Big bad blunders

Common interior design mistakes

ACCORDING to experts, making decorating boo-boos is more common than one would think, despite the many articles, books, guides and interviews with interior designers out there. Say some industry professionals, some mistakes are so easily committed that even designers long in the business themselves make them.

In this article, interior designers weigh in the most common interior design mistakes that almost everyone will, if not would have already committed, in their homes.

Too often, excited homeowners have an idea of what they want their home to look like without taking into consideration the cost and space needed to recreate that said look.

It is good to know what you want a particular room to look like, but establish a budget and measure the dimensions of the room first. With the necessary information at hand, it will be easier to take your dream design and rework it into the "template" that you have.

Look for online room arrangement tools to help with visualising your dream design and plan the room layout before starting work on it. It takes a lot of planning to get that dream home you saw on Pinterest. Moreover, every item that goes into the room should complement each other. It is common to forget that principle, which has seen many homeowners purchasing items in isolation and do not think how it could or can't work with the other pieces.

Having a good layout will also help you avoid unnecessary spending on furniture that ends up cluttering a space.

Homepolish interior designer Ashlie Mastony remarked that it is more financially savvy to invest in one slightly expensive statement piece than buying lots of inexpensive small accessories to function as accents.

"The most common interior design mistake I see is when people buy lots of small furniture pieces, or piles of accessories, to avoid investing in a big high-impact item like a great sofa, an awesome headboard, or an amazing piece of art. In the end, the little things cost just as much and space feels cluttered rather than cohesive," Mastony said.

Hutsly founder Anthony Grosbois chimes in saying, "A small sofa plus a small table and a small lamp equates to a small idea. Consistency is not always a good thing! Playing on the scale of your furnishing is a great way to add some interest to your room."

London-based interior designer Abigail Ahearn agrees too, adding that one simple styling mistake could prevent a room from reaching its full potential. "If everything is the same size or if everything is either too big or too small, your room will read like a hot mess," Ahearn explained. "The easiest trick is to think of your space as a city and fill it with a combination of heights and proportions. Look at any cityscape and you'll find this intriguing mix of scale and a unique blend of fascinating shapes ... that's what you want to nail!"

Just one ray of light, that is. Most Malaysian homes have the typical fluorescent tube lamps in their home. What's important is having layered lighting options and dimmers in the home.

"Lighting is incredibly important in any space. When lighting is washed over you from above, it can be unflattering and harsh," said EyeSwoon founder Athena Calderone.

Calderone notes that overhead lighting often seems like the most obvious choice, but various light sources are needed to create an ambience, especially a cosy and captivating one. "Always choose soft white bulbs. Harsh fluorescent or white lights can make a space feel stark and uninviting," she added.

Interior designer Mary Cook shared her tips on choosing the right lighting. "You have to think about the colour of light, the quantity of light and where to place it. You have to think about light at various times of the day and various times of the year," Cook said.

"The best way to design your lighting for success is in layerswith asmany of those layers as possible to be switched separately and on dimmers. So now you can adjust your lighting for whatever kind of mood you want," Cook added.

Citing a recent project with her partner, Michael Smith, the duo shed some light on ways to layer lighting in a home. "In two-storey foyers or staircases, we will often use clusters or groupings of fixtures together to add impact at the right scale. In the dining room, we integrate chandeliers or pairs of chandeliers to light the space and add decorative interest. Table lamps are next to the living room sofa or on a nightstand in the bedrooms."

Rugs are largely under appreciated accessories. In the day of open concept homes, rugs serve to define spaces and draw boundaries between the varied functions of a home.

The living room is a prime example of when a rug comes in handy. Sadly, not only is there a strong dislike for rugs in Malaysian homes – primarily due to "high maintenance"; the wrong size is usually picked out for its intended function.

"Living room rugs should be big enough for at least two legs of each furniture piece to be on it, if not all four," said home style expert Emily Henderson, who lists small rugs as one of her design pet peeves. "A living room rug should really ground the whole seating around it. It tells everyone that this is where the conversation is. A small rug makes it feel disjointed and really cheapens everything."

Henderson insists that living room rugs should be at least 8ft x 10ft. "Considering a 4ft x 6ft? Don't. That's fine next to a bed, in a kitchen, or in an entrance way, but a 4ft x 6ft rug will assuredly notwork in your living room."

Lastly, never give in to the pressures of having the latest home design trends. Even leading interior designer and TV personality Nate Berkus believes the same. "The mistake people make is that they're often insecure. They look over their shoulder and listen to what everyone else is talking about instead of sitting down and asking, 'What do I really love?'"

So, take time to sit and jot down what you like within your home. Do research and skim through the common blunders mentioned above to ensure you haven't made the same mistake. Then slowly but surely decorate interiors in the way you would feel most comfortable living in.

Trends merely serve as inspiration for future re-decorations and as a point of discovery of one's preferred home design. The rule of thumb – create a home that you would love to live in rather than one that is just nice to look at.