Originally published in STIR®
Even professional designers can fall prey to an occasional misstep. A look at a few to avoid.

Disregarding the ceiling.

Ceilings are the biggest stand-alone architectural element in any room, yet they are frequently ignored or poorly decorated. Leaving the ceiling white, while painting the walls with color, can make a room seem unfinished. By adding just a touch of color to a ceiling, you can bring a certain intimacy, as well as give the space a much more finished and refined look. And painting the ceiling a contrasting color is a great way to add flair and drama to a room.

Forgetting about texture.

Texture can make a simple room more interesting and adds dimension to any space. If your client prefers a starker look, with neutral tones and sleek furniture, consider adding texture to the walls to help soften the room's appearance and instill some character. And you can bring depth to a monochromatic room with texture-rich elements. A room lacking texture, even if otherwise nicely designed, will come off looking dull and one-dimensional.

Pushing a trend.

Part of being a good designer is knowing what's hot, hip and cutting-edge. But pushing a color or palette just because it's currently popular can quickly lead to client dissatisfaction. Take time to thoroughly understand what your client is looking for, and work those desires into the design. Then, if certain colors or elements of a new trend work with the client's overall design scheme, so much the better.

Ignoring inspirations.

Be sure to look for something that truly inspires your client – be it a photograph, an image from a magazine, a painting or a piece of furniture. These inspirations can help your client better explain their vision and help you formulate the proper design plan. Remember, the space is supposed to reflect your client's taste and sense of self. Your role is to encourage them to have the confidence to follow their instincts.

Not taking advantage of light.

Natural light can intensify or mellow a color; it can take a room from average to extraordinary or do the exact opposite. When helping a client choose their wall colors, make sure to test them in the mellow light of morning, the harsh light of afternoon and the shadowy light of evening. And factor in the number of windows and the direction of the sun's exposure. Pay attention as well to decorative lighting. Assess the general, task and accent lighting in the space to determine if it's serving the space well – opening up dark corners, properly highlighting work areas, complementing the room's colors and creating the desired sense of ambience.

Exaggerating matches or pairs.

While that matched pair of heirloom candlesticks make a nice statement on your client's mantel, replicating a pattern of matched items throughout the room can make it look and feel forced. Not only does excessive pairing rob the room of personality, it also can lead to a feeling of business and detract from the room's focal point.

Help your clients not be too swayed by trends, friends or inherited furnishings. Instead, convince your clients to focus on making conscious choices that reflect who they really are – and that will help your design truly sing.

For more information:

  • The Color Scheme Bible: Inspirational Palettes for Designing Home Interiors by Anna Starmer (Firefly Books, 2005)
  • Color, Space and Style: All the Details Interior Designers Need to Know but Can Never Find by Mimi Love and Chris Grimley (Rockport Publishers, 2007)
  • Top Five Home Decorating Mistakes