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The Seven Deadly Sins of Decorating

The top decorating mistakes and how to avoid them



© Olga Adler Interiors

1. What do you mean I can’t return it?

Have you ever made a disastrous purchase? Did you buy something that looked great in a store but did not make any sense once you brought it home (or worse yet, it wouldn’t fit through any door in your house when it was delivered)? Was it a sofa that was too bulky or a rug that was too small? Was it a chandelier that, once installed, looked tiny in your two-story foyer?

2. Be Prepared

If you are not working with an interior designer, it is absolutely critical that you are well prepared before going shopping. Here is how:

  • Measure, measure and then measure again
  • Take note of architectural details that may get in the way
  • Make a basic room drawing with dimensions
  • Take good pictures, especially of all the “problem” areas
  • Make a shopping list marking the ideal sizes for furniture, rugs, light fixtures, window treatments, mirrors, art, etc.

3. Too Much Matching

Don’t ever go to one store and buy all your furniture there. You have to mix it up to create an interesting and lively space. Otherwise your house will look like a store window display and not in a good way. Your friends will assume you have no personal taste, and we both know that’s not true, right? A well-put together home is a combination of styles, a mix of formal and informal, old and new. The goal is to create an interior that feels and looks like it has been put together over a period of time and not in one trip to [insert name of store here]. Take your time and enjoy the process.

4. Lack of staying power

Have you ever entered a room and didn’t feel like staying? No matter how formal a room you want to design, it is important to make it user-friendly and inviting. Pick beautiful but practical fabrics that will be easy to clean. When developing a floor plan, create natural conversation areas by placing furniture closely so nobody needs to shout. In a large space create multiple groupings so everybody feels comfortable and cozy. Make sure every chair has a table near it for drinks, newspapers or a good book. Place a source of light behind or next to every chair and sofa.

5. Let’s focus here!

One of the biggest mistakes inexperienced decorators make is to design a room without a focal point in mind. Almost every room has a natural feature that is just asking to be accentuated and turned into a focal point. A fireplace, a large window or an accent wall will work to draw the eye to one point. Don’t think your room has a focal point? Create it!

6. Candy store syndrome

A.k.a. “My mother didn’t let me color with crayons and I’m getting back at her now”. Too many colors within a house create an impression of messy, disjointed spaces with no flow. Yes, it’s OK to paint multiple rooms exactly the same color. My house is painted in 11 different shades of gray and that’s it. Looks great – trust me. Color schemes that are too busy and color inconsistencies across the house are all major decorating sins. If your house was decorated years ago in then-popular “Tuscan” color scheme of gold, red, green and brown, but now you like gray, it won’t work to simply repaint your walls. Introducing the new cool tone scheme in just one room will not work either, as it will clash with all the warm tones. It will be a mess. Flow is everything.

7. The kiss of death

I didn’t come up with this term – one of my window coverings installers did. What we are referring to here is the look of drapery panels that are almost touching the floor. Ouch! Are you familiar with the ridiculous look of men's trousers that are too short? Be warned - that's how your drapes are going to look if they don't touch the floor! The simplest, most timeless look is achieved when panels just slightly break at the floor level.

Those are, in my opinion, the worst decorating sins. Have more? Please share and comment.


Olga Adler is an award-winning interior designer and creative director of Olga Adler Interiors in Westport. She is known for her cosmopolitan flair and passion for European style with a global twist.Her ability to blend the old with new and simple with refined has attracted a loyal following who have come to depend on her imagination and inventive use of resources to create homes that are both chic and livable.
Website: olgaadlerinteriors.com
Email: olga@olgaadlerinteriors.com
Phone: (203) 221.2411

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