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Getting it right – How to avoid common design mistakes

By Ann-Marie Appleton

As an interior designer I am often asked, “what are the most common design mistakes people make in their home?”

A cheeky answer would be “not hiring an interior designer!”

Seriously though, working with qualified, experienced and trusted professionals like designers, architects and great builders from the beginning will eliminate many costly mistakes and save a great deal of time, stress and money. Here are snippets of some conversations I’ve had over the years…


“Is there a focal point? Do I have too many?”


  • Each room needs a place that draws the eyes. Whether it’s fabulous interior architecture, amazing wallpaper, beautiful furniture, fabulous art work… however, you need some blank spaces and a place for eyes to ‘rest’ as they observe and take a room in. Be careful your focal point isn’t actually tidy clutter.


  • Custom-made curtains and window treatments are a classic investment. Avoid cheap and casual looking curtains, as these are rarely a suitable investment for a stylish home, in any room.


  • Don’t skimp on lighting – ceiling lights, pendant lights, floor lamps, wall lights, table lamps, even candles – all add interest. Layered lighting creates a great ambience and can hide a multitude of sins!


  • Art work hung too high or too low irritates a lot of people –try and keep at eye level. Some pieces look better grouped, such as family photos, other pieces may need space around it.


  • Don’t be afraid of mirrors – hanging a large mirror will diffuse light and can create the illusion of space. Mirrors hung specifically behind lamps reflect and add more light into a room. Check out your scale and proportion. A very common mistake is oversized couches squashed into a room with no space for anything else. Take some time to measure both your room and the furniture.


  • Try not to use trendy or ‘fashion’ colours/patterns for custom furniture, drapes etc. They will date much quicker and you may regret this decision in a couple of years. Do it only if you really, really love it or keep it to smaller pieces, cushions, accessories etc.


  • Don’t over do it when theming a room – keep it subtle, know when to stop and add a few neutral pieces to break it up.


  • Add your own personal touches, don’t be too ‘matchy-matchy’ but most of all you must love it. Don’t buy everything from the same place or copy the ‘whole’ look – it will only leave you and your home looking a bit flat and predictable.



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