Design Mistakes: Not Having A Plan
I find that there are two kinds of people in the world – people who don’t ever design their house because of style paralysis and fear – (not wanting to make a mistake), and others, like myself, who fall so hard for something that it clouds all judgement and triggers are pulled emotionally before a proper plan is in tact. This design mistake post is for the latter: for those of you (myself included at times) who suffer from ‘shopping without a plan.’
Don’t worry, throughout this post I’ll help you through what specifically to avoid and of course how to come up with a plan so that you aren’t a repeat offender. This post is for you, as well as me. It’s more like Design Therapy: Community Edition. Should that be a new series???
Let me be clear – it’s not like I plan EVERYTHING. In fact if you did then that room is far more likely to turn out generic – you need room for passion purchases and weird vintage things, for sure.
I like planning things to some extent – the dreaming up phase of a project is certainly the most fun. But just having a rough plan or a mood board doesn’t mean that you are going to make the right decision/s. While I advise all the time to ‘pick a color palette and shop/style within that palette for a guaranteed cohesive look’ that doesn’t mean that the things you’ll purchase are right for your particular space. So here are the specific mistakes you can make (and I’ve made) if you don’t have a plan:
Mistake #1: Buying without measuring. HA. I’m a professional at making this mistake. This usually has to do with vintage finds – I stumble upon something amazing and my love for it and the immediacy of the purchase actually inhibits my brain from analyzing the piece at face value. Let’s take this pine dresser, for instance:
Here’s how this bad purchase specifically went down – we were in escrow in the new house and I was so excited/impatient to start shopping for that new english country style, but I had no right doing that yet, as we still had an entire renovation to finish. I didn’t know what room would be our master or what the dimensions of the unsaid room was. Oh, but I wouldn’t let that stop me from a beautiful piece. Don’t be ridiculous. I would forge on as the intrepid consumer that I am! Even worse, instead of shopping on foot, I jumped on Craigslist during the kid’s Saturday nap-time (every week) which is where this guy came from. It’s like I was so desperate to do damage, to consume, and at the time wasn’t going to the flea market on Sundays but I NEEDED my fix to buy vintage for our new house. So, I fell in love with this dresser’s pretty wood and simple detailing and barely looked at dimensions. My serotonin sky-rocketed, a rush that propelled me to email them, insisting I was the right person for their beloved piece, and then swiftly had Brady run over to pay for it and then booked a dude to go pick it up. I didn’t even look at it in person. I’m pretty sure that I have a shopping addiction but purchases like this really solidify that fear. I get such a rush from finding a beautiful vintage piece that I don’t stop for ten minutes to make sure it will even fit through the door (which actually happened – more on that below). Then of course after I expressed my interested in this piece the lady was like – I have 5 beautiful 100 year old pine pieces and I was like ‘antique pine!! yes!! I need more!!’.
Idiot. Don’t do that. That dresser didn’t fit through our bedroom door. It had to be taken apart to get in and without us knowing that, then also taken apart to be removed. It was not the right size and shape for the room either. It’s stunning and thank God it wasn’t a fortune ($500) but still a waste of money (I fortunately just sold it for slightly less once we moved it out of the room). Big mistake. HUGE.
Mistake #2: Buying without having an intended location. In my case I’d like to introduce you to this cute vintage velvet chair, also from my bad, addictive boyfriend, CRAIG(slist).
The shape! The scale! It’s great, right? It is special, for sure.
It was $125 so I hoarded it with the intent to reupholster and throw it “anywhere”. But as I was pulling the house together it just didn’t have a proper place. The living room wanted a pair of lower chairs and a chaise in the corner. The kid’s rooms need more cozy comfort. Our bedroom doesn’t have room for an accent chair (although now I’m wondering if we need one?). The point is you should have an IDEA of where a major piece of furniture should go before you buy and then hoard it. Especially if it needs work. Don’t worry, I sold it so it’s fine, but I was silly to buy it in the first place without even knowing where it was going to go. You can buy art, accessories, and textiles if you don’t know where they are going to go because they are easier to mix in and smaller, but don’t take a risk on a larger, more expensive piece of furniture unless you can picture exactly where it will go and it is part of your plan.
Mistake #3: Buying without consulting other people. Here’s a lame/funny stylist joke – how many stylist does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: I don’t know, what do you think?
Stylists are notoriously indecisive and need options and opinions. Permanent decisions are not our forte and opinions are our addiction. I think for the most part this serves us positively. Every person in my life has good taste or ideas (or both) and when it comes to major decisions I rely on them to not only ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ but bring up alternatives, worst case scenarios, things I haven’t thought of, and remind me of practical life issues or aesthetic problems. I have no ego when it comes to input (as you clearly know) and because of that consulting other people at times has saved me from even more mistakes. If you are pulling triggers and are unsure of your decision – please ask your best friends. They know you, your style, and your house and family.
Mistake #4: Buying to check the box. Otherwise known as – you are desperate to have a sofa to sit on so without feeling inspired you go to a major retailer and haphazardly purchase some major pieces that you haven’t fully measured or even considered in your space. I’ve definitely done this but it’s not my biggest problem, although I know it’s definitely one of many of yours. Most recently I bought these Target chairs to see if they would work…
I love them, and we needed somewhere to sit but they weren’t right as they were too busy and felt disjointed from the kitchen. Luckily I’ve used them in a million shoots and my friend inherited them. Sometimes you just need a place to sit, but if you can stave off your desperation for a while you’ll probably make a better decision and have less regrets.
Mistake #5: Painting first. Now I’ve always said that choosing the wrong paint really isn’t a big deal and repainting is WAY less daunting than you think. Sometimes, especially if you are renovating your contractor asks for a paint color and it’s ok to not choose the perfect one. White would make it easy, but you might repaint anyway.
For instance at first we painted Birdie’s a light pink – which is super hard to see in this photo, but trust me that it overwhelmed the room and instantly made me angry.
A dark blue was selected for the family room … and you know how that turned out.
IF you can wait to choose your paint, then paint last because there are a million paint colors to choose from whereas there aren’t a million rugs, sofas, pieces of art, fabric, etc. When we create a design plan it is never around a paint color – it’s around a vibe, inspiration, or conversation piece.
Mistake #6: Buying before you live in a space and really knowing how you’ll use it.
I fell in love with that sofa and bought it. But what it did to this room is make it more formal and stiff than I wanted it to be. We rarely sat on it or hung out in there.
When I staged it I put this huge comfy sectional there and man did it change the whole vibe of the room. I thought that I wanted this room to be more formal, but once it was really designed for comfort I realize that we would have spent so much more time in there.
#7. Not having a jumping off point for a room. Typically when I design a room I find something – a piece of furniture, a rug, a wallpaper – SOMETHING to help guide the design and get my heart racing.
The last 5 months of thinking about this room has been so annoying to me because I just haven’t felt inspired (obviously it’s not styled, those are just things I was playing with). I didn’t think I could do wallpaper because the walls are textured, the ceiling is sloped and there is wallpaper in the shared bathroom, but it didn’t stop me from doing it in Birdie’s room. I liked it much more after it was painted blue and we put beadboard up, but still…Thank goodness I didn’t make any purchases except that awesome glider. All of the pieces were leftover from other spaces. I would create a mood board, searching for inspiration and it always looked boring. Always.
Well, as of yesterday we chose a wallpaper (check my insta-story before it expires) and immediately my heart raced. Now, not every room needs to have your heart racing, but a kids room is a place to do something really exciting, not just have it be pulled together.
I know it’s really easy to say ‘have a plan!’ without helping you figure out how to create that plan, so the quick order of how we design a room is this: pin like crazy, see what those pins have in common, create a color palette that you love, then start a mood board with products in that style and color palette (you don’t have to know photoshop, I do it in keynote as I don’t know photoshop and it works – and then someone from my team makes it look really pretty in photoshop for the blog). Before you make major furniture purchases make sure that the board is exciting, cohesive, and balanced visually. If you already have a piece of furniture and want to incorporate it in, ‘google image’ something similar and throw that on the board (that’s what I did with Charlie’s Heywood Wakefield dresser -which is officially for sale since I just ordered a new gorgeous one from Rejuvenation that I’m freaking out about). Once you feel great about the board then make sure that all the sizes, scales, and locations will work in your room. THEN start purchasing. Know that even after you make your purchases things will change and shift once you get them into the room, but taking the time to create a plan will really reduce the design regrets and mistakes (like all of the above).
Good luck, folks. And if I’m missing any big ‘lack of planning’ mistakes or if you have any really fun horror stories, do tell …
Photos by and
In case you want to know what else we think everyone is doing wrong check out these design mistakes: The Generic Sofa Roundup | Rugs That Are Too Small | Painting a Small, Dark Room White | How To Hang Art Correctly | How to Hang Curtains | Bad Wood Finishes | Anything “Antiqued” or “Faux Old”