Happy Halloween and last day of October! We had a fun weekend celebrating. How was yours? Today I wanted to share a post you might find interesting: 5 design lessons I learned the hard way. Hopefully it will help you avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. Of course these things happen when it comes to home design, but they’re certainly avoidable and I definitely should have known better for most of these. Click through for the 5 that have stuck with me…
I’ve learned a lot over the years and I’m still making valuable discoveries, but these five things I picked up very early on. You know what they say, a mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it…
1. Making Purchases Without Vetting Measurements
This is a very common issue when shopping online. I’ve been on both ends of this scenario… the buyer and the retailer issuing returns for customers that didn’t realize the scale. Online photos & thumbnails do not give a great sense of scale- be sure to carefully inspect the dimensions and measure to visualize the actual size of whatever it is you’re buying. This was one of the first interior & floor planning lessons I learned… I was in design school, renting an apartment and my dad went with me to pick up a used desk. We unloaded it from his truck and couldn’t get it through the door. After disassembling it, we finally got it upstairs to my room (I had roommates and my bedroom was on the third floor), and it didn’t even fit in the allotted space. BIG lesson learned on that trip. Make sure you measure everything and account for doorways & tight hallways when making furniture purchases. Remember you also have to get it into the space somehow.
2. Not Swatching Paint Colors
My next big lesson came in the form of paint. You’ve probably heard this story from me before. In our first home, fresh out of design school, I was confident I didn’t need to swatch paint. The tiny chip in my fan deck seemed adequate and I ordered two high-quality gallons of a Benjamin Moore creamy white hue for our living room. I vividly remember this because it was the first time I purchased nice paint. I didn’t even bother to look at it in the space (another rookie move). I painted the entire living room after work one day- during the evening hours. The next morning the living room looked undeniably pink. Emmett just laughed and I repainted the entire room a few days later. Always swatch your paint and be sure to live with the swatch for a day or two- checking it at various times of the day. Color has a tendency to change with light and its surroundings, so the same color in my home could (and probably will) look totally different in yours.
3. Blowing Your Budget on Decor
Young Sarah also didn’t consider the big picture- which oddly led me to discover thrifting. Having just married Emmett, who is thankfully super serious about finances & budgeting, I learned the hard way to not blow our entire budget on decor and small home items, like lots of vases from Target (pictured above). Rather than saving up for investment pieces or more expensive renovation materials, I loved the thrill of a quick, easy, and impromptu find (I’m looking at you HomeGoods & Target). I quickly found that if I wanted anything nice with a designerly look, I needed to avoid those small ticket items and save my money for quality materials, lighting, investment pieces, larger furniture, area rugs, etc. Don’t blow your budget on tiny things or decor right off the bat- make sure you’re thinking long term and are investing in pieces you’ll love for years to come. These days, I like to make sure the foundation of the room is set before I begin spending money on accessories.
4. Getting Caught Up in Trends
Ah, trends. My younger self loved hopping on a trend, as I once really enjoyed feeling in style- especially in regards to interior decor & aesthetics. Remember the terrible zig zag West Elm rug everyone had, that shed terribly (pictured above)? Yeah, me too. It wasn’t until those first followed trends went out of style that I decided I’d rather spend my money on furniture, decor, textiles, and home items that genuinely felt more like my personal style and brought me joy… ones that I’d never tire of or have to replace a few years later. If only I would have purchased a vintage or natural rug for our very first guest room- I’d probably still have it. I definitely ditched that shag rug before moving out of our first house. It’s easy to get mixed up in trends. Today, I try to design our home for us- with classic materials and finishes we can enjoy for years to come.
5. Buying Large Pieces Without a Floor Plan or Space in Mind
Last, but not least… a specific story comes to mind. A day before moving to Utah (we had just picked up our U-haul), I convinced Emmett to go to an estate sale with me. I didn’t even have dimensions of the house we were moving into, and I thought buying large pieces of furniture and hauling them across the country was a smart idea. Rational, right? Ha. I think you know how this one goes… it’s always best to purchase with a plan (I’m all about a good floor plan). I ended up keeping some of those pieces in storage in a friend’s basement before finally letting most of them go a couple years later because they simply didn’t fit in our home or weren’t cohesive with the style. For the most part, it was a wasted effort and of course we lost money on those purchases. One good thing from that haul I still have? Our burl credenza. Anyway, make sure you have the space for something and it’s well thought out… unless you’ve got room to store something. I tried that plan for a few years too, and ended up looking like a bit of an antiques hoarder.
What are some design or home lessons you’ve learned the hard way? I know I’m not alone in some of these! It’s always fun to look back on lessons learned. We’ve all certainly come a long way since nesting into our first place, haven’t we? We’re diving back into home projects this week and are finally finding our stride and regular routine after traveling. I’m looking forward to crossing a bunch off our list before the holidays are officially here. Anyone else? Here’s to a great week ahead!