5 Interior Design Mistakes To Avoid In Every Space

I do my best to reply to every Instagram comment, direct message, and Houzz question you share. I love spreading the design know-how, and it’s so fun for me to see the areas you’re interested in and which areas you’re not. I get lots of questions along the lines of “how do you approach design” or “what are the three things you do in every space." And to be totally honest, each space evolves and comes to life in such different ways, that those questions are tough to answer in the confines of little comment boxes.

Interestingly enough, there’s one question I usually don’t get - and that is, what not to do. It’s funny, because that answer is quite easy! When I’m styling a space for a photo shoot or designing a client’s home I am always cognizant of a few simple design rules that seem to work for every situation - a few key steps that ensure any design will result in a beautifully collected space. These are my favorite guidelines and they are relevant no matter the size of the project, style, or color palette.  If you keep these simple tips in mind, you should be able to create your very own space with a designer’s eye.

1. Don’t go overboard on trends.

I love following all the trends, but going with what you love is most important. We always try to incorporate something trendy in our jobs, but often it will be in a more flexible way.  For instance, we love the brass trend (which is a questionable trend as it’s been around since turn of the century), but are using it as picture frames, a sculpture piece or in lighting.

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Image from Pinterest

Here, we see a pantry fully embracing brass. And while I love a space that brings some serious design, this choice is likely very limiting for current and future homeowners. In the shots below, from our Wright Is Always Right project, our client was 100% on board with a hint of trendiness to make their space more unique and more personalized. We allowed brass to have a bit of a spotlight moment, but only as fixtures.

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All of these options freshen things up and bring a current approach but require a smaller investment than doing all of your cabinets in brass. When the trend is passé your wallet will thank you!

2. Don’t make it too precious.

As designers, we often have to check ourselves to make sure we are not too caught up in doing something so special and unusual that we lose all the functionality needed in a space.  The most important aspect of design is comfort. While I love a space that oozes luxury, the design below, though beautiful, would scare me from touching anything!

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Image from Architectural Digest

All white upholstery, glass tables, and silk fabrics are sure way to scare anyone from kicking their feet up. In our Hilltop Hacienda home, the client specifically requested a formal living room that embodied Spanish Colonial design, but maintained the air of comfort that was apparent in the rest of the home.


The rustic wood coffee table, traditional fabrics, and oversized chairs immediately make the space feel more approachable. When a room looks warm, inviting, and comfortable aaaand beautiful, that is great design. Do not overload on pieces that are not approachable.

3. Don’t over clutter.

Whenever I’m asked to style a space, the first thing I do is remove everything.  Often over time we just keep adding pieces to a space and forget to edit. It always looks better to under rather than over accessorize.  And grouping like-minded items together reads more cohesive. If you have a collection of something be sure to group the items together rather than sprinkling them throughout your space.  The impact will be much more dramatic and will reduce clutter. See below how the dining room from our Me, Myself & I project achieves an eclectic, collected feel without feeling overdone with those tips.


With a clean palette you can start layering slowly and pause when your space feels complete, yet has lots of breathing room. Sometimes, the elements of a design can add to the clutter of a space. When your key pieces, such as furniture and fabrics, don’t sing in harmony, the room will feel cluttered even before accessorizing.

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Image from Domino

In this space, I’d recommend the design to hone in on one main focal point rather than many strong elements throughout the room.

4. Don’t do a strong color on upholstery.

This rule follows a bit with trendiness.  Classic, beautiful upholstery in a gorgeous textured neutral will have tremendous longevity.  


In the family room from our Hilltop Hacienda home, we managed to pack a big design punch with pillows and accessories. The reason that these pieces work so gracefully is because of their neutral backdrop. Using color and bold patterns in pillows and accessories will allow you to change things up with a minimum impact on your budget.

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Image from My Domain

While I appreciate the direction of the image above, I can only imagine how much more timeless the design would be if the sofa were done in a neutral fabric.

5. Don’t hang pictures at the wrong height.

Nothing bothers me more than to walk into a space where pictures are hung inappropriately.  99% of the time they are hung too high, leaving a big disconnect between what they are being hung atop and the picture itself.  See below how Apartment Therapy models a piece of art hung much too high on the left, and at the correct height on the right.

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If you drew an invisible line across the top third of your art, that should fall about 65-72” from the floor. That is roughly the average eye height of a small man or taller woman. I also look for another horizontal line to “follow” in the room. If a window height is similar to placement of the top of the art I will use that consistently throughout the room for continuity. See how we placed this piece of art in our Cliff Hanger project both at eye height while keeping the frame in line with the bathroom and closet doors.


There you have it! The five interior design mistakes to always avoid when styling a space! If you have any questions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!


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