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The Dumbest Design Mistakes I’ve Made When It Comes to My House

www.pencilshavingsstudio.com In all the DIY and home decor projects I've done, I've rounded up the 8 dumb mistakes I wish I could go back in time and re-do. Get the full scoop!

Ohhh, dumb design mistakes. We all make them.  I was chatting with my sister the other day about doing DIY & decor projects around our respective houses and we fell on the topic of “why didn’t we just go ahead and do ____ when we had the chance?” Which got my wheels spinning — I definitely have made my fair share of mistakes over the past 8 years of home ownership when it comes to design decisions, and I figured maybe you could benefit from my stupidity lack of foresight.

Oh, and to be fair, nothing about the photo above is really a mistake — except for not having them paint the trim at the same time as the rest of the room. 🙂 See how creamy it was in comparison to the white of the walls? Yuck. Ok, more on that in a bit —

1. Picking paint from a swatch only.

Luckily I learned this lesson early (erm, the hard way!), but never ever EVER pick a paint color from just a paint swatch. I guarantee you 100% that it will look completely different in your room. It all depends on these factors: the surface you’re painting, the amount of natural light, the direction your room faces (north, south, etc), the architectural features, and the lighting you bring to the space. At the minimum, I always buy 3 colors of paint in the shade I’m preferring in the small sample sizes, and I try them on every single wall that I’m considering painting in a room.

Along these lines, I think another mistake is worrying too much about what someone else will think about your colorscheme. “But what if we try to sell it and the potential buyers don’t like it?” Well, then paint it. It’s just paint — but live in your house NOW the way you want to live. Not with the umbrella of “what if” hanging over your head.

2. Not having a project done all at one time

At our old house, we had our wood floors redone, but for whatever reason we decided against having them refinished in the master bedroom. We thought we kinda liked having carpet in there, but maybe we’d like it in the master too. My dad recommended that we have them go ahead and refinish them and then just lay the carpet back down if we liked it so much.

Lesson learned: Always Listen to Your Dad. We ended up not taking his advice, and then the wood floors looked so amazing that we instantly regretted not having the master done as well. Because now that the floors looked so good, the carpet looked especially crappy. In the end, it cost us more to have the guys come out (two years LATER) to redo them.

But clearly I need to take my own advice because I just did this same thing again, except in paint form. In our kitchen/living room makeover, I told the painters to not worry about painting the trim (WHYYY DID I DO THIS) because I didn’t want to mess with the extra hassle and I seriously thought the trim color would work with the new wall color. And you know what? The trim looked awful.

So back they came, and again, several hundred dollars later, now the job is done right. To be fair, they were also painting the kitchen island that we waffled on having redone.  The core issue with both of these scenarios was indecision. Make your decision, and then have  it done right – the first time.

3. Not knowing about different sizes of hardware.

Being a hardware newbie, I had no idea that hardware came in different sizes. So when I took the hardware off of my grandmother’s buffet it never occurred to me that the new hardware I picked wouldn’t fit. STUPID.  Then I had to go back and fill the holes, repaint over them, etc. I was working harder, not smarter.

Which leads to #4 —

4. Pick your hardware out before you have your cabinets redone.

This way you can have them fill the holes that might be there from the pre-existing (ugly) hardware. Don’t wait until AFTER the project is complete and assume that you’ll be able to find something to fit.

Not that I would know about this or anything. ::smacks forehead::

5. Measuring for Scale

Make a notebook of the rooms in your house and have all the measurements handy. Also keep a record of the measurements of your existing furniture so when you go to buy new pieces, you can have an idea of what the scale will be. Remember this little trip where we went specifically to buy new chairs to replace the old ones that were too big? Those new chairs looked tiny on the showroom floor. But get them in our room? They were IDENTICAL in size to the ones we were wanting to replace. Total fail.  You can almost NEVER tell how big or small a piece will be just by looking at it in the furniture store alone.

But that being said, recently I ordered a set of lamps from Horchow that I LOOOOOVE. I was careful and measured for size, but they ended up still being too small for the space they were intended. I definitely found space for them elsewhere, but we’re still back at square one. So sometimes you just can’t win.

6. Hiring a professional

Then there’s the project where you’ve got to figure out when to cut your losses. Certain things are best left to the professionals who can get it done right — the first time. This includes electric work, plumbing, and things like having cabinetry painted professionally.

7. Second-guessing my gut instinct.

I’ve found that often if I’ll listen to my gut, it’s telling me the truth. The times I’ve ignored it are when I’ve made some dumb mistakes. Don’t feel right about that color you’ve chosen? It’s probably wrong. Feel funny about the guy you hired to do a project for you? Pay attention to that.

8. Trying to cut corners

Finally, learning to do things right without cutting corners is a discipline that this easily-distracted personality of mine is learning to master. I like to strike while the inspiration (not to mention the drive) to create is hot. The plus side of this is getting things done quickly. The negative side is that I get bored easily and want to finish things quickly, or end up leaving things incomplete. The projects where I’ve tried to cut corners – for whatever reason – are the ones that bug me the most. Much like hiring a professional, sometimes you have to accept that in order for a job to be done right, you can’t cut corners and have to pay attention to the details.

So now that I’ve laid myself bare on the altar of transparency, please – PLEASE – tell me I’m not the only one who’s done dumb stuff around their house!

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  • Stephanie

    This advice is fantastic, especially the paragraph about choosing paint colors. Im not good at choosing color, so you’re right, picking colors and painting small areas on the walls is a great idea.

    I once picked a color for our playroom and hubs decided to paint while I was gone. About 1/4 of the way through – he stopped painting and said he wanted me to see the color before he proceeded. It was a good move on his part because I HATED the green I had picked out.

  • Alexandra

    ‘…but live in your house NOW the way you want to live’ – this one was the best advice!

    Love you blog, Rachel

    • Thank you! So kind —

  • Liz

    Thanks for sharing! I just found how much I love diy projects when I decided to redecorate my living….but have made several mistakes, not measuring before buying, painting furniture the wrong way so it has to be redone, etc. All your tips are spot on except, for me, being the super indecisive person that I am, my gut instinct goings back and forth by the minute sometimes! I have learned to never buy within 24 hours(sometimes weeks) of finding something I “think” I love, and that decorating takes time. Instead of filling my room with things as fast as possible to have the room “done” like I did the first time, now I know even if it takes a long time, eventually you will have that “OMG” moment when you see something you love and that feeling will last!