Interior design is both an art and a science.

Through study, experience, and an innate sense of design, interior designers can transform spaces into beautiful and functional rooms that allow you to live your best life.

And there are times when hiring a designer is the best course to take.

But you don’t need to be a designer to create some design magic of your own.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing what works and what doesn’t. By avoiding some common design pitfalls, you, too, can have spaces will look like they’ve had the touch of a professional designer.

Take a look at these photos and see what I mean.

1. Don’t push the furniture against the wall. You will have a much more interesting space if you allow breathing room around your pieces of furniture, as we see here. Allow the furniture to float in the room, away from the walls. This will help create a conversation grouping.

The optimal distance for conversational seating is 4 to 8 feet. This is the Goldilocks zone.

2. Don’t buy small, cheap throw pillows with solid forms. Pillows should be generous, overstuffed and formable, like these. Use soft, plush, down-filled pillows that can take a shape. There are great synthetic fill options, too. Use the classic “designer’s chop” to determine if they will shape up: a quick karate chop to the top edge to break up the pillow’s blockiness.

Get rid of any dead pillows that sit like a lump. Say goodbye to postage-stamp-size pillows and matchy-matchy ones that came with the furniture. Instead, overstuff an 18-inch pillow cover with a 20-inch insert for a professional look.

3. Don’t use a good-enough paint color. Paint color makes or breaks the look of a room. If it’s poorly matched, the result will be weak at best. It takes experience and a trained eye to correctly read undertones. Consult a pro on this one to set your results ahead of the crowd.

17 Things Color Consultants Want You to Know

4. Don’t sacrifice lighting to trim your budget. The mistake I see most often is light fixtures that are too small or that don’t dress the room properly. Use appropriately scaled, relevant lighting. Lighting, more than any other element, asserts style, much like a chosen piece of jewelry defines the style of a little black dress. Don’t be afraid to inject personality with a statement piece.

5. Don’t skimp on area rug size. An area rug defines a grouping of furniture. Buy one large enough to lie under at least the front legs of each piece of furniture in your grouping.

11 Area Rug Rules and How to Break Them

6. Don’t isolate rooms. Create flow from one room to the next by visually linking adjacent spaces. Repeat a pattern or carry an accent color or another visual element (such as a leg detaiI) from one room to another.

7. Don’t skimp on drapery. More is more in this department. Professionals use fabric yardage that’s two and a half to three times the width of the window for fully functional drapes. With fixed side panels (for show only), you can get away with fabric twice as wide as the window. Don’t skimp.

Custom Draperies 101

8. Avoid being too matchy. Don’t match textiles and furniture — relate them. A designer’s task is to create a collected look. Look for a collection of pieces with something in common, such as style, motif, color, history, material or mood.

9. Don’t forget the details that make a piece special. I sometimes find the hardest things for my clients to understand is that the details make the design. Nailheads, custom pillows, millwork trim and inlaid floors create a custom look that’s drop-dead gorgeous in the space here.

Once you train your eye to notice the details, you’ll see that a chair with a beautiful turned leg carved by a skilled craftsperson is different than a mass-produced machine-made piece. Custom details are evident in professional work. Contrast piecing or piping on a pillow, or welting, nailheads or trim on a chair. Details, details, details make the result special.

10. Don’t stop until you layer. Designers use layering and repetition of elements and motifs to achieve a professional look. Most people get the concept of layering when it comes to fashion. In design it isn’t much different. Pick something you love, like this patterned headboard, then repeat the color or the pattern.

The artistry lies in stopping before the look becomes too matchy (it always helps to toss in something unexpected to achieve this). Subtlety is key. Drapery, wallpaper, pillows, throws, bedding, accessories — all are great options for layering in a bedroom. You be the judge as to how much is enough.

Photos courtesy HOUZZ

Until next time…

Blessings from my home to yours,

Dedicated to helping you live your rooms—not the other way around


How to Make Your Home INSPIRE You! ~ Mindful Interiors Package

30 pages of design tips, 30 minute radio interview, and monthly Mindful Design Newsletter
Signup and receive your FREE gift:

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Print
  • email

More About

Read more about Nancy Meadows and her work as a designer...


Find out how Nancy can help you in solving your design dilemmas...


Begin the process of decorating your home or work space with Nancy Meadows...