Hey, we know: Moving into a new home is exciting. Like, obsess over decor blogs and catalogs, binge-watch HGTV for eight-hour stretches, find ways to interject phrases like “open kitchen shelving” into everyday conversations exciting. So it’s understandable that you’re dying to start filling every corner with stuff as soon as you’ve unpacked your last box. Beware: Time and again, interior designers see overeager new homeowners make the same mistakes when furnishing their home. Big mistakes! Take heed and tread carefully into your new space.
Mistake No. 1: Buying everything at once
Of course, you want to make those empty rooms look like home, sweet home, pronto. So you whip out your laptop and go on a mad room-by-room shopping spree for every stick of furniture from coffee tables to your canopy bed.
But Mark Clement of MyFixItUpLife.com urges a completely different strategy: “Stop, sit down, get out a piece of paper, and plan.” Great decorating, he says, is about taking your time to think through the rooms. Make a list of what you need to furnish the whole house; then focus first on the two to three most important rooms—generally the more exposed parts of the house such as living room, kitchen, and family room. From there, proceed at a pace where you’re certain you love (or at least deeply like) each purchase you make.
It really is OK to take up to a year to decorate a new home. You’re going to be living there for a while, remember?
Mistake No. 2: Decorating around a legacy piece
It might be your mother’s armoire or that overstuffed chair your husband bought when he was still single, or maybe it’s a bookshelf you paid a ton of money for and wouldn’t consider tossing. Regardless, trying to decorate around some of these pieces will only cause you grief. Odds are they’ll push you into a certain layout or color scheme—even one that might be completely wrong for you or your new home.
I’ve personally been saddled with two wide, black Barcelona chairs for the past decade, creating a living room motif that is simply too dark and cluttered for the space. (Welcome to my pain.) What I should have done, according to experts, is place them in a different context (a bedroom, perhaps), sold them, or put them out on the street. Hello, Goodwill?
Mistake No. 3: Trusting your ‘eye’ rather than a tape measure
Professionals know that measuring accurately is a critical step in design.
“Measuring a space is imperative before you purchase anything,” saysHomepolish designer Will Saks. It’s not just a question of whether a piece of furniture will fit, but how it will look sitting there. “You need to understand the dimensions of a space so the scale will feel balanced,” Saks adds.
Everything needs to be proportionate to the architecture of the room. “While a large, overstuffed Chesterfield might look great in the store, in a tiny apartment it might end up looking like a fat guy in a little coat,” says Saks.
And always remember to measure doorways and hallways before purchasing large pieces. There are few things more soul-crushing (or, for the delivery guys, more backbreaking) than lugging a sofa up six flights of stairs only to discover it doesn’t fit through the doorway. Most companies will give you the minimum clearance you need for delivery, but it’s up to you to ensure that it will truly fit. In most cases, it’s the height of a sofa that is the key measurement, not the width or depth.
Mistake No. 4: Cramming rooms like a clown car
Take a deep breath: It’s OK to have some empty spaces and walls. You want to be able to move around freely without having to hurdle a cocktail ottoman. Granted, while Saks maintains that “how much furniture you decide to put in a space is completely dependent on the aesthetic you want to achieve,” if you’re going for a more sleek look, stick to a few key pieces in a room to create the feeling of openness. The same goes for artwork—one large frame can create an art gallery feeling.
Mistake No. 5: Looking like a page from a catalog or decor mag
Ah, it all looks so great in print, but in your home, it’s a different story.
“I know it’s tempting to want to buy everything all at once and from the same place—those catalogs and stores are styled so well,” says Saks. “But refrain from doing so. To me, the most interesting designs are the ones that are aesthetically mixed.”
His tips: Incorporate vintage or one-of-a-kind pieces into your space to make it feel personal and curated. Pair that spanking new sofa with a beautiful, vintage credenza. Shop for accessories and artwork on Etsy and at flea markets so that your home feels unique. Because as nice as catalogs look, ask yourself this: Do they look like a home? Like your home?
Rosie Amodio is a writer/editor who has written for brands such as Self, InStyle, Wetpaint, and The Nest. A native New Yorker, Rosie is obsessed with NYC real estate, though she dreams of living on the beach in Southern California
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