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My Biggest Design Regrets

Designing a house means making 100 MILLION decisions every day. A mistake can easily be made, but you admit it, weigh your options, choose one and move on. I’m writing a big post right now about who typically pays for design mistakes when you’ve hired a designer (the homeowner? designer? contractor?), which I think will be a very controversial post (in a good way). But for now I wanted to go over a few mistakes I’ve made in my own house, so you can learn from my mistakes and potentially prevent them from happening to you.

Regret #1: The the height and width of the curtains in the guest room and the family room.

I had worked with Decorview on these curtains, which was generally wonderful. The designer and I came up with the height/style together, which I thought was great. I now wish that they were 3-4″ closer to the ceiling so that the windows and room looked taller. In the guest room I also wish they were much wider, making the window feel more open. Since we turned that room into Elliot’s room we recently took them down and I worked with Loom to put up new ones that are floor to ceiling, and wall to wall (in a really pretty mossy green color), and the room looks so much bigger and prettier (see the full Guest Room Makeover). 

My Biggest Design Regrets_Emily Henderson Living Room_Curtains

We haven’t changed them in the family room (although the room has changed drastically since this photo), and it doesn’t annoy me on a daily basis, but I do wish they were hung higher. It’s a minor mistake, but one that can’t be fixed without spending A LOT of money, since they were custom. For a complete guide to how to properly hang curtains check out this post.

Lesson: Hang curtains as tall and wide as possible to make the room and window feel bigger. You don’t want the rod CRAMMED against the ceiling but those should have been 3-4″ higher (see Family Room posts). We even dedicated a full post to it HERE where you can read up on how they should be hung.

Regret #2 – The size of the chandelier in the dining room.

My Biggest Design Regrets_Emily Henderson Dining Room_Chandelier

You can’t tell from this photo but when you walk into the house it’s really big and open, with the dining room being right in front of you. Here is the only photo I found of it which was taken when we bought the house, before we renovated:


We sure have come a long way. Here you can see that it’s kinda tricky because the scale of the dining room is small, but the ceiling is so high, and the space is so open and big that I thought a small light (like the one they had there) would look so dinky and puny. And it probably would have, but the one I chose was just too big for the dining room.

This was a very good lesson to learn for me, because I tend to err on the side of too big rather than too small. Partly because often in photos, and on camera, too small can look REALLY small. But this chandelier was absolutely too big once you got into the room. It looked good from the front door and was scaled nicely in height, but it was too wide. When you were in the room it felt claustrophobic. Let me be super clear about it, this was my fault completely as I gave Park Studio the dimensions and a drawing, and they executed it perfectly (and I highly recommend buying their lights or having them make something custom).


I recently sold the chandelier and replaced it with that one from Lost and Found which I love SO much. It feels light and airy, yet it has enough impact and is perfectly scaled to the space. Problem solved (see more Dining Room here).

Lesson: Scale your lighting to the table and room, making sure that the room can handle the size installed. There is not a hard and fast rule to this, as it really is based on your room and light (also if you choose a really visually heavy light fixture then you may need to go even smaller). But here is an easy guide: if your room is small, get a small light, if it’s medium go for a medium, and of course, if it’s large, go for a larger one or a cluster of pendants (which I tend to do unless the room is massive).

Regret #3 – Don’t wallpaper just one wall unless it is with something high impact (otherwise known as “The Master Bedroom Wallpaper Disaster of 2014.”)


There are a few problems here. First: The “feature” wall looks kinda boring and dumb.

Lesson: If you are going to do an “accent” wall it needs to have more impact than this. Basically, it looks like I just couldn’t afford to paper the whole room – which was kinda the case as the paper was a FORTUNE, since I had it custom printed. So we figured just one wall would be fine, but it wasn’t. Then as you know the seams all came up which brought up 3 coats of paint and some plaster (see here and please have easy access to kleenex). The easiest fix was to GLUE them back down, so now they really aren’t coming up. To fix this we would have to take off the paper, sand down the walls, re-plaster (with many coats and sanding, too), and repaint. It would take a few days and be extremely messy and expensive, plus we’d have to sleep somewhere else. I still might do it, and try to time it for when we are going to be out-of-town, but for now that just sounds terribly annoying.

Lesson: I still really like the paper, but I wish I had never done it, and just stuck with an all white room. But for you guys, consider this: Accent walls are tricky in, the first place, and if you are going to do one make sure that it’s dramatic enough – I’m prepping a post about when accent walls work so stay tuned for that.

My Biggest Design Regrets_Emily Henderson Bedroom Wallpaper_Wallpaper_Bedroom

For more on the Master Bedroom Wallpaper situation.

Regret #4: Selling that blue sofa. This really isn’t that big of deal, and nobody is going to die because I got rid of it, but if I could go back in time I would have never sold it. It was almost perfect.

My Biggest Design Regrets_Emily Henderson Living Room_Couch_Blue Couch_Sofa

My Biggest Design Regrets_Emily Henderson Living Room_Couch_Blue Couch_Sofa_2

You can see it here in this post: My Living Room Through The Years. The reason that it was so good is that it was unique, indestructible and so comfortable. And man did it photograph well. I love my new sofa with the leather arms, but it’s not as inviting, and I think that is one of the reasons we don’t spend too much time in that room. It doesn’t photograph as well, either. So I’m in the market for a new sofa – one that is really unique AND super lounge-able and comfortable.

Lesson: Hmm, hoard everything? No. But if you really love something don’t get rid of it. I blame the blog for this one. I felt like I should do something new in our new living room. You had all seen that sofa so many times. We jokingly called it “America’s Sofa.” I was kinda bored of seeing it styled in my own home, despite the fact that I loved it. I did make my money back from selling it, thank god, and I think it’s in a very good home, but it does feel like a part of me is missing.

Learn from my mistakes, guys. When you are designing fast and for yourself, it’s so easy to screw up. I think it’s actually easier to make mistakes for yourself than for clients, because with clients you are super careful as the repercussions are much more stressful. But, either way when you are trying to make spaces that no one has ever seen before, spaces that are unique – you will probably do something you’ve never done before, which means that there is room for a mistake that you’ve never made.

Share your biggest design regrets in the comments (especially if there is a lesson to be learned). Don’t make me feel alone here. If we are going to make mistakes, let’s all make them together and learn from them.


In case you want to know what else we think everyone is doing wrong check out these design mistakes: The Generic Sofa Roundup | Rugs That Are Too Small | Painting A Small, Dark Room White | Bad Wood FinishesHow To Hang Curtains | How To Hang Art Correctly | Generic Art | Not Having A Plan | Who Pays For Design MistakesWhen to Hire vs. DIY


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135 thoughts on “My Biggest Design Regrets

  1. Dealing with the same curtain issues. And I’d kill for your former blue sofa. Not you. But someone.

    1. I love this comment!
      “Not you. But someone.”
      Me too! I adore that sofa and would happily maim for it. So I guess you win if you’re willing to kill…

  2. SUCH a good post! I love how transparent you are. BTW there’s an identical sofa on Portland Craigslist right now for like $600 – but in brown. It would almost definitely need reupholstering but every time I see it I’m tempted…

    1. Huh sure ’nuff there it is. I see it’s pending now…Wonder if Emily saw your message and is having one of her family members grab it… Other than the ugly brown color it looks to be in better shape than her old one.

    2. Found it! Dang, you are right. It’s almost identical. Only differences I see are the legs and the one on Craigslist has 3 cushions instead of 2. Definitely would be super cute in different fabric. Wish I could have been the one to snatch this baby up!

  3. If you kept the blue sofa, would you have kept it blue or added a blanketed seat like (oh joy blog)? Basically how would have looked in your living room through the style changes you’ve had?

  4. You are not alone! Thank you for writing this post, it’s your humility as a person and a professional designer that makes you so likable. As for the mistakes, they are totally inevitable when making all the decisions required when building, designing and/or remodeling and furnishing an entire home. It’s like Sudoku!! I love it too and I love your taste and style and writing, you make me laugh! My current challenge is correcting my lighting mistakes. I want to choose fixtures I really like (most of what I really love is too expensive), that are relevant to the home’s style and location and then on top of that, tie together (especially when there are multiple fixtures are simultaneously in view. I think I am going to omit one of the pendants now that I think about it. Less is more. Also, I LOVE your current sofa so much, it’s kind of exactly what I was looking for when you posted pictures of it! I absolutely love your famous blue sofa that you sold. Why not make a similar piece and sell through Target?! I’d buy it. And when you want to sell your current sofa, will you email me? 🙂
    Keep up the good work and congratulations on your growing adorable family. 🙂
    Happy New Year!

  5. Regarding the curtain dilemma, I picked up a great tip from (blog). She had curtains that were too short so she had panels in a different color sewn to the bottom of each one. It created a cool contrast and she didn’t have to replace the whole curtain…..

  6. Couldn’t the curtains be easily altered? Add fabric to the bottom and raise the rods, and add panels to widen?

  7. I’m still loving the Park Studio chandelier in there. Something about the gold tone just looks so rich with all those pictures. (I see that’s not the same now either, but I loved it.)

  8. That blue sofa was killer! I’d be kicking myself regarding regret #5 as well! My most recent design regret: I had this beautiful coffee table that I found at a flea market. Rustic, hairpin legs, the top opened on the two long ends, had exposed barn door type black hinges. It was perfect! I had to use it as a bargaining tool with the hubby to keep the 1950s yellow diner table in the kitchen. Lesson: When bargaining with husband, don’t use something that you actually love, make him think you love something else so he feels you are sacrificing.

  9. So much good info here! That sofa. Moment of silence.

    My worst design mistake was buying a large hutch/bookshelf piece that I liked at the time. It was controversial – we refer to it as “The Divorce Hutch” bc hubby and I almost divorced after I bought it without his input.

    The joke’s on me, though, bc now I hate it and he loves it. It’s a dark red with a lot of brown in it and makes any room it’s in very dark. It’s very vintage/anthropologie and I’d love it in another color BUT the wood bits that cover the glass are glued and nailed on – so I can’t paint those parts and they show through all over. GAAAAH. It’s very much the big, red elephant in my house. I facepalm every time I see it.

    1. Oh I have that exact same problem. I bought a great old hutch off Craigslist with the full intention of painting it a fun bright color. However, I didn’t make that clear to my husband and once I got the thing in the house he declared it ‘antique’ and untouchable. NOW I’m stuck with that ugly thing. If all the grandma china wasn’t in it I”m pretty sure I could figure out a way to get the cat to knock it over and do some irreparable damage. (oopsy)

  10. *another moment of silence for the loss of that big, beautiful blue sofa*

    Even your ‘design misses’ are still at-a-glance lovely to look at, which says so much about your talent!

  11. I’ll be the voice of approval. I’m glad you sold the blue sofa. I WAS tired of seeing it all the time. And while I don’t love the new one I think it fits the direction the living room and house has taken far more than the big blue sofa would have. In fact one could say the change facilitated the current style. I’m looking forward to a new sofa reveal in the coming year. It will be awesome and as comfy and indestructible as ol’ blue.

    I’m off to take a good hard look at my curtains now. I haven’t hemmed them so it’s not too late to move the curtain rod up and out if need be.

  12. Thanks for sharing. I think my biggest mistake has been the paint color in my master bedroom. I did so much research on the perfect dark gray, but when we were at the store buying paint for the whole house I was in such a hurry and so tired that I just picked a color from a card. It’s way too blue and is not the feel I was going for, but there’s no way I’m going to repaint it anytime soon. I just ended up getting a new duvet cover and dealing with it. No more rushing for me.

  13. my biggest mistake was not measuring my doorways before ordering a very large couch (which was custom and non-returnable.)

    speaking of hoarding, do you plan on updating the flea anytime soon?

  14. Thank you for posting today. Surely I’m not the only poor soul that pathetically relies on your daily voice. You really add so much to the day!
    No accept ion today, I learned so much!

  15. I remember where I was when you sold America’s sofa — sad day. Especially because it took me two years to find the exact same one on craigslist and have it reupholstered. The maker is Stratford Futorian, it was made in the 1960’s. I couldn’t find the blue cotton velvet fabric like yours so I went with a gray linen. It’s not as awesome as yours but it’s still amazing. You can visit and sit on it anytime.

  16. Thanks to blogs like yours, I didn’t make that many mistakes in my house. I’m really grateful for that; as a non-professionnal whose sole objective is to live in a house she loves, I shamelessly copied some of your rooms. I didn’t take risks, and thus, not a lot of mistakes were made: I have confidently wallpapered a very small room in a crazy pattern, and my living room, which has no natural light, is painted black. Some like it, some stare at it not making any comment, but our family loves it. AND ! We got a fantastic sofa, using guidelines I found here. Thank you Emily !

    The only mistakes I made were when I made decisions without a collection of photographs to use as guide. Six years ago, I decided to paint our bedroom chocolate brown. It was the first time I ever decided on a paint color, I was pregnant and stressed out, and while the dark tone is great, I mean… brown ? I wouldn’t do that again. I’d pick a navy blue in a second, or a lighter grey. The house is in full renovation mode, there’s no way we would redo one of the only room that’s finished. Still… chocolate brown ? Nooooo !

    But my house features a white and light aqua geometric wallpaper with an 18th century gilded pendant light (supposedly from a church, according to my family history). There’s a not quite dead citrus plant on the side. I call it my “Emily Henderson corner”. It’s amazing !!

  17. Loved this post! Thanks for being so open and honest! The worst design fail was painting a sofa white. Yes, you heard that right, paint was involved with upholstery… -Pinterest made me do it 😉 Anyway, surprise, surprise, it looked like crap and felt even worse. Plus my neighbors saw me outside painting the dumb thing and then obviously asked me how it turned out… Total pinstrosity.

    1. omg, I am so sorry but that made me laugh out loud. “Pinstrosity”….I will never forget that word.

    2. I keep seeing these pins on Pinterest about painting upholstered furniture and every time I’m all “HUHHHHH?” Sorry you lived through that. I bet it was a little um, “scratchy?”

    3. Do you remember back in the old days when the designers painted couches (can I call it that on this blog? I want to be true to my roots, but it sounds do unsophisticated compared to all the ‘sofas’ ;-)) on trading spaces? Blame them for planting that idea in anyone’s head! Good for you for taking a risk though.

  18. So great to see someone with such talent have some design regrets. I once bought a black “leather” chesterfield sofa from Home Decorators. I was so excited because I loved the tufted look but didn’t want to spend a small fortune for a place to sit and it was pretty affordable considering the alternatives. Long story short…the “leather” started to peel all over and I guess I should have splurged for quality since now I want to replace it!

    It’s so hard when more and more I’m ordering things for the home online since it’s slim pickings in our town of 7k people!

    1. You’re not blind! I was surprised when the post ended because I was like wait that’s really only 4!!!

  19. Hi Emily! Great post as usual. I really don’t want to cause u more heart ache by saying this, but I wanna scream- I love that sofa! I may have dreamt about it ??. That said I’m sure you will find one more beautiful and we will all be swooning over it again 🙂

  20. I ordered a custom chair from Ethan Allen in a bad fabric. The chair was expensive to begin with & now I want to have it reupholstered.
    My husband wants to kill me. Fortunately it’s a bedroom chair so nobody sees it but us.

  21. Love this post! Make me feel so much better about all the things I would love to change in my home. The first is my giant dark leather sofa (the pottery barn kind, not the cool midcentury modern kind) the husband wanted it so badly and I gave in – it IS comfortable! (I’m still anxiously waiting on a follow up on a comment you made about dark sofas coming back into style!)

  22. This is probably my favorite post (other than your house reveal). Thanks for being honest so that we can all learn from you!

    Now…onto the design mistakes:
    1) Choosing a paint color because it looked good in a friend’s room. Lighting and room layout make one paint color look different in two different rooms.

    2) Choosing a chandelier that needs special lightbulbs that require special ordering. They are big globe ones and are expensive to replace. Beautiful chandelier but not practical.

    3) Buying furniture without searching the internet to see if I could find a cheaper price. I could have saved $100.

    4) Having an ambitious design project and never starting it! Going on year 3 of our huge blank wall.

  23. I’m reading this in our bedroom while sitting at a drop-leaf table that USED to be in my office. Sounds good so far, right? *sigh* More bedside space just means more stuff on my side of the bed! But, that’s not my biggest regret in this room! That would be an armoire that USED to live in the living room of our former home and housed a tv. It still does, BUT the 4 poster bed we bought for this room doesn’t allow one person (that would be me) to see the screen without scrunching down to the middle of the bed or hanging off the edge or leaning on my husband and holding my head up. (I’d take a picture from the bed, but it’s just too embarrassingly stupid I didn’t even think about this BEFORE I bought the bed!) I’ll stop now because I think it’s really time to rethink this room! 😉

  24. Emily, at least you don’t have skimpy curtain disease! I totally get why you might want your drapes higher and wider and I agree. But the worst curtain mistake I see all over the blogosphere is not enough fabric. Sad but understandable for those of us who are design enthusiasts. Tragic and infuriating when it’s pros showing pictures of their client work.

    My biggest regrets/mistakes:
    – skimpy curtains in our home office
    – bathroom “lipstick job” done by me with no clue: mirror too big, counter edge wrong, off white paint when it should be a more true white
    – thinking I did enough research on my kitchen reno. contractor ( I did not…)

    Thanks for sharing your regrets.

  25. Emily – thanks to reading your curtains blog, you saved me recently when installing our master bedroom curtains. I went for the taller, wider ones and we LOVE them, so thank you!!

    Excited too for your accent walls blog. I’m debating whether to do a dark wall on our two story dining room and could totally use your expertise as I don’t want to make the room feel heavy.

    Regret I didn’t see on here… have you ever regretted painting natural wood?

  26. Thanks for your honesty! I wonder if you would like the wallpaper in your bedroom better if you painted the walls in a similar color–would look less disjointed than the stark white.

  27. You are too hard on yourself Em! Really, most of these aren’t huge mistakes (except the wallpaper, which in retrospect you never would have done if you would have known how it would turn out).

    Mistakes help us learn. And you’re an even better designer because you can recognize them!

    For what it’s worth, I can’t wait to read your post about accent walls, since I struggle to believe they ever look good. They remind me of the 90’s in a bad, itchy way. (Shiver!)

  28. can you do a contrast band on the bottom of the curtains to give you the extra length you need. You can even match the color but do a different texture if you don’t want a stripe effect.

  29. I was just thinking about this the other day. When we remodeled our house, I had the opportunity to put the door to my daughter’s room any where I wanted since we were creating the wall. I didn’t really think about it then, but if I would have put it to right, I would have had an opportunity to put a much wanted banquette in my breakfast nook. However, I put it to the left, which makes sense when you are in the bedroom, but slightly limited my choices for seating in the nook. Considering I only had about a week to design my remodel, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out anyway!

  30. My biggest design mistake was hiring a designer to help me decorate a few rooms in my house. We had a consultation, I explained what I wanted, explained that I wanted items x, y and z included in her design plan. She returned with really crappy selections for x, y, and z and no real cohesive ‘plan’. Then slapped me with an obscene invoice. Clearly I went wrong by hiring her and could have done better via trial and error and still saved myself a bundle of money.
    I’d LOVE for you to do a blog post on how to work with a designer, what questions to ask, and what is realistic to expect when you do hire a designer. Are designers only for the rich, or can the average person get professional design help without having a ridiculously ‘robust’ budget?!?!?

    1. Shauna,

      I would LOVE for Emily to do a post on this too!

      I am sorry to hear about your experience. Did you see examples of the designers work that you liked beforehand? Did you ask what the fee would be and what you could expect in return? I am a designer and I definitely review these things and more with clients before I begin a project. It is also in their contract.

      Designers definitely are not only for the rich, but I am also wondering what your idea of a “ridiculously robust budget” is. When you start tallying up a room, shopping at even modest prices, things add up pretty quickly. The designer Lauren Liess wrote a great post on this.

      As a designer it can be difficult to be given an IKEA budget and then have your client scoff when you show them an IKEA lamp. Sure, I could search high and low on eBay or craigslist for something with more style at the same price – but then you are paying for my time or, if it is a flat fee plan, I am losing money. I am not saying this is what happened with you, but I do find more times than I wish that clients expectations don’t always match their budgets.

      They say you can have things good, fast or cheap – pick any two.

  31. Hi! I wrote this question on the last curtain post, but I am still in the dark… We are living in a house where all of the bedrooms have one, small mid century long narrow window. The window is off centered, closer to the ceiling than the floor, and a horizontal skinny rectangle. I don’t know if the curtains should be long, short? Help! Thanks.

      1. That is indeed what em Hendo would say (IMO). Long ago she did a post on it. You’ll have to google it.
        I had some made and bought some of her recommendations.

  32. I have no shortage of design regrets – painting a huge, vaulted room the color of pantyhose chief among them – but probably my biggest one is the curtains in our front room. I made them myself and I love the material, but unfortunately I based the measurements on curtain rods left by the previous owners of our house – they’re way too low and too narrow, crowding the windows.

  33. When choosing a new countertop for my bathroom I regret not asking for more details. I wanted a stone with a lot of white in it to coordinate with the other pieces in the bathroom. We found one that was pretty good, but I really preferred another. The person helping me said my preferred choice was a lot more expensive, but I never asked about the price difference and ordered my second choice. When it was installed it was way more creamy/ off- white than I had wanted. It’s not terrible, or terribly important, but it’s not what I wanted. What if “a lot more expensive” was really not bad to me? I’ll never know and it bugs me everyday.

  34. Emily! This post & the comments below made me laugh. We’ve all been there.

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one with a loving spouse who wants to (lovingly) murder me over some of my decisions / indecisions with home design! The “divorce armoire” = hahahahaha!

    Worst Mistakes:
    – “putting green” green accent wall. Seemed like a great idea in college. Still resent how horrible it was to paint over upon moving out… Accent walls, in general.
    – Rugs! I hate them. Too many horrible options or they cost a million dollars. I tried 4 different rugs in a room before just settling on one that my husband & I both still hate. Neither one of us want to give it a fifth try, so it just lays there being lame… Sets the vanilla tone for the entire room. Bhlerg!

    1. Sarah – I hear your pain on the rug situation. I’m stuck living with a rug that is fine but that I’ve grown to hate after many years (purchased online and is a cobalt blue when I thought I was getting a navy rug). I’ve looked and looked and looked and can never find anything durable, beautiful and not obscenely expensive. I pray my rug dreams will come true one day. Hopefully yours will too!

  35. I can’t find the post about how to do the Target glass lamp makeover that was shown on your Guest Room Makeover post. I love how your turned them from clear glass to such a pretty blue color. 🙂

  36. Too many design regrets to count but luckily only 1 or 2 for a client and they always somehow worked out. The worst one was on me… got so excited on my honeymoon in Bali to design a custom carved recycled teak headboard, so much less expensive than buying one in the States that why not? I’ll add a custom platform too (ooo that’s heavy).
    Well, shipping it wasn’t too expensive, but getting it to my apartment building from the port was about 3x the shipping (Ohhh, not so cheap anymore) and the EPIC FAIL) was the the platform was ultimately about 2″ too big to fit into our elevator.

    New plan (+$300 more) was 4 men had to come another day and deliver it up the tiny tight stairwell in 95 degree heat…just a mere 4 stories.

    So now I might as well have bought it in the states. The other clincher is its a queen and now that we have a child we sleep in a king!
    But all the guests think it’s lovely 🙂

    1. How about selling it away? But then again, how do you even get it out for the buyer…oh my gosh.

  37. Oh so many mistakes! The latest one is a new construction project and 11 thousand square feet. The number of decisions are mind blowing! The homeowner wanted a really fun craft room an her favorite color is lavender. I took the lavender color of the fabric I found and had the contractors paint all of the cabinets, window trim, base boards, crown molding and door trim all in the same shade of lavender! It looked ridiculous so I had the painters repaint all the trim white. I hated it again! Rather than cost my client more money because of my indecision, I went to the job site over the weekend and repainted everything myself! And with respect to lighting, there is a rule of thumb that I follow that never fails. Take the width and length of the room and convert to inches. Add the two numbers together and that number should represent the width/diameter of your fixture.

  38. This post is so amazing! I have couch remorse too. Glad to know I’m not the only crazy person about couches here. I’ve had 4 couches in 9 months!! I even bought the beautiful mid century one from Sally’s living room that is featured in your book….but man is that one uncomfortable!! So now I’m on the hunt again. If you ever sell yours hit me up!! I love it. (assuming it’s fairly comfortable LOL) Thanks for the informative and entertaining article!

  39. Such an interesting and helpful post! Love hearing how you’ve processed decisions after the fact.

    Random…I’m kind of going crazy over that old “when we first bought the house” picture from the front door looking towards the dining room. Have you shot that as it is now? I LOVE your dining room, but I don’t think we’ve seen it from that angle as it is currently styled. I’d love to see that shot:) So beautiful.

  40. Biggest design mistake was during a bathroom remodel – I wanted to find the perfect vintage dresser to convert to a vanity. I searched, and searched and never was able to find anything acceptable that worked with the room’s small dimensions. I ended up having to get a ‘big box store’ style vanity would have been passable – except that their ‘gray carrara marble’ top was actually veined in pink, which did not work with the room AT ALL. It finally became a budget issue – last thing to get the contractors out of there – so I had to suck it up and have it installed. I still may change it!

  41. We had our house built and I regret a lot of the decisions I made. After living in the house, I wish our family room fireplace was on the other wall and that I would have left the builder grade in the bathrooms instead of “upgrading” (and paying more) for basic tile that probably half the development has. I wish I would just done more basic builder grade (which sounds crazy) and customized it later as we lived in the house more and made more informed and purposeful decisions. Going to the design studio was overwhelming and I made decisions that were rushed and were not horrible but not really us either. We paid extra for them so I really don’t want to be ripping up tile or making drastic changes anytime soon.

    1. Hi Emily
      We recently bought the Camerich Lazytime Sofa in the deep version and it is soooooooo comfortable yet still
      stylish….I can send you a picture of it. It is heaven!


  42. Emily, you can fix those Drapes.. use the hem , which is usually 4 inches. ( the lining can be easily pieced and no one will know.or have a band of alternative fabric inserted as a stripe/ or added on. as a band.

  43. Emily, I am so, so sad for you that you’re still regretting selling that sofa. (But I kind of get it, it was/is beautiful.) Can you have someone custom make another one for you? It seems like it may be worth it at this point.

  44. My name is thynaya, i have fall in love with a man called williams, we have been i love for so many years now, i have not experience heart broken from him he love me more than any other thing on earth, until my boyfriend travel to see his mother, when he comes back he have not been the same that he is, he was change totally but i can’t live without him,even if i went to greet him in his house he will send me away, i keep crying every day, i try so many spell caster but know one could help me out, until i heard of Dr okpodu i said okay let me try him and i really i contacted Dr opkodu, can you believe it my ex lover who said that we will never be together again that came to my house and started begging me for forgiveness i have no choice than to forgive him cause i love him so much, please you need to contact this man he can as well help you he is like an angel sent from heaven to save people’s life, his email is: try and contact him now thanks.

  45. Hey Emily! Homestead Seattle ( recently had a sofa that was similar to your blue one. They have SUCH great stuff!! And I’m seriously not affiliated with them at all.

    Also, thanks for being so transparent about your mistakes! It makes me feel more comfortable making decisions about my home knowing that everyone makes mistakes and it’s not the end of the world!

  46. I feel especially bad for you regarding the wallpaper because I used something almost identical in a friends master bedroom from I-liv, called hessian… I remember when you had it custom made and I thought to myself that’s identical to the I-liv paper, which is much, much cheaper.

  47. Emily, I am sorry but I have to say this….

    Your blue sofa isn’t almost perfect, it’s PERFECT!

    I will cry in joy if I have a sofa like this one, especially in blue. OH.MY.GAWD. I’m trying to buy myself a near perfect sofa for my first home (5 more months). I can’t wait already!! Home Reno, exciting right??

  48. My biggest design regret is giving my husband way too much voice early in our marriage, which resulted any many too-masculine, too-traditional, and too-dark purchases. Fortunately, there were all fairly minor, and I’ve learned my lesson. I care about aesthetics and color, he cares about comfort and practicality and can’t tell the difference between brown and green. Literally—he’s severely color blind.

    When we bought our new house, I embraced color with a vengeance, chose pieces I love, made sure they were comfortable, and only have him power of veto. We’re both much happier with the results. 🙂

  49. Clearly you update/refresh/redo constantly, and it is amazing. What’s your advice for those of us who are not professionals? How often to change lighting, art, paint, furniture to keep things fresh and not dated? Blog post? How to keep your house beautiful for the next 20 years without breaking the bank?

  50. Emily, I have a question about one of the pieces of furniture I saw in one of these photo: what can you tell me about that wood and black vinyl chair that’s on the left side of your last photo (your living room from 2011)? I bought two chairs that look strangely similar at an antique shop, and no one I’ve talked to knows anything about them (I’ve asked upholsterers and looked online). They are petite (probably best for a pre-teen girl, though I do fit in them) and that makes them quite unusual, as well as the fact there’s a handle in back. My chairs have the same curved legs and curved back, and vinyl (though mine is white). I’d appreciate any info that you have about your old chair! Thanks!

  51. I am searching for a new apartment and with it, the perfect navy sofa. A harder feat in Canada with so many fewer resources and options than the US (living in a mid-size town doesn’t help much either) but I am already so excited when I finally find it and can replace the 14 year old cream nightmare with cat scratches on one end…

  52. My biggest regret was saying “ok” to the ‘gray with purple flecks’ granite slab they pulled out at the granite place, when I had paid for a gorgeous ‘white with cranberry red flecks’, from the Home Depot granite samples. From now on it’s engineered stone for me, no surprises at the end.

  53. Twice I have purchased items that were displayed in a large open store only to find them much to big when I got them home. I do think/hope I have learned that lesson. It was easy to solve I returned one item and used the other in a different way.
    Biggest regret…guess it still deals with my inability to judge size/space….I moved into a smaller apartment whose space was divided into smaller rooms which added to ‘my confusion’ and ended up giving the movers around half my furniture in a panic because the boxes and boxes of other ‘stuff’ were filling up the only large room and I didn’t give myself time to rethink how I could have kept some of the items (3 to be exact) and still feel a twinge of regret. Lesson don’t let the well meaning prodding of any relative, even a son you love dearly, increase your panic just take a few deep breaths and consider what you want. Also, find someone who can realistic judge space and ask them for help!

  54. I regret having bought items (a rug in particular) that I fell in love with without considering the color scheme. Our rug is a totally stunning pattern that I adored on sight, but in addition to nice serene modern colors (pale aqua-ish blue, soft gray, and ivory) it has really prominent off-trend colors (hunter green, rust, mustard, celery) that are hard to tie in to our intended color scheme. It’s manageable, but I wish I’d considered the full palette before shelling out and locking in all these other choices we made around it.

    That, and I regret almost all of the “placeholder” purchases I’ve made. Lamps, cheap chairs from Target (sorry Em but sometimes it’s true–they’re better for accessories than things that need sturdiness), art, anything that’s meant to fill a space rather than be truly beautiful. Unless it’s mad cheap (like our $15 Lack entertainment center from Ikea) it’s not worth buying placeholder pieces that you don’t love and see fitting in with the rest of your design scheme.

  55. What a great post! Thank you for admitting your past design mistakes – it makes it easier to admit mine too! I made a huge miss in the paint colors for our kitchen and living room – the color on the wall was no where near the samples I chose. When I saw it going on, I knew it wasn’t right, but I didn’t stop it. Yea, paint is cheap, but not when you hired a professional the first time and have 12 ft+ ceilings! Having to live with it for awhile but hoping I might be able to at least handle the kitchen and hallway myself (open floor plan so it’s not as simple as repainting one room) and live with the living room for awhile.

    1. We did this with our family room. We thought we picked the right color, but once it was all up, we realized that the color we picked for the accent wall should have been the whole room. We have to live with it for the time being, as the room is both huge and has a vaulted ceiling and I do NOT want to paint it all again so soon. But luckily, paint isn’t something that’s hard to fix, so there’s that. 🙂

  56. I’ve heard the “HIGH and WIDE” story from designers and I would love to execute that at home but EVERY.SINGLE.ROOM. in my house has bay windows AND nice thick trim AND picture rail above the windows (Yes, I know! A good problem to have!). But how do you place curtains when “HIGH” covers up all that trim/picture rail and when “WIDE” means obscuring the adjacent window (there is literally inches between each of the three or five windows in our bays)? I currently have drapes I sewed on tension rods hanging INSIDE the windows or (for almost 6 YEARS!) HELP?!

  57. Hi Emily
    When you say you love engineered flooring and wished you had gone with that instead in your home – what reasons did you find after that fact to lead you to that wish? Thanks.

    1. Sorry! Meant to post this on your January 12 Blog
      Design Mistake: Anything ‘antiqued’ or ‘faux old’ posted by Emily Henderson

  58. I love this post! Your honesty is so refreshing and we’ve all made mistakes, so it’s reassuring that even the pros do as well.
    Here are mistakes we made in my house, especially the kitchen:

    1. Expensive sandblasted glass tiles for backsplash. Sandblasted, unlike glossy glass, goes completely flat and has no luminosity once you apply it to the wall. In square tiles, rather than subway tiles, a beautiful green glass tile ended up looking 70s ugly. And that is not easy to change!

    2. Old-fashioned linoleum tile floors. They looked beautiful and feel natural, but they are a bear to maintain. No one in this day and age should have to be waxing and stripping!! Bad idea!!

    3. Fireslate countertops (also known as “labtop”) (are you sensing a theme here? Trying to do something a little “different” that looked beautiful at first but didn’t work out?!) Again, these are a bear to maintain. They looked like slate and were more durable and less expensive. In reality, they needed to be sealed regular with a special kind of oil that was very hard to find, and have you ever really thought about how hard it is, especially with young kids and a small kitchen, to take EVERYTHING off your countertops, apply the sealer and let it dry for 24 hours? Needless to say, we didn’t keep up on sealing them and they stained TERRIBLY–anything acidic especially. It looks like an explosion happened on my kitchen counters–not very appealing or hygienic looking.

    4. A coffee table with somewhat sharp wooden edges (it was a tray-style top) that was lethal to small toddlers. Of course small toddler meltdown in the store was what led to the hasty coffee table decision in the first place. Now we have a long tufted leather ottoman as our coffee table and it is SO much better! Comfortable for us (fantastic for propping your feet up) and the kids, very durable, has stood up to everything.

    5. Buying plants each year in dribs and drabs, rather than having someone help us with a cohesive scheme in the beginning and investing each year in plants and bushes that would create a fabulous overall garden and landscape.

    And by the way, I’m not sure I agree about the curtains. You obviously know best, but I’ve seen ones that hug the ceiling and leave way too much empty space between the windows and crown molding. I thought the rule of thumb was to more or less split the difference when you’re hanging the curtain rod?

    Thanks again for your candor! So helpful! Scale, in particular, can be so hard to get right!

  59. Building from scratch right now, big mistakes I’ve made as a first time home builder:

    -light fixtures too small! i ordered online and thought “Oh that sounds plenty big!” and then was disappointed when they were installed.

    -assuming the electrician will have common sense. I had plugs installed where cabinetry was going, light switches placed in an odd spot that makes a good spot for a piece of furniture useless, and the most awkwardly placed front door scones I’ve ever seen. All expensive mistakes I shouldn’t have assumed.

    And a million other things! It’s all live and learn I suppose. 🙂

  60. I too had a mad crush on the blue couch but, a girl must move on when the romance becomes tired. I like a feature wall if it really says something. Your wall should be saying a lot more. Cut your losses and Emilize it!!

  61. These by far are the most beautiful mistakes ive ever seen.
    I am also using a lot of the same colors as you and just adore your aesthetic.
    We just purchased our first home this summer and as a stay at home mom I’ve been decorating slowly but surely so i have not quite encountered any mistakes as of yet.
    I find that i tend to hold back on doing anything or making any impulse purchases until i am sure it will work in the space.
    I’m usually designing on a dime and re-purposing stuff.
    I tend to do a ton of research and reading on design as I am an amateur for sure.
    Thank you for all your posts and your candid honesty.
    Hoping to make some beautiful mistakes in the future !

  62. Super useful post, as usual. I gotta be honest that it’s nice to see that experts are humans too haha! Good thing is that you’re able to recognise and rectify them relatively easily as compared to someone say, like me! All the best! xx

  63. The mistake I keep making is in choosing lamps … Wrong size wrong aesthetic , wrong colour, wrong shade shape or size. An Emily guideline piece would be good. Meanwhile I’ll keep moving them around the house….

    1. oh…YES!!! I would LOVE an Emily ‘Lamp Dos & Donts’!!! Plus, reasonably priced sources for both lamps and LAMPSHADES!!! Really, I LOVE vintage lamps, but what do I put on them for a lampshade??!!?!

  64. Oh, a couple design errors:

    -Failing to appreciate scale for expensive non-returnable purchase (GIANT vintage chandelier, but no way, no how for old house with 8 ft ceilings)

    -Installing authentic but THICK encaustic tiles that look like a million bucks while failing to lower the floor, making the kitchen and mudroom significantly higher than the surrounding wood floors

    -Failing to be present for countertop install, resulting in counter with a badly placed fat seam at the sink (we had specifically requested that no cut be made there)

  65. I am a designer and very recently made an epic mistake…
    Our daughter moved out of the house and took all of her bedroom furniture with her. (Happy to get her started in her first place!) An empty bedroom was a super exciting prospect. I went back and forth about what size bed would be best. Boy, did I choose wrong. I decided that twin beds for my husband’s grandchildren would be best. They were vintage and adorable. Problem was that NO ONE EVER SLEPT IN THEM! EVER!!! The grandchildren slept with their parents and the room sat empty. No adult wants to sleep in a twin bed! Meanwhile, one of the grandchildren broke their toddler bed, so off the twin beds went to save the little rascal. (And his parents!) Queen size bed coming on Thursday…

  66. I feel like I’m listening to the voice in my head and I’ve made all the same mistakes. Wallpaper accent wall crisis over here too. I think I have to have some wine now. xo

  67. If you don’t hate the idea, you could have someone add on a foot or so of fabric to the curtains. Would create a stripe effect, but it would be 1000x cheaper than buying all new curtains. I’ve done that before with curtains that I really loved that weren’t quite long enough for a new space we moved into. It looked like they were made that way.

  68. It’s not a huge deal, but I did an Otomi print stencil in a stairwell and the yellow paint I chose doesn’t contrast enough with the cream paint in the background (which is a semi-gloss and should probably be flat). So, the pattern doesn’t pop like it should. Sigh. I will probably go back and redo it one of these weekends when I’m feeling turbo-charged.

  69. My most recent design foible is doing an awesome Otomi print stencil in a stairwell, yet choosing a yellow paint that doesn’t contrast enough with the cream background paint of the wall. Also using a semi gloss for the background that creates a slight glare that further keeps the print from popping. Sigh. I will redo it one of these weekends.

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  71. Emily- I LOOOOOVVVVEEE your white & leather sofa. I think it photographs SO well!!! if you ever want to sell it, please let me know! It would look perfect in my room. I actually just bought a small sofa for our space, but I thought about yours!!!

  72. I loved this post – so nice to know we all make mistakes even the pros.

    My biggest fail was not splurging on great furniture when I could have squeezed it in the budget. Now that my pieces are showing their age I am faced with either reupholstering so so furniture or shelling out for new – plus cost of slipcovers which are nonnegotiable with 2 dogs and 2 boys.

    Big mistake in the kitchen reno was not making sure the finished cabinet color would work with the ceasarstone. Did not consider the impact my honey wood floors would have on the cabinets. Cabinets look dingy compared to super white countertops. I wish I was otherwise wired but I notice it EVERYTIME I walk in my kitchen.
    Eventually I will deal with it but it might be easier to sell my house!

  73. Buying all brown furniture because that was what I grew up with. My first set of couches were brown when I got out of college and since I spent real $$ on them, I didn’t want to just turn around and donate them.

    Brown on brown is so boring…

  74. CROWD SOURCING PAINT OPTIONS. That was a HUGE failure. Luckily it was for the walls in my tiny bathroom so it was a quick fix. But I learned that when picking paint for your bathroom, it’s a good idea to pick a color that looks good with your skin tone so you’ll look lovely in the mirror while getting ready!

  75. Great post. The drapery situation is definitely something I notice in a room and it’s like magic the “lift” they can give a room. It’s painful how much custom costs, but one affordable fix might be to add a contrasting/coordinating band across the bottom to gain more height. I suppose you could also add a bit to the interior edges to gain width as well.

  76. Hey Emily,
    Regarding the wallpaper issue, I’ve always thought that if you do wallpaper on only one wall, why not just paint the rest of the room a color that either matches perfectly or coordinates with the wallpaper? This way it’s subtle but also looks intentional. Thoughts?

  77. Biggest regret is going with 4″ wide white oak hardwood floors instead of 5″ or even 4.5″. Only an 1″ difference but will bother me always! . Just a 15 year old house so there was no historical need for narrow so not sure why I decided that!

  78. I love this post!! Even with the best laid plans, hindsight is a killer. There is always something to learn on every project! Thanks for sharing!!

  79. I agree with one of the other comments…”you don’t suffer from skinny drape disease”. It makes me nuts to see a single width of fabric on either side of double doors and wide windows. Just a pet peeve of drapery maker. As for the length of the drapes…have a seamstress take out the hem. It’s surely a double 4″ hem, giving you 8″ to work with. Still a hassle though. Really great post!

  80. LOVE this post… You’re awesome! I miss (and LOVED) the couch, too. I have a weird question that refers back to your wallpaper ‘mistake’. I have plaster of some sort on my walls like, when we took down a wall, it looked like 2 layers of drywall but the top layer, that you see and touch (and attempt, yet fail to pound nails into) is plaster. A friend did some drywall spackling on it, before we knew it was plaster and now it is horrible, like it shrunk? and is curling? so weird… QUESTION: What product would YOU be using, if you took down that wallpaper and did the whole big messy plaster repair, and sanding sanding sanding? OR, what am I lookingasking for in a professional repair?

  81. My biggest design mistake was painting my daughter’s nursery a color that can only be described as Mountain Dew green. Yuck! I wanted to go lighter, but started second guessing myself, and then ended up matching it to the fabric of the bedding in the room. Big mistake! Thankfully I realized my mistake, and went back to the paint store to get the color I originally wanted and it was perfect!

  82. I wonder if it might be easier to cover the wallpaper with new drywall (say, 1/4″ if the walls are not bumpy)? Sanding wallpapered walls is not my favorite thing to do-

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