10 Reasons your Room isn’t Coming together

In my online interior design business, I  often see myself repeating a few reasons why things haven’t been looking coherent or actually finally feeling “right”.  The biggest thing you will notice is that many of these things could have saved you time and money if you had thought about them before actually starting any decorating project or room revamp.  

Below is my list of the most common mistakes that are stopping you from achieving a coherent, gorgeous looking room.  I hope this can help you rescue that room that bothers you or helps you embark on a decorating journey with confidence and ease.

1.  You didn’t “design” it

Non-designers usually forget that having a clear design intention usually makes for a pretty successful project.  Decide on a style, idea and focal point in the room and make design decisions based on that idea, before you start any work.  If you have already started, step back and think of one.  This means you might end up removing certain things you have already bought for the room – hopefully you held on to the receipt.

2.  The function isn’t clear

Most people don’t have the luxury of space, therefore they use one room for multiple functions.  That’s ok, as long as the function has been thought about and designed for.  Usually a desk is blocked in a corner and that desk is used for everything.  The danger of that is, that the junk pile starts to grow as that’s the best location in the room to put things.  Getting clear on the function, means that you allocate enough or as much space you can to complete the task properly or comfortably.  If it doesn’t fit, its not really practical.

3.  Not using or collecting examples

Many people will usually have a good idea of the things they like or don’t like, but they don’t usually find specific images that represent their intention.  Without this, (or the ability to draw very well) they can’t communicate their idea to anyone, well unless they are exceptionally good at charades.. Pinterest usually has fantastic images that can help you describe your idea.  It is really important to have a clear image that is a representation of your finished room.  Use this as your inspiration and a tool to pick things in your current room that aren’t working.

4.  Buying on emotion

Most people buy on emotion.  This means they walk into a store that has been very well designed and purchase all of the matching items hoping they will all fit just as beautifully in their own home.  Sometimes, luck will have it and it works.  Most of the time, this isn’t the case and you will waste lots of money buying trendy items that you don’t use at all, or use for a short time before you get bored of them.  I have to admit, even I have been weak and bought on emotion.  I have had some shockers!

5.  Not considering storage

I will usually question all of the potential uses of a space and wonder where things will go before I start any work on the room.  I also question the items that are going to be stored and gather information about your behaviour and and personality.   Well designed or thought out storage in any home means the difference between mess and no mess – and we all want no mess.  That’s why storage is critical.  

6.  Not considering timescales and future growth

 Every time you start a new decorating or design project at home, ask yourself “How long do I expect to want this room to be pink?”  Long lasting designs will require long lasting materials and furnishings, short-term ones will usually make do with cheaper alternatives.

7.  Believing everything needs to be brand new

This is huge!  So many of my clients believe they have to spend  lot of money or falsely believe their project will cost a lot of money in order for it to look right.  An experienced and / or good designer should be able to help with any project, big or small.  If you aren’t experienced in this area, try and get some help from a pro.  Houzz have a free Q&A section where you can ask a designer ANYTHING and I also answer questions on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/InventDesignCreative/ 

8.  Not researching options

Yes, most people want the industrial style loft apartment or the rustic shabby chic look, but are they really going to work in your suburban home?  I’ll always do the research on a style, to ensure what I am doing is right on target and pick elements that can work with the architecture you already have.  Don’t forget to look past or through the first image you see, and imagine how this will look at home.

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9.  Test, play and have fun

One of the most fun things I can think of is designing a room.  But that room has been to China and back (figuratively speaking) by the time you see it.  Get it wrong, play around, this is how you get experience.  The best advice I ever got was to go see places for real, or the next best thing is to go into shops and check out their displays.  Shop displays have good budgets and great design tips, so go get some ideas but stand back and look at the bigger picture.  What things have worked together there?  (This is not a chance to buy on emotion – see step 4) Analyse what you can, learn from the step up and why it works.

10.  Ask for help

Most non designers believe that they cannot afford an interior or architectural designer.  Not getting help from a professional can sometimes cost more money or waste time in the long run.  I have found that people who don’t get any help usually never finish their project, which is really sad.  You can get free advice as mentioned above or look around for some 1:1 attention. Often an expert will be able to tell straight away what is missing or lacking or “not right” with a room and having it finished and feeling perfect, might just be worth that £250.

You can’t treat your old building like a new one

Since living in the UK, I have had the pleasure of working on many historic or listed buildings in England, Europe and Scandinavia. I have even lived and stayed in some, which depending on the quality of the property was an absolute nightmare or an absolute pleasure.

The allure of these buildings is pretty obvious and I am not alone in my adoration of their pretty detailing, layers of history, rickety windows, super high or super low ceilings, creaking sounds and little surprises that spur our imagination. So its no secret that I love old buildings, it was, of course one of my main reasons for wanting to live in this part of the world.

The first thing that many people don’t know, is that in most Western & Commonwealth Countries, it is a criminal offense to make changes to a listed building without consent. That means you can incur huge fines and even go to jail. In the UK there is no cost to apply for listed building consent, but the cost of a specialist architect or designer is usually not cheap and depending on the changes you want to make and the listing level* your costs could escalate quickly, especially if the work requires specialist artisanal or building techniques.

To be honest I wasn’t intending this post to be about listed buildings, but mainly about the mass stock of older buildings, that many people live with daily and are abundant across the UK and inner city areas of Australian, Canadian, Scandinavian and European cities and my intention was mainly to raise awareness of modern materials.

I didn’t study material science, but this definitely comes up almost daily whilst working in an architectural practice, especially when designing something new or specifying materials, I always have to check whether different products or materials will work together. I’m not sure if it is my super paranoid or almost OCD personality, but I check everything, from whether the electric under floor heating mat is strong enough to work with the tiles I have specified and anything from what is behind my specialist plasterwork or whether the paint that goes on top is permeable or not.

This stuff can get pretty technical and I spend hours each day geeking over it, choosing the right material for each situation. However, for most people I would give you a real important tip and a little bit of a rule of thumb.

If your building was built in the last 60 years, more than likely it has been built with modern materials and you can usually use any products you want (although, I’d always check for asbestos in newer buildings).

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If your building is any older than 60 years, I would always err on the safe side and whenever making changes to your building (including painting the walls), opt for more natural products. This is because in my opinion, the products that were originally used, were less harsh and abrasive and the building is used to “breathing”. More often than not, natural materials are more permeable and less harsh and so will not interfere with your building doing its natural thang.

Even high gloss paint creates a non-permeable barrier and can start to cause condensation on the internal walls, where previously the water vapour would have been able to penetrate the wall and naturally escape at its own pace.

So that is my tip for you, if your building was built more than 60 years ago, I would always opt for using more natural materials, such as lime mortar over cement mortar and natural paints over lacquers or paints high in VOC’s.

Oh and lucky you, if you live in a gorgeous historic building, that’s on my wishlist!

*The Historic England Site gives explanations of listing types & links to search every currently listed building https://historicengland.org.uk/advice/hpg/has/listed-buildings/