It can be easy to commit design crimes because so often, we don’t know how to solve our dilemmas. Interior design is not just a hobby or career for some, it’s complicated! But the great news is that these crimes are all fixable with practice and knowledge, and I’m helping you conquer all this week.
In this episode, I’m sharing the top 3 faux pas and design crimes I’ve discovered that people commit when decorating their homes. Discover how to avoid these mistakes and hear some of my ideas to help you fix up your space and achieving amazing results in your home.
You are listening to episode eight of the Decorate Like a Design Boss podcast. Today we are talking about design crimes, the faux pas, common mistakes and blunders that I have discovered people commit when decorating their own homes. Most importantly, we’re going to explore three of the most common design crimes. But I am also going to share some ways to avoid them and some ideas you can incorporate into your own decorating so that you can substitute better choices to achieve amazing results in your spaces.
Welcome to Decorate Like a Design Boss, a podcast for design lovers who want to create beautiful spaces in their very own homes. My name is Kimberly Grigg and I’m a professional interior designer who teaches design lovers like yourselves how to decorate. And when I say decorate I mean decorate like a design boss. If you’re ready to create a space that your family loves and your neighbors can’t stop raving about well, buckle up honey because it’s time to design.
Hello there design lovers. So happy you’re here. And I just want to tell you that I am loving all of your reviews for this podcast. It warms my heart to read the kind words that you’ve been leaving me. Thank you so much.
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Alright, well let’s get started with this episode on design crimes. So, have you ever felt something was a bit off in your spaces or in your decorating? Maybe you went to a furniture store and you carefully purchased your furnishings and measured everything to an absolute tee. The furniture arrived and the fit was pretty good, but things still felt odd or wrong, ever gone accessory shopping and bought piles and piles of things and brought them home only to feel unsure of where they might go and how to arrange them? Do you feel stuck in your decorating?
Do you continue to ask yourself, does this look right? Does it look cheap? Or does it really even go together properly? You become doubtful, you’re just not sure of yourself. Or maybe you’ve bought your furniture and it, well, it looks pretty good. And you’ve bought the accessories and given the styling the old college try. You don’t hate it, but it still doesn’t quite look like your Pinterest picture. Something is off, something is wrong; something feels unfinished, or maybe just incomplete, but definitely just not right.
Well, if any of this describes your feelings and you find yourself feeling frustrated then you might be committing one of my top three decorating crimes. Now, there are far more than three. But today I’m going to focus on the top three. And I’m going to offer you some solutions that might just help you solve the mystery and score a big old decorating win.
But before we take the deep dive, let me preface all of this by saying, these design crimes are all fixable. And this is not intended to poke fun or hurt feelings. You can probably tell by now even though this is only episode eight, that I am truly obsessed with helping you create the homes of your dreams. I also know that decorating is a journey, and that it’s taken me almost 30 years of creating spaces, some more successful than others, but a long time to determine what works well in a home and quite frankly, what doesn’t.
As Oprah once said, “We do the best we can with what we know. And when we know better, we do better.” So, in the spirit of teaching you about some of the things that I find are common faux pas, let’s learn what they are and how we can avoid them.
The first and probably the biggest is too many picture frames, this is prevalent in a lot of décor schemes. And I think one of the reasons people commit this crime is that, well, it’s a cry for nesting. It stands to reason that often people will reach for a picture frame when they are trying to create a feeling of home, a feeling of nesting by familiarity. It also stems from the lack of knowing what else to use as an accessory.
When I first met my husband, Roger, he invited me over to see his professionally decorated home. I was rather excited to see this for obvious reasons. And the first thing I noticed when I arrived was that perched right on the coffee table was a basket full of fake tulips, we’re going to get to that in a minute, and an array of magazines fanned out. Then I looked over on the bookshelves and there were one billion picture frames.
I didn’t want to be critical, but I couldn’t help but ask, “Did your designer accessorize for you?” He said no, that he had just bought the furniture from her and that she had arranged it and basically had created a floor plan. I was relieved for her sake. But was also acutely aware that he was trying to create a nest and he didn’t know what else to use so he filled all the bookshelves with tons of frames. And the fanning the magazines, well, this too is a kind of a faux pas, but we’re not going to talk about that on today’s crime list. So I’m just going to let that one go.
But what I did realize from that experience is that often people don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves with their styling and a frame and a photo seems, well, safe. And heck, it’s not that expensive, so why not try it? It looks pretty good. So you decide to try another and then yet another. The price can be super reasonable and before you know it, you have a bazillion frames everywhere. You begin to think that maybe a bunch of frames will solve all of your decorating dilemmas. This is where the crime begins.
So, why do I consider using frames, a decorating faux pas or crime? Well, it’s because typically people clutter up their spaces with lots and lots of frames. And then it ends up looking like a bunch of clutter. No one notices any of the frames because there are so many. A better way to incorporate frames into your décor is to select one or two extremely special frames. Sorry, HomeGoods, I’m not talking about necessarily your kinds of frames unless they’re extraordinary.
I say invest in a couple of beautiful frames, frames that make your heart sing. And I want you to select bigger ones, at least 5×7, but preferably 8×10 or larger. This is so that you can actually see the subject in the photo. Don’t fill frames with snapshots, but instead, use images of family or friends that you can actually see. Better yet, pro photography is preferred, it makes a better statement. Again, go sparingly. A lot spells clutter, and small means why bother?
One other way that I think you can meet with success on the picture frame front is if you decide to showcase many frames that are all out of the same material. Then group them all together on one surface such as a baby grand, or a grand piano, or a beautiful antique chest. This can be quite charming. You can vary the sizes of the frames, but nothing smaller than 5×7. But don’t vary the material that the frame is made of.
This is especially successful in grand millennial style, regency style and traditional style. It’s especially nice if the frames are, well, all sterling silver, not the cheapest option, but certainly pretty. Just make sure to have your polish handy so they don’t tarnish.
So to recap this crime, remember the rule of thumb is that larger frames are desirable and large photos that are viewable are a necessity. And limit the number to one, two at the most frames per area, area meaning a bookshelf, or a tablescape, or an area in your space. Because you have a need to fill spaces and to create a lived in nest, try to include other objects and accessories that coordinate well into your space to counterbalance the need to nest by frames. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, ‘death by chocolate’, well, I say, ‘death by frames.’
If you do decide to use the grouping of frames method, the grouping of frames all together, then this is especially nice atop a grand or baby grand piano and is a lovely way to showcase family photos. Remember however, editing is always necessary. All the photos must be special. And the frames must be the same material. And this material needs to be in keeping with your style and mood of your space.
Alright, now we’re moving on to design crime number two, faux or silk plant materials. I receive a lot of mixed reviews on this subject. And of course you’re allowed to disagree. But let’s tackle my dislike for faux/silk plants first. First of all, I’m not sure any of these plant materials are actually silk but nonetheless I don’t like them because most of them look so fake.
Now, there are some great faux materials out there. And occasionally I come across some that are very high end, and of the best quality. But to clutter your home with faux materials just to fill space for me, well, it’s a definite no. I feel like the reason that this is done is to manage awkward corners, those spaces that you don’t quite know what to do with. And I would suspect that faux flowers, well, those are often used to soften a space and are often used so that the homeowner is not always buying and arranging fresh flowers.
Well, I see people use faux greenery a lot also on top of cabinets, and again, I’m not a fan. To break it down even further, often faux or silk plants are huge dust collectors, causing them to look, well, more fake. So what can we do instead? If it’s an awkward corner that you’re trying to fill, well, try instead a pedestal with a beautiful sculpture on top. You can also achieve height with a floor lamp. I’m not taking about a torchère which points up to the ceiling, but a floor lamp that actually looks usable.
In lieu of faux greenery on top of cabinetry try using nothing. Or if you can and if budget allows, you can actually add molding to the top of those cabinets to build the cabinetry up taller so that you don’t feel the need to fill that space.
There are some really nice preserved plants that I think are very acceptable. These are actually real live plants that have been preserved with special chemicals. There are also some faux florals from a company that I love called bougainvillea. They’re actually real florals but they have been preserved. They have a variety of dried materials as well, and they’re lovely. I use them often as little minis in bookshelves or a bedside table. And they have some beautiful containers that are full of brilliant, beautiful real materials that you can use on dining tables.
You can also try a sculptural bowl that looks like a piece of art on a dining table instead of going the floral route. And if you’re in need of plant materials and well, maybe your thumb just isn’t green, and you feel the need though for faux, I find succulents to be the best faux option. They’re fairly realistic looking and aren’t quite as offensive to me. Now, if you are going the real greenery route then you must have plants that you can maintain and that look great at all times. Relegate straggly plants to the greenhouse or out of sight.
I can’t tell you how many times I have walked in a home for a consult and the homeowner will say to me how much she loves fresh plants. Then I begin to look around and the plants are mere sticks and they don’t look well tended at all, if you need live plants in your home, by all means, my daughter is this gal and I am all for it, as long as the plants look healthy.
If this feels laborious but you still feel the need for a fresh live plant, well, then just get only one so that you can nurture it completely and keep it looking healthy. If the plant looks unhealthy and well, is unhealthy then remove it. Start over, or try the one beautiful plant trick.
Fresh flowers are always a win, and what the heck, I think you deserve them. Change the water often and your blooms will stay prettier longer. Watch some video tutorials including mine, on how to arrange them to avoid just going to the grocery store and plopping some flowers down in a vase when you come home.
One of my favorite options for bringing live into your home, this is always a win, I love to use orchids in my decor. I seek out beautiful containers for them and I repot them. I fill up the top with some deer moss, which is that green moss, or Spanish moss, which is the grey kind of like wiry moss. This makes them look complete and they last about 6-10 weeks.
I’m not very successful getting re-blooms, but I just consider them less expensive than regular flowers. And I give the ones once they stop blooming to a little old lady who actually loves flowers and she has a greenhouse. I give them to her and she brings them back to life and she thoroughly enjoys them. This makes me feel good about my orchid investment.
Now it’s time to move on to the number three design crime. This one might surprise you. No window treatments. I can go on and on about this subject. But if you want to achieve a polished beautiful space, then you need to have window treatments, and yes, even if you have shutters, or shades, or a view.
So, I once had a client who had plantation shutters that came with her newly purchased home. She had me over for a design consultation. Initially it was just to pick my brain. I gave her my suggestions which included window treatments. She said, “Well, okay, you can get started on everything, but I don’t want those window treatments. I don’t need them, I have plantation shutters and that’s enough for me.” Well, I listened to her rationale and I also listened to her reasoning. I ask a few questions and then I stated my reasons for suggesting window treatments in the first place.
I said, “Even with shutters or shades you still need drapery. Drapery has a way of softening hard angles which actually was created by those plantation shutters. And they add a professional polish like nothing else in the design toolbox.” She replied with some more reasoning like, “I don’t want a bunch of prints or patterns everywhere. And I don’t want to interfere with my view.” Well, I hate to say it, but plantation shutters are already going to interfere with your view.
But I was armed and ready for both objections. First off, drapery doesn’t have to be all swag and jabot-ish like your grandmother’s house unless this is what you want, or unless it fits the mood and style of your décor. Drapery can be quite simple. It’s still necessary. And if the drapery is made and hung correctly then you won’t suffer any view loss.
Drapery panels when pleated and made hang at about 12 inches per width. If you have narrow confines and you just don’t want to interfere with views, you just hang the drapery right at the window frame edge, but where the glass is. And then the drapery will extend from there over 12 inches to the wall.
I’ll be doing an entire episode on drapery does and don’ts soon. But a couple of things to be aware of when you decide to use drapery in your home is first make sure to use a professional drapery installer. This is not a handyman chore, but instead a highly specialized and skilled profession. Secondly, make sure your drapery is hung high above the window, about one to two inches under the crown molding. Nothing kills a room more than the wrong drapery treatment hung in the wrong place. This of course would be design crime number four.
But back to my client with the plantation shutters, I said, “Let’s choose the room with the least amount of windows and let me do the drapery there.” I was so sure of my drapery conviction that I said, “If you don’t like them, I’ll take them down and patch and repair your walls, and you don’t even have to pay for them. Fair?” She agreed and needless to say her entire home now has drapery, and I just completed drapery for her mom’s home as well. So drapery can be a design win. Lack of drapery, well, that’s just a design crime.
So what can we learn from today’s episode? Well, I say it’s easy to commit design crimes because we don’t know what else to do. We don’t know how to solve our design dilemmas. We are trying but often coming up short. Interior design is not just a hobby or a career for some, it’s complicated and it’s very layered. There are a lot of moving parts and to maneuver it successfully, well, you need a strategy.
It can however, with practice and knowledge be conquered. So if you arm yourself with both practice and knowledge then you can be successful. If you want to know more about developing a strategy for design success, well, check out my Interior Design Insiders Club over on our website which is kimberlygriggdesigns.com.
And as many of you know, this podcast is relatively new and I am loving having yet another way to share my knowledge and serve you as design lovers. In order to grow the podcast, I do need your help. Please subscribe, rate and review the podcast. And you could be one of three lucky listeners to win my favorite accessory, the infamous monkey bowl. You can check out contest details and a picture of this guy at kimberlygriggdesigns.com/podcastlaunch.
Alright my design friends, this episode is in the books. Thank you for joining me and I’ll be back next week for some more design goodies. Until then, I like to say, don’t wait, today is a great day to decorate. Bye for now.
Thanks for listening to Decorate Like a Design Boss, if you want more info on how to decorate your space like a pro visit kimberlygriggdesigns.com. See you next week.