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Design

WARNING: 5 Common Design Choices To Rethink (And Potentially AVOID)

When you are designing a home or heck, even just a single room, there are so many things to think about at once. You’ve got materials, pattern mixing, scale, function, cohesiveness, budget, etc all coming at you. And look, it’s not a bad problem to have but that doesn’t mean it can’t be overwhelming. So after Emily sent me her answers to an interview a magazine requested about headboards, it got me thinking about those little design things we forget to consider. I’ll tell you what it specifically was in a second. After that, I decided to ask the team what some other common things people don’t know or forget to think about when designing a space, or even just buying a new piece of furniture. These were five of our favorites…

1. Beware Of Light Fabric Headboards

This was the one from the interview. The editor asked Em if there were any things to think about when purchasing a bed with an upholstered headboard. The one that stood out to me the most was to potentially avoid choosing light fabric, especially in linens and cotton. Why? Well, the oils from our heads over time can get on the headboard and it can look pretty gross. I guess I had never thought of this for two reasons. A. I’ve never owned an upholstered headboard (something I hadn’t realized until writing this post) and B. My head almost never has spent time touching my previous headboards (to be fair I’m fairly short and sleep on the bottom 3″ of my floppy down pillow like a little weirdo). Emily (and Arlyn about their old bed) both said that their husband’s sides were way worse than theirs… Emily was referencing the mountain house bed. Something to think about!

This is also pretty funny timing because I am in the process of choosing a light fabric headboard but I’m not worried since my head will rarely be touching it as previously stated. But if you are looking for an upholstered headboard and know that you and/or your partner’s head will be making a fair amount of headboard contact, maybe consider a darker-toned fabric.

2. Got Dogs? Don’t Get A Loose Back Cushion Sofa

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse living room reveal

Em’s pups are maybe the cutest and sweetest dogs in all the land but boy do they just love to perch ON TOP of the back pillow cushions of their living room sofas like they are watching over everyone. As cute as it is, it does really mess up the shape of those cushions. And sure, Emily and Brian could have, and potentially still could, train them not to go up on the sofa cushions but of course that is going to take a good amount of training and is currently not a priority for them. But if you want to get AHEAD of this, consider a tight-back sofa with some cozy throw pillows. Problem avoided:)

3. Dark Flooring And Dark Rugs Don’t Hide Dirt Better

When I asked this question, Em quickly stated that dark floors and dark rugs DO NOT hide dust and dirt better than lighter floors and rugs. For some, this might be a “yes, we know that” but for others, this might be more of a head-scratcher. Again, when you’re making a ton of design decisions all at once, you might just think something like dark floors hide the diry better, DONE! Check it off of the list. Well, sadly that’s not the case. We recommend going light to medium with flooring and making sure your rugs have a lot of color variation in the threading. Even if it’s a solid color! Also, if you have pets you should also consider their hair color. Outside of the dark blue family room, the Henderson pups are good to go in most of the farmhouse with their white/blonde locks and do not leave too much visible evidence. I myself have dark wood floors and am constantly vacuuming because you can see everything (and I don’t have pets or kids!). Any future home of mine will have lighter floors despite how pretty the ones I have now are.

4. Deep Sofas Should Require An Extra Piece Of Furniture

There’s nothing like cozying up on a big comfy sofa with a hot tea or a glass of wine. Heaven, right?! But then when you want to set your drink down, the coffee table is a million miles away! And thus the battle of deciding to move from your comfy location to set your drink down (to then have to move to pick it up again) or hold it until you are all done begins. What is the solution? Sorry, it’s another piece of furniture. But boy will it be worth it. But say your deep sofa or sectional is up against a wall, no problem. Just scooch it a little forward and slide a slender sofa table behind it. Honestly, your sofa will look better if it isn’t flush against the wall so it’s a win-win! Emily chose those awesome bookcases that fit perfectly but you could also fairly easily with some standard power tools build a DIY simple skinny wood console (especially if it’s between your wall and sofa where most people won’t even see it:))

5. Triple Check Your Dining Chairs With Arms Will Fit Under Your Dining Table

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: styling to sell: how we staged our dining room and kitchen

This was another one from Emily because she has made this mistake more than once. Oops! Make sure that if you have dining chairs with arms they will fit under your dining table. I can almost hear the symphony of “Duuuuuuhs” as I type this but you’d be surprised how often the dimensions on a site do not include the tabletop width, just the overall height. That means you may think, given the height, that your armed dining chairs will easily slide under your table but then it arrives, and no such luck. Measure twice, confirm with the retailer, and buy once:)

Short and sweet! Hope these are helpful and as always if you have any cautionary reno or decorating tips drop them in the comments.

Love you, mean it.

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Mountain House Primary Dedroom

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Katie
1 month ago

I have a light fabric headboard and have never had any issues, but we prop our pillows in front of them if we are leaning against them, so I don’t think our heads ever actually hit the back. I don’t agree with number 3 though- I have dogs and stated out with a tight back sofa and it got really gross! Too many folds and crevices and not a good way to get in there and clean, plus unlike the headboard the dogs did lay against the sofa back and when it started to smell like dog my options were much more limited than with loose back sofas. I swapped it out for one with removable cushions (with removable, washable covers) and it’s so much better! Sure, the dogs mess up the cushions on occasion, but it’s not that hard to fluff them back into place and it’s a small price to pay for the extra function. I do agree on the floors though- I have medium light wood and everyone always comments on how clean my floors are, but honestly they’re just not looking close enough!

PM
1 month ago

I’ve never liked the idea of fabric headboards. I understand that they’re likely cozy and comfortable…But – not only will it collect oils but also dust (dead skin cells, etc.). The idea of it just sounds filthy to me. And cleaning seems like it would be a huge pain. Perhaps, if the fabric of the headboard could be a slipcover, and easily removed to wash. Does anyone else feel this way? I’m the same with other furniture – slipcovers for everything!

Lane
1 month ago
Reply to  PM

I can’t relate to this somehow. It’s not a concern. Also bedbugs love wood so wood is not necessarily easier or better. It depends on circumstances like everything else. I think metal and wood are harder on the head and less comfortable to lean against. One can choose durable fabric and clean it from time to time. One can also reupholster a bed when they think it’s necessary. I have my bed for 15 years. I don’t plan on replacing it. I have added few more upholstery furniture since and I’m considering buying one of those little vacuums that clean upholstery with water or some solutions.

priscilla
1 month ago
Reply to  PM

A slipcovered headboard sounds like the answer. I just use the fabric attachment to my vacuum to go over it for the dust and ick as we don’t use it with our heads, lol.

JeffreyC
1 month ago
Reply to  PM

What about it is a huge pain? It is no more difficult than vacuuming sofa cushions.

KT
1 month ago

Great points to consider! Agree with the medium to lighter carpets looking less dirty, even for car interiors with kids! Just wanted to mention we have never had issues with oils on our light fabric headboard, which we have had for about 12 years! It is more of a taupe, and is linen.

1 month ago

I can vouch for the dog sofa thing. My pit bull LOVES sitting on top of my down filled back cushions and is constantly smashing the cushions down bc she LOVES seeing what’s going on outside. I didn’t get a dog to NOT let her all over my house and my furniture – she’s my little baby and I want her as near to me as possible at all times. But my particular sofa actually isn’t that hard to fluff back up so I don’t mind the down back cushions. If that’s gonna annoy you, def go with a VERY FIRM foam insert. Less comfy but less constant styling.

Ashley
1 month ago
Reply to  Orlando

But actually, down is better because you CAN fluff it. Mine are foam and my pit bull baby has smushed them down over time. Hard/impossible to reshape them once that happens.

Steph
1 month ago

I let my first dog (circa 2004) on the couch and have never let a dog since. I have a orthopedic dog bed in every room so they can be comfortable and I never have to worry about my bed, couch, or chairs looking like a hot mess.

Julie
1 month ago

100% yes to light floors. I have a dog with white and caramel colored hair and thankfully we have light floors. When I vacuum and the light is shining on the floors, it is shocking how much is actually there versus what I see because it blends. My parents just got a new house with dark flooring and you see everything!!

priscilla
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie

My mother-in-law gave me her tried and true way to choosing carpet colors, for dog lovers, that is. Take a bag of the dog’s fur (all you have to do is brush the dog to get the fur) to the carpet store, throw it down on the samples you like, and the rug practically chooses itself. I laughed at that UNTIL i had to choose carpet for our stairs. She had a good method. (I also agree with a carpet or rug that’s not all one solid color).

Christine
1 month ago

For the deep sofa, a shelf behind is an inexpensive way to go. If you can go a little deeper, the space under the shelf is good for storing items that get infrequent use like holiday decorations

Lane
1 month ago

Lots of great points. I’m surprised about the light headboard. I have the dark gray headboard in some performance fabric (lower height Tate bed from C&B) and it held up so well for 15 years. But I wish I bought a beige color because dark gray is so difficult to style it in a bedroom that doesn’t get a lot of light.
As for the sofa cushions (and pillows), those are a pain even with little kids as well. These days I’m learning to live with a more relaxed look and with patina.
I like darker floors too because they bring so much character to interiors with lighter walls. Mine are dark but still show wood texture/pattern. I vacuum when I notice dust. Once or twice a week.

Julie S
1 month ago

Variegated is more important than anything for hiding dirt! And yes, the light to medium range of tones is best. I have an off white background in two tones on our family room rug with an all over fake-distressed colorful pattern. Even though it’s mostly whitish, it rarely looks dirty! My solid black counters, on the other hand, are TERRIBLE.
Regarding deep sofas and coffee tables, I personally aim for a handy place to set a drink/book next to every seat. All sofas are too deep to reach for a coffee table IMO as a short person who curls up her legs! I only put my drink on the coffee table if I’m sitting on the floor.
Please put me down as an advocate of armless dining chairs. My family likes to perch sideways on our chairs (we use the table a lot more than mealtimes) and arms prevent this move.

Ashley
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie S

My coffee table is a trunk with wheels mounted to the base. Once I curl up on the sofa I pull the coffee table right up to the edge of the couch LOL. Super convenient. Also great for moving it out of the way for dance parties!

Molly
1 month ago

I totally hear you on the fabric headboard. When we changed from a king to a California King (because our two doodles rule our lives and our bed, apparently), I almost gagged when I looked at our old headboard and saw my husband’s side of the bed. I didn’t even realize his head was touching the fabric!

I would add to the watch-the-rug color advice to consider it in your entryway too (see mention about dogs, above). While I would love a vintage rug in our mudroom, with the trekking in of mud and dirt, anything I bought would be ruined, so I stick with things that can go in the washing machine or is the color of said-dirt.

priscilla
1 month ago
Reply to  Molly

Have you looked into a Ruggable vintage style rug for your mudroom? I wonder how washable they really are.

Victoria
1 month ago
Reply to  priscilla

I have had great success washing Ruggable rugs. If you purchase a large rug you may need to wash it in a triple loader at a laundromat. I have washed smaller rugs and runners at home with no problem.

Brenna
1 month ago
Reply to  priscilla

From someone with two large dogs, a periodically-muddy backyard, and 4 Ruggable rugs, including one light blue runner in the bathroom where we bathe the dogs… yes! They are very washable, and the mud/dirt comes right out!

Roberta Davis
1 month ago

Great tips!

Lisa H
1 month ago

We have a king size bed with a light colored, nubby upholstered headboard. It sort of wraps around at the corners. We love it in every way. It’s so cozy feeling! My husband and I each have three pillows to lean against if we’re reading, or watching television. We each sleep with a different configuration of pillows. We’re very particular about it! We don’t really make contact with the headboard, either while lounging or sleeping. It does get a bit dusty on top. I vacuum it with the handheld attachment, a couple of times per year, and have used a lint roller on the top edge.
For the deep sofa situation, we love our Ekhornes Ellipse tables. https://shop.stressless.com/en/tables/stressless-ellipse-table/p/000000000005253013?pid=52530132004
We use them as end tables sometimes, but also move them all over, all of the time. They are height adjustable and the base slides right under the sofa. We set our tablets on them, drinks on them, popcorn, dinner. We take them outside and have cocktails on our big outdoor sectional. So nice to have what you want, right at your elbow!

Kerri
1 month ago

Probably a no brainier for most people, but if you’re buying a larger piece of furniture for an upstairs room, just make sure it will fit up the stairs!

Susan Marie
1 month ago

Dogs gonna be dogs with either loose back or tight back sofa cushions. They will sneak up there either way for their maximum comfort. I admire this about them.

Catherine
1 month ago

These are great! I can attest to the light fabric headboard. Before you think your head doesn’t touch your headboard… I would have said the same thing, until I noticed how stained my headboard is. Blech! I can’t wait to buy a new one…and I will not choose upholstered next time.
My mom’s sofa fell victim to the dogs on top of the cushions problem…that one I definitely agree with, too.
And finally, I know my floors are filthy (2 toddlers + dog), but since they are a light colored LVP, you can’t really tell! 🙂

Cici Haus
1 month ago

Hello fellow sleeps-very-low-on-the-bed weirdo! My husband always laughs at how I sleep in the bottom 2/3s of the bed 🙂

Sybi
1 month ago

Please don’t forget you can (and should!) get upholstery and carpet cleaned regularly. Don’t throw something out because it’s dirty. The Spruce has a review of cleaning services I used to pick one. Last time I used Stanley Steemer big chairs were $47 and sofas were $67 less discounts.

Tina Puth
1 month ago

On the same note as the headboard. I didn’t know how important it is to find the right colored couch for your living room. Especially if you have young kids and pets. We decided on a dark grey and I thought that would be better than doing a lighter neutral. I was wrong. The fabric stains and leaves dirty marks so easily. Thank goodness I found a professional upholstery cleaner near me to help fix the issue. So if you are designing a living room or family room think a lot about the kind of maintenance you want to have with your couch!

S
1 month ago

Thanks for some of these doggo decorating tips! Would love a full post or round up on designing with dogs in mind! Furniture/rugs/bedding options that are easily washable /doesnt show lots of hair/durable that also aren’t hideous or require living with a grody blanket over everything in your house – I know they must be out there!

Editor
1 month ago

YES about the dark floors things. We used to have medium oak floors in our old place, and our new place has dark cherry-ish floors and you can see every single spec of dust or cracker crumb and it drives me INSANE. Plus, all the footprints…grrrr.

Sarah
1 month ago

We had a dining table made specifically to fit the arms of our wishbone chairs underneath, but it is so high! Now I feel like a small child whenever we eat dinner. I love those chairs so much, but they are such an awkward height. :/

KL
1 month ago

I have a light colored fabric headboard, but I specifically chose a performance fabric so hopefully that avoids staining issues. We’ve only had it for 2 years and usually sit up in bed with pillows propped behind out of habit, so it hasn’t really been tested yet. Although I used the same fabric in a slightly darker shade for my living room accent chairs and have successfully cleaned cat vomit on those!

Finding a rug that both 1) hides lingering discoloration from cat vomit/hairballs and 2) doesn’t show every speck of dirt and dust is the bane of my existence. I haven’t found one yet tbh… The living room rug is mostly navy which accomplishes (1) but constantly looks dirty due to (2), while the bedroom rug is a mix of light beige and pink tones that hides dirt but it turns out that beige is not dark enough to hide vomit stains. I guess medium tones with thread color variation is the key, but those are hard to find in a neutral pattern that doesn’t have a lot of white accents. Maybe Emily’s next RugsUSA collection will have one, here’s to hoping!

Sona
1 month ago
Reply to  KL

why do our cats NEVER barf on the wood or tile floor??? 😂🐈

Kasia
1 month ago

I had to laugh about the dark floors, as when I bought my current house the wood floors were in awful shape and I couldn’t afford to refinish them, so I painted them… black! Friends and family were shocked, lol, Now I will say, I knew perfectly well what I was getting into in terms of being able to see every single piece of dust and dog hair, but I still love it. It looks so much classier than the stained wood. I keep a broom and a flat microfiber mop with a spray bottle of water handy and just sweep and mop a lot, lol. Someday I’ll be able to redo the floors, but until then it was a good fix for me, even knowing the downside. 

Rita
1 month ago

When we had our custom table made (25 years ago and still love it) we made sure my husband’s legs could fit under it comfortably. As his legs always hit the underside of tables he would sit out. He is over 6′ tall and my son is now even taller. We have chair pillows on the chairs for when we have visitors who are shorter. And for me it’s a no to fabric bedheads. The dust… probably why I don’t have carpet either. And yes to lighter floors. We have white tiles in our bathrooms and they don’t show dirt.

jacq.
1 month ago

I love this post. More of these posts. Please, literally so so helpful .

ailyana
1 month ago

I can second you on light floors, I personally like lighter tones more as they give such an elite look. As a designer, I totally agree with your suggestions, especially about light color floors. i always suggest people go for lighter tones as they are more easy to clean.

Jenn
1 month ago

I’ve literally been looking the last couple of days for a sofa with no back pillows because of my dog. My Williams Sonoma couch looks awful 100% of the time because of my dog!

Laura
1 month ago

I 100% support all of these points, SO many of them I have noticed myself over time as well!

Erin
1 month ago

I JUST used our upholstery cleaner to scrub up our flax colored, linen headboard. We were preparing to give over our room to guests for a week, and I was shocked at how dingy the headboard was when I had everything stripped for washing. It was my husband’s side with an oily patch (hidden by pillows during the day). I used a solution of powdered Tide and hot water in the Bissell Green Machine, and it looks MUCH better. But it really did make me second guess buying another fabric headboard. Funny this post came up the next day!

TNT
1 month ago

The back cushion thing with dogs is SO true! Mine like to jump over the back of the sofa (I know, I should train them, but I have 7 and no willpower, LOL)! My next sofa will not have loose back cushions at all. Also same for dark floors and upholstery.

Azumi
1 month ago

I am devastated that #2 did not come with an accompanying dog picture, but I was consoled by #3.

JeffreyC
1 month ago

You can always slipcover a headboard. It is an easy way to deal with the stain issue, as well as affordably refresh your decor.