Design Lesson
Oct 24, 2014

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid them

By: Helen Racanelli

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid them Author: Style At Home

Design Lesson
Oct 24, 2014

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid them

By: Helen Racanelli

We’ve all made purchasing mistakes. The sweater that was too itchy. The wine that no one cared for. Unfortunately, when it comes to your home, the stakes (and price tags) can be significantly higher. Of course, smaller purchases can be returned, but often the most impactful design choices require installation (and associated labour costs) that will have to be undone and redone if there’s been an error in judgment along the way. The point is not to frighten you away from changing anything, ever, or to steer you toward only neutrals, but rather a reminder that you can save a small bundle if you avoid these big blunders.

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11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

TV or artwork installed too closely above a gas fireplace

“This one is so common: Installing a TV or coveted piece of artwork over a gas fireplace,” says Crispin Butterfield, senior designer at Urban Theory Interior Design in Brandon, Manitoba. “From an aesthetic point of view, a 24-inch minimum distance, for example, between fireplace and the bottom of your object might not look proportionate, but trust me when I say following building codes and manufacturer installation instructions is crucial: the heat a gas fireplace gives off can and will melt your electronics and finishes if mounted too close to the output source,” she says. A mantel safely segregates the artwork from the heat of the gas fireplace in the living room pictured here.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Tracey Ayton Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Shutters in the wrong windows

Plantation shutters, also called California shutters, look so tidy, and they block the sun like nobody’s business. They also usually come with a hefty bill for a custom treatment, even at a big box store. Shutters, however, can be a mistake, not aesthetically but practically speaking. If you don’t have privacy concerns and you love the sunshine streaming in, you might be better off with a simple treatment of sheers and elegant drapes, Roman blinds or even thick-slatted horizontal blinds that pull all the way up. As pictured here, Roman blinds, instead of shutters are a great choice when you don’t need privacy.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Donna Griffith Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Picking the wrong paint colour

“It’s only paint” is a term Brett Walther, Home & Garden director at Canadian Living loathes. “It’s often used by a patronizing expert who is describing painting your walls as a ‘low-commitment’ approach to colour,” he writes in his blog. “As if patching holes, sanding, laying dropcloth, priming, painting and then painting again is the equivalent of casually throwing a new toss cushion on a sofa.” Painting, when done by pros, can run into the thousands of dollars, so be sure to pick the colour by testing it, by painting samples on the walls first instead of relying on a small paint chip. Cloud White paint by Benjamin Moore, as pictured in the interior here, is a designer favourite for its versatility.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Donna Griffith Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Wallpaper in a high-humidity room

Adding expensive wallcoverings in areas with high humidity/moisture, like an ensuite or main bathroom is a potentially expensive design mistake, Crispin says. “Ensure ventilation and airflow are adequate before sinking money into gorgeous products that could potentially bubble and peel from the walls,” she says. Humidity-friendly vinyl grasscloth and good ventilation in the bathroom pictured here, ensure the wallcoverings will not bubble.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Stacey Van Berkel Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Choosing lighting for its looks alone

Stylish chandeliers, sexy sconces, pretty pendants … yes, please! Be sure that they not only look good but that they will deliver the kind and amount of light you need by either hiring a lighting consultant or at the very least, having an in-depth conversation with a knowledgeable salesperson. Otherwise, you will have to find ways to supplement your lighting, such as with lamps. You don’t want to call the electrician over a second or third time to change fixtures or add pot lights or dimmers because your new lighting makes the space too bright or dim. In the bathroom pictured here, a pendant light and a candelabra sconce ensure this bathroom vanity area is well-lit yet still glam.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Janis Nicolay Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Gutting everything in a renovation

Not every room needs to be gutted “down to the studs,” as they say. One could argue that the character and much of the beauty of many old homes has been taken away by overeager renovations. Heed your interior designer’s advice when he or she suggests keeping or refurbishing something you already own, like flooring or cabinetry. She obviously thinks it’s worthy of staying in your home and is just trying to save you money, and possibly headaches. Instead of replacing it, dated peach-toned wooden kitchen cabinetry in the condo pictured here, was painted a soft grey to update it.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Virginia Macdonald Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Buying the wrong furniture for your lifestyle

The issue with buying the wrong furniture for how you actually live is that you won’t know it’s wrong until you’ve had it long enough not to be able to return it. We all have an idealized design style, but it has to mesh with our day-to-day lives. Cream-colour velvet anything is not great for red wine lovers. A midnight blue sofa will drive you batty if you have white cats who shed hair on it. No sense investing in a beautiful antique bedroom dresser if everything inside will be a jumbled mess-- better to stick to using your closet. Be honest about your lifestyle and cleaning habits before you buy. White cat? Consider a white or cream-colour sofa to camouflage pet hair in between vacuuming sessions.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Stacey Van Berkel Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Measuring incorrectly

This one can really hurt if you’re buying a big ticket item or commissioning furniture to be built by hand. Contractors and designers alike agree that mis-measurements add up to big problems. A carpenter’s proverb is to “Measure Twice. Cut Once.” For you, dear layperson who does not take measurements for a living, the rule of thumb is always to measure three times. In the home pictured here, a carpenter custom built this trolley from salvaged materials to fit a small stretch of wall space.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Christy Wright Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Acquiring something because you “always wanted one”

Just because you “always wanted” something doesn’t mean you should buy it or install it in your home. You may have always wanted a pony. That’s not a good reason to buy one. Avoid the pricey interior design pitfall of buying only from your heart and not your head. It’s fine to go this route if you’re replacing broken servingware with the fine silver you’ve always dreamed of. On the other hand, a finished basement with a home movie theatre might be something you always wanted, but it is an expensive mistake if what you really need is a playroom for the kids. So what we say is: If you’ve always wanted a home movie theatre but need a playroom, go with the playroom.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Michael Nangreaves Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Relying on photos to make big design decisions

Visit a showroom where possible when renovating a kitchen or bathroom, says Crispin. “Pictures in magazines are wonderful inspiration sources, but a professional in a showroom will be able to walk you through the reality of where your budget should sit to attain the space of your dreams,” she says. “They will also sort through all of the options involved, and help determine what works best for you and your home.” For instance, kitchen tile is high-commitment and should be picked in person before committing.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Tracey Ayton Credits: Style at Home

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid

Too many custom pieces in accent colours

“Using several accent colours in a space and having everything from pillows, to drapes, to custom upholstered chairs done up to match is an expensive and totally avoidable design mistake,” Crispin says. “The rule of thumb to follow is the 80:20 ratio. Eighty per cent of your space is dedicated to symbiotic neutrals, and 20 per cent can go towards one or two fun accent colours,” she says. Example: Custom neutral pieces, like the rug in the Montreal condo pictured here, are a wise investment.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Monic Richard Credits: Style at Home
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Design Lesson

11 expensive design mistakes and how to avoid them