10 Decorating Mistakes That Make Interior Designers Cringe

Does your home feature any of these design mistakes? Find out how to avoid these familiar faux pas with a few simple solutions from design experts.

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June 25, 2019

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Mistake: Mismatched Appliances

Appliances in a mishmash of finishes and time periods, like this kitchen on HGTV's Run My Makeover, irk designers.

Solution: Make Appliances Cohesive in Finish

Kitchens are about togetherness, and design choices should reflect that. Stainless steel appliances and chairs give a modern touch to this bright, contemporary kitchen. "Regarding the appliance finishes, I'd say the most important aspect is cohesion in finish," says architect and designer Jeff Troyer. "I don't necessarily need to use the same brand of appliance, but a matching finish is important." He offers one more tip: Make sure that when using different brands of appliances that the handles match.

Mistake: Ignoring Lighting

Kitchens are lively spaces, so a designer pet peeve is when lighting is an afterthought. This before kitchen is seen on HGTV's Home Town.

Solution: Use Different Types of Lighting

Use both overall light and task lighting in a kitchen. "I ask my clients, when helping with lighting, what they plan to do in each area of the kitchen and we talk about what type of light would be needed," says Heather N. Guss with E.W. Kitchens. "We try to make sure that function matches form and create beautiful spaces. Also, undercabinet lighting is a must!"

Mistake: Stencil on Walls

Much of the kitchen design is focused on the cabinets and functionality, but when homeowners rely on stencils, designers would love to show them how they can do so much more with that space.

Solution: Curate a Collection

Incorporating something unique in the open areas above kitchen cabinetry is much more of a statement than a trendy wall decal or "cutesy" words, say the designers with Duet Design Group. Whether it be a few pieces of art that bring the rest of the kitchen together or a gathering of several vases or ceramic pieces, the options are endless.

Mistake: Short Canopy

Canopy beds are versatile, adding romance to a master bedroom or acting as the perfect hideaway spot for a child, said designer Marie Flanigan. But short canopies hinder the impact they can have on a room.

Solution: Complete the Look with Curtains

Originally designed centuries ago to create privacy for the aristocracy, draping a canopy bed in curtains is a longstanding tradition that continues to generate texture and visual interest in bedrooms, says designer Marie Flanigan. "Just like drapes surrounding windows, canopy curtains should kiss the floor or have a slight break," she said. "Whether the intention is to draw the canopy curtains or not, it’s imperative to have the option, ensuring there is enough fabric to completely enclose the bed." Ethereal, gauzy fabrics have less visual weight.

Mistake: Clashing Zebra Rug With Patterned Furniture

Mixing patterns can easily go wrong. Before its makeover, this sitting room featured outdated furniture and a dizzying amount of clashing patterns. The space lacked fluidity and style.

Solution: Pair Zebra With Solids

Zebra rugs are great for grounding a space and instantly make a sitting area feel complete. Being bold with a zebra rug doesn't mean you have to go over-the-top with prints and color in the room, says designer Abbe Fenimore with Studio Ten 25. "I love to start with great basics and ground the room with a sofa, accent chairs and accent pieces that are classic and usually upholstered in a solid fabric," she says. "Animal prints can easily overwhelm a space visually, but mixing them with organic florals and plenty of texture will allow them to become part of the overall design without taking over."

Mistake: TV Plays a Solo Act

A common challenge for modern homeowners is integrating televisions into their home’s decor without creating an eyesore. This pre-renovation space makes the television the star of the design of this living room.

Solution: Create a Mixed-Media Gallery Wall

The TV doesn’t have to stand alone, says designer Marie Flanigan. The TV can also be the focal point of a gallery wall. Surround it with family photos and pieces of art, drawing the eye away from the TV when it’s not in use. "Create balance by flanking the TV with floating shelves, decked with personal treasures," she said.

Mistake: Random Coastal Decor

In this living room before a renovation, bright blue walls and sea life art fail to create a cohesive space.

Solution: Contemporary Coastal Art

When trying to create coastal-themed design, use colors and texture rather than having everything layered in seashells, says designer Jennifer Mehditash with Mehditash Design. Select a more contemporary piece of art, such as the photograph of a floating jellyfish, along with basketweave fabrics, like on this sofa bed, to hint at nautical-inspired materials. "The beautiful tones allow for you to create your very own personalized look and keeps it sophisticated and modern," she says. Another tip: Don’t forget to look up and add something special to your ceilings. She added grasscloth to almost every ceiling in this Maui beach house.

Before: Bland Dining Room

A small, plain space with poor lighting, as seen on HGTV's Brother Vs. Brother, is in need of a re-design because it presents a missed opportunity. Dining room and kitchen spaces can be challenging when it comes to adding color and pattern, because they rely on durability and function first, designer Abbe Fenimore says.

Solution: Bold Art and Furniture

Paint the room — and even the ceiling— a subtle color and allow that to be the jumping off point for your color palette, designer Abbe Fenimore says. "Art is a great way to bring in texture and pattern, and large scale pieces look fabulous in small rooms and will make them feel larger," she says. "Think outside of the box when selecting your tables and chairs. Dining sets don't have to match and once you find pieces you love, complement them with something in a similar style or upholster your chairs with a bold indoor/outdoor fabric for a pop of pattern and color."

Mistake: Unorganized Open Shelving

Open shelving is an up-and-coming trend, but in this pre-makeover kitchen, the effect is just messy.

Solution: Gather Items to Show Off

Consider how to display a collection, such as exclusive and upscale liquors on this asymmetrical shelving. Designers consider the style and arrangement of the shelving along with what will be spotlighted to create just the right look.

Mistake: Overshadowing Windows

Windows are a beloved feature in a kitchen, but some homeowners tend to overlook them, like in this kitchen before a renovation seen on HGTV's Home Town.

Solution: Employ Roman Shades

Mount Roman shades above windows to give the illusion that the windows are taller and more expansive, says designer Brooke Wagner of Brooke Wagner Design.

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