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!

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016