screw extends into the adjoining board by 1/2" (1 1/4 – 3/4 = 1/2). Brads and screws are commonly available in 1 1/4” sizes. If joining at a right angle, use a fastener that is at least twice the thickness as the material. For example, when joining two 3/4" boards at a right angle, use a nail or screw that's at least 1 1/2” long.

Started Off on the Wrong Foot-print

Instead of crying over spilled paint, Liz transformed her bedroom from fail to fab.

Instead of crying over spilled paint, Liz transformed her bedroom from fail to fab.

It was like the 'what not to do' portion of an infomercial."
Liz Gray

If at first you don't succeed, clean up your paint tracks and try, try again. 

When Liz Gray first moved into her mid-century house, she planned to transform the bedroom by adding a coat of warm gray paint to the walls. "It was like the 'what not to do' portion of an infomercial — The paint color had separated, leaving brownish streaks on the wall, the roller was too full of paint, leaving lots of drips, my fabric drop cloth bled onto my carpeting, and I even accidentally stepped in a container of paint and tracked it through the room. Not exactly the work of a DIY expert!" admits Liz. "The lesson here: Even if you write about design for a living, you still need to do your research (and mix your paint) before getting started. Don’t get frustrated if the first project is less than perfect — just clean up the (literal or figurative) paint footprints and move on!"

Get Pro Tips: How to Paint a Room The Right Way

How to Paint a Room 11:23

Amy Matthews demonstrates how to paint a room with professional results.

Moral Support

hdswt311_1fa_dining-room_demo-wall

hdswt311_1fa_dining-room_demo-wall

Farima Alavi came in like a wrecking ball. Well, not really.

"I wanted to tear down an interior wall in my house, but wasn’t sure if it was a supporting wall," says Farima. (Minor details.) "The first contractor told me it was not a supporting wall, but I had to get three more opinions before I was comfortable enough for the contractor to tear down the wall. I may have wasted money on estimates, but at least I could sleep at night knowing my house wasn’t going to come crumbling down!"

Sometimes it pays to be over-cautious, but we're here when you're ready to take that first swing. 

Knock it Down: Guidelines for a Safe Wall Takedown

Borderline Hoarder

Photo by: Photo by Instagram user kaylamkitts

Photo by Instagram user kaylamkitts

Overheard at Thrifters' Anonymous: "My name is Kayla Kitts, and I have a thrifting addiction." Hi, Kayla.

Kayla and her beau live in an apartment but have big plans for a future home. "He loves (not!) when I come home on the weekends with $3 midcentury modern chandeliers, chairs and furniture that pile up in our spare room. I swear they’ll have a spot in our future home someday!" she claims. "I have a 'craft dresser' full of paint and supplies for when I’m ready to tackle these projects, but I haven’t. My fear is messing up a beautiful piece with cobalt paint. You can’t turn back after the first spray!"

'Eyeballing' It

After: Rustic Barstools

After: Rustic Barstools

Vintage industrial wood-and-metal barstools provide seating at the serving bar.

From: Fixer Upper

In this day and age, who has time to measure? Not Jessica Yonker.

"I’m the queen of 'eyeing it'," Jessica confesses. "That's how I ended up with barstools that are too tall for my kitchen island. Everyone hits their knees. Oops."

Our advice for Jessica: Use a measuring tape and graph paper to create a floor plan. Then measure your furniture, draw it to scale and cut it out of another piece of paper so you can move it around. When shopping for furniture, bring a measuring tape and your floor plan along so you know exactly how much space you're playing with.

Floor Plan Planning: Create Your Own Paper Design

Color Conned

Trend alert: Partially painted walls

Trend alert: Partially painted walls

Here's your new Public Service Announcement: Color decisions that seem clear are not always what they appear. Mariel Clark knows this all too well.

"I’m redoing my dining room and I wanted to go for a soft, almost-white, gray," explains Mariel. "I selected my usual run of about 37 color samples and painted them all over the walls. I picked just the right one and took two days off to paint. I cut in, got one wall finished and realized….it’s lavender! That was back in July. Sigh. So, I’ll be switching to my usual go-to color: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl (lightened by 50%) which is already in two other rooms in my home. And I need to pay someone to paint it ASAP since Thanksgiving – aka the only meal actually served in my dining room – is just around the corner."

Is picking the right white leaving you stumped? Here's how to pick the right shade of white in only five minutes:

The Right White in 5 Minutes 01:17

Here's how to pick the right shade of white in only five minutes.

'High-Brow' Art

How to Paint Color-Blocked Wall Art

How to Paint Color-Blocked Wall Art

HGTV Magazine shares this how to exclusively online

Photo by: David A. Land (Styled by Matthew Gleason)

David A. Land (Styled by Matthew Gleason)

When it comes to hanging art, Beth Rucker does not have high hopes.

"I cringe every time I see artwork that is hung too high on the wall," says Beth. "You’re supposed to hang the center point of your artwork about 57 or 58 inches above the floor to make it sit at a comfortable spot near eye-level. Anything much higher just looks like a total fail if you ask me."

For a general guide on hanging artwork correctly, consult this list of directions from our friends at Apartmenttherapy.com: How To Hang Your Artwork and Not Screw It Up

Commitment Phobe

Neutral Living Room With Bold Pink Patterned Armchairs

Neutral Living Room With Bold Pink Patterned Armchairs

Enliven a neutral space with bright colored furniture and accent pieces

RS_Designer-Emily-Ruddo_h
From: Emily Ruddo

Photo by: Emily Ruddo

Emily Ruddo

Enliven a neutral space with bright colored furniture and accent pieces

"It's not you, it's me" — a famous line said by Chelsea Faulkner to virtually every color in the color wheel. Recently engaged, Chelsea is planning for the biggest commitment of her life, but when it comes to applying color to her home, she just can't seal the deal.

"I’m terrified of color," admits Chelsea. "My friends joke that the albino zebra is my spirit animal because everything in my home is either beige, greige, taupe, white or black. Any time I’ve tried to use color, my space ends up looking like a teenage girl’s bedroom. Plus, I change my mind a lot, so painting is definitely not an option for me."

Expert Tips for Choosing the Perfect Paint Color

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Opt for Test Sizes

Before committing to a full gallon, first try out a few samples to really nail down which shade of a particular color you want. Available at most paint stores for less than $5 each, these little testers are just enough to cover a large wall area or sample board with paint.

View Swatches in Natural Light

It's common to fall in love with a paint swatch in the store then find the color looks drastically different once it's painted on your walls. This is caused, in part, because paint looks different under artificial light versus natural light. For a better idea of the finished color, always look at paint chips near a window.

Compare Paint Chips to White

Similar to using a quarter to show the scale of an object in a photograph, comparing any color against white will ensure its tonal values really clearly. When looking over paint chips at home, try laying them out on a white surface.

Opt for Inexpensive Foam Brushes

To save time when painting test swatches, use disposable foam brushes rather than a standard paintbrush you'll have to wash clean between colors.

Live With the Colors

With so many options to choose from, nailing down just the right hue can be tough. To make the selection process easier, it's smart to test out several paint colors along one wall and live with them for a few days, noting how they look both day and night. Label the painted swatches with painter's tape so you'll remember which color you liked best.

Consider Spraying Instead of Rolling

Something that's often overlooked when painting walls is the difference between spraying versus rolling. While rolling is the most popular method, it's also the most time-consuming and requires the most touchup. Sprayed finishes not only ensure a more professional end result, they also cut the amount of time required to paint a room in half. HVLP (high-volume, low-pressure) sprayers can be rented by the day through most home improvement stores. Spraying paint can be a messy business so always be sure to thoroughly cover all doors and windows with painter's plastic to ensure paint dust doesn't drift into other rooms.

Customize Your Colors

Designers often create custom colors by having paint stores mix extra black or white into existing colors to darken or lighten them. While this is a great way to achieve a custom finish, custom tints make it difficult to match up the paint color for any future touchups.

Forget Matchy-Matchy

While many paint stores offer a computerized service that can precisely match any color, designers often stay away from exact matches and instead choose a shade that's a bit lighter or darker. When using rugs or upholstery fabrics as inspiration, choose a hue that's very close in tone without matching exactly.

Color the Ceiling

Rather than leave the ceilings white, designers often choose to paint them. The old rule of thumb that white ceilings make a room feel brighter and larger doesn't always hold true; just have the paint store mix paint for the ceiling which is 50 percent lighter than the wall color. Once applied to the ceiling, the walls and ceiling will feel cohesive rather than dark and cavernous.

Our advice for Chelsea: One of the best ways to add color to a bland space is via furniture, tables or pillows. However, if you're looking for a non-permanent solution for adding color to walls, a great DIY project is creating fabric panels by mounting fabric pieces on foam core and batting for an upholstered wall look. Temporary wallpapers are also a great avenue for color commitment phobes. They’ll pull off without damaging the wall, and you get a lot of visual bang for your buck. Still afraid? Use these tips to dip your toe into the colorful world of home decor. 

Hair of the Dog

Above: Camille Smith's daring cream rug

Below: Sophie and Phoebe, aka the canine culprits

Above: Camille Smith's daring cream rug

Below: Sophie and Phoebe, aka the canine culprits

Camille Smith has found that sometimes you just have to let sleeping dogs lie.

Who will win in the battle of rug vs. beast?

Who will win in the battle of rug vs. beast?

"As the doting mom to two especially wild-and-crazy canines, I’m very particular about the durability of items I purchase for my home – especially when it comes to area rugs," says Camille. "My girls have a doggie door and fenced-in backyard that promises endless hours of squirrel-chasing, dirt-digging and grass-rolling good times so I typically come home to find the floors littered with muddy paw prints and tiny tidbits of the outdoors that they’ve brought indoors. So, when the time came to replace the sin-concealing Oriental rug in my bedroom, I was tempted to go with another dark rug with lots of pattern to conceal their doggie indiscretions – but when I found this thick, cushy cream rug at a huge discount, it was time for me to face up to my fear."

The solution was really twofold: "I placed a dirt-catcher-type outdoor rug on the back porch to catch most of the mud, grass and yard bits from the girls’ paws before they come though the doggie door and applied two full cans of Scotchgard to the rug before placing it in my bedroom. To keep the high-traffic areas clean, I vacuum it regularly (which, by the way, is the single best thing you can do for a rug – it keeps surface dirt from becoming embedded deep in the fibers) and spot clean by blotting with a damp cloth when necessary."

Dog-Friendly Decorating: Maintain a Chic, Pet-Friendly Home

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