Decorating Mistakes to Avoid

For best results, designers say make a real plan—don't just parrot magazine spreads
Fridays On the Homefront
When it's time to decorate your interior, do so with adequate planning and preparation. That's what the pros say—including Severine Secret, who focused on proportion and color for this Eichler living room. Photo: Go2 Design Studio
Fridays On the Homefront
"Don't be afraid of color," says Severine Secret. Photo: Go2 Design Studio
Fridays On the Homefront
Interior designers Lucile Glessner (left) and Severine Secret.

They say to err is human, to forgive divine—but really, isn't it more divine to look ahead and avoid said error completely?

Divinity aside, when it comes to interior decorating, looking ahead and avoiding errors translates into saving money and aggravation. That's the prevailing message we got in consulting two interior designers who have each worked with lots of clients to renovate their mid-century modern homes.

By coincidence, or perhaps in homage to Le Corbusier, both our local experts have roots in Paris, just like the great French-Swiss modernist. Both Paris-born and San Jose-based, Lucile Glessner runs Lucile Glessner Design, while Severine Secret's business is Go2 Design Studio.

Both designers identified numerous common mistakes in decorating, and the common denominator was moving ahead without adequate planning and preparation. Secret says people overlook "taking the time to determine what their needs are."

"That takes time, and people often want to rush it. Then, they're going to make mistakes," she explains. "Take the time to design, don't rush it." Both designers said this impatience often manifests in buying furniture that will not fit the room and the décor where it's intended.

"People see something in a store, and they like it," says Glessner. "People are impulsive."

"The mistake they make is buying their own furniture without the designer's help and then trying to make it fit into the space," agrees Secret. "It's about understanding scale."

Scale is actually one of several related mistakes or miscalculations that the two decorators see frequently. Others concern getting the exact dimensions of the room, the furnishings being considered, and the costs of the job.

"Measuring is one of the most important things, and it's one of the hardest things to do," Glessner says, citing its particular importance in smaller rooms, such as bathrooms and kitchens. "Some people just don't measure altogether!"