3 Common Interior Design Mistakes — And How We Fix Them

Have you ever lusted for an impressive console or sofa, or even an epic painting, and then realized it really doesn't work in your home—only after it was signed, sealed, delivered and installed? Even worse, you planned the whole room around this statement-making piece, and now you’re out a big chunk of change. As luxury interior designers we see this happen all the time since that’s when we’re called in to find solutions. It’s so common that we’re starting a series on common interior design mistakes, and how we fix them. Here’s our first installment.

Pieda Terre Family Rm

Outsized upholstery and a substantial coffee table are offset by lean floor lamps and diaphanous, semi-sheer drapes in a family room that does double-duty as a home theatre. Photo: JLI Pied-À-Terre

Understanding scale and proportion

The Mistake: Remember that console or sofa? If everything is too big—or too small, the same size or uniform in heft and height—a room will read like a hot mess. It may be ridiculously busy and dense, excessively awkward and lackluster or bleak and drab. Scale and proportion are the holy grail of design, and the most common interior design mistakes violate this rule. It’s necessary to have a balanced mix of elements of varying sizes, weights and shapes in a room.

03 State Pkwy 3 Ballroom Facing Small

We account for every element in a room in the planning stages of a project, and use a mix of heights and weights, to create an attractive mix of scales and avoid costly mistakes. Photo: JLI State Parkway

The Fix: Before picking anything for a room, we get the dimensions of every piece, draw a room plan and plug them in to create a floor plan. We take a room’s square footage, volume and architectural elements into account—all impact how pieces fill a space and it’s a necessary step to keep a room from looking overcrowded or under-furnished. Like a cityscape, we go for an intriguing mix of scales, heights and shapes.

City Retreat Girls Bed1

The right rug anchors a space and adds a distinctive decorative aesthetic. Here a smartly striped rug also tempers the vibe of an exuberant ikat fabric on the headboard. Photo: JLI City Retreat

Picking the wrong size rugs

The Mistake: Are you partial to sunny floral patterns, graphic skin prints or tailored stripes and squares? It’s not hard to picture how rugs imbued with such distinctive patterns can create very different decorative aesthetics to a room. Rugs not only anchor a space and define activity areas; they completely transform them by setting a specific style or mood. And one of the most common interior design mistakes we see is rugs that are way too small to work the right magic in a room.

Lakefront Dining web

Different but equal carpets of the same size and hue carve a large space into living and dining areas. Photo: JLI Streeterville Residence

The Fix: Think large rather than small. We often see rugs that are too small to anchor a sofa and two chairs, a basic for a conversation area. Or they are 8 x 10 feet when they should really be 9×12 feet—and the space between its edge and the walls leave a glaring ring in a room. In an extraordinarily large space, we often use two rugs to divide a room into different activity areas, but the same rule applies: it’s important to reach for the walls.

East LSD Media Detail

An epic artwork by famed Chicago artist Ed Paschke slides to reveal or hide a large screen TV in a living room that functions as a grand salon. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

Hanging art the wrong way

The Mistake: Finding the right art for each room is only half the battle; it has to be installed the right way. Among the most common interior design mistakes we see is art that’s hung too low, too high, overwhelmingly en masse or positioned poorly. While the first too are an easy fix that we address with the help of the art installers we use, the latter two are serious and can make artworks seem unapproachably precious or staid instead of an element that relates to the homeowners who picked it.

Pied A Terre Master Bath

Where one monolithic piece would be overwhelming, a diptych offers the right scale, balance and artistry in a master bathroom. Photo: JLI Pied-À-Terre

The Fix: We think about where to place a piece first, and try to be subtle yet stylish rather than too blatant or trendy when we install a piece in an environment. We like compositions that are balanced, but also a touch unexpected to create intrigue and decorative tension in a space. Positioning is easier to master; eye level is always a good starting point, and we’ve found that it’s better to err on the lower side of that benchmark. And finally, more is more in this case; we usually have several team members handle this task to make sure we get it right.

23 Jun 2016

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