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Common Mistakes in Interior Design

As an interior designer, I’ve seen a lot of mistakes (and have made a few myself!)  Here are six common mishaps and tips on how to avoid them...with a little help from SketchUp. 

1. Not considering the balance of a space. 

Each element in space contributes to its balance (or imbalance). Characteristics that give visual weight to space are textures, color, mass, unusual shapes, and elaborate details. If space is unbalanced, it may feel like it is lacking something or items will feel out of place.

I like to start with a focal point and then create balance around it to help that focal point shine. Be sure to counterbalance visually heavy elements with other elements that share the weight. A 3D model can be crucial in spotting visual imbalance. 

Common Mistakes in Interior Design

A SketchUp model can help assess the visual weight of a room before orders and installations. 

2. Buying furnishings that are too big or too small.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to the proper scale of furniture in a space. Furniture should fit well with the size of the room as well as the other pieces around it. If this principle is ignored, the room may feel overly delicate and uncomfortable, or on the flip side it may seem “crammed”. 

To avoid this, consider your ceiling height, room size, and other elements in the space. A simple scaled floor plan and elevation for each wall is a great way to start planning and will help guide you while shopping. A 3D model is a great tool for size comparison and allows us to get a full idea of the space. 

Scale can also be a really fun “rule” to break. An oversized light fixture or piece of art can turn heads. However, if you purposely break scale rules using statement pieces, it is even more important that you assess their visual impact on your space in 3D before specifying them.

Visualizing scale in SketchUp

Visualizing scale in SketchUp can quickly help you see the massing of your selections in relation to their surroundings.

3. Not leaving room for negative space.

We all need room to breathe, and our eyes need a place to rest. Creating negative space in a room can help us focus on the key elements and function of a room. If we move through a path in a room, but there is something in our way, we get frustrated by the obstacle. 

The same concept applies as our brains try to make sense of the space we are in. Spaces with appropriate use of negative and positive space are easier for us to take in, and we more quickly move to appreciate the well-thought-out design choices. 

Consider removing unnecessary “obstacles” in a space, whether functionally or visually.

Not leaving room for negative space

Now if I can just get my scale figure to put away his shoes…

4.  Installing something at the wrong height. 

Drapes, light fixtures, artwork… there are so many height decisions to make. A great design selection can feel “off” by being hung at the wrong height. Elevation drawings are a perfect tool for making these decisions. Not only are you able to see the scale, but you can also make decisions based on your eye level.

Installing something at the wrong height

Have you ever stood under a showerhead that is too low? Same. SketchUp can help you avoid that.

5. Starting before a plan is in place. 

When clients make design choices and purchases before considering the parameters and limitations of the space, a typical end result is that their interior designer gets called in a panic. 

While a designer can likely help work through any issues, making a plan ahead of the purchase and installation would make for a much happier process and a better overall design. (Hint: hire a designer at the start of a project when possible.) 

Space planning in SketchUp will make these issues apparent right away and alternate pieces can be suggested… saving time and money! 

Starting before a plan is in place

6. Worrying too much about these rules.

Not much of a rule follower? That’s ok. Consider these tips and then do what makes you happiest. 

To learn more about me and my work you can visit my website Cody Design Studio and SketchUp for Interior Designers


About the Author

Tammy runs Cody Design Studio in San Luis Obispo, CA and teaches SketchUp to interior designers. She enjoys just about everything outdoors from sea level to 14,000 feet.

Profile Photo of Tammy Cody