Design disasters to avoid in your home

To die for, or to die over…

Design disasters lurk in the details. It doesn’t matter if you have access to the most stylish furniture and décor as well as an out-of-this-world room concept, getting one seemingly small detail wrong, can mean the difference between a space to die for and a space you’ll want to die over. Common mistakes can sink even the most divine of rooms.

But never fear! BigCityLife knows all too well the havoc that a small misjudgement can wreak on your dream dining room, or would-be New York style loft. That’s why we’ve come up with our list of design chaos you might encounter, while planning your perfect place.

A plan for all seasons
We know we keep talking about having a plan, but it really is an essential part of creating a cohesive space. Come up with a coherent idea of what you want to achieve, and the rest will fall into place.

Consider all elements of the room from the style of furnishing to the choice of colour. This will help to avoid those bad or impulsive shopping decisions, especially when you are working on a room over a number of months.

A place for everything, and everything in its place
A lack of storage is the most common error of home design. Lack of organisation and insufficient storage solutions have a disquieting effect on your home, and can lead to a chaotic feel. It is important to ensure that everything has a place in your place. It doesn’t matter how nice your Imelda Marcos-worthy collection of shoes or thousand-DVD-strong Criterion collection is, if there’s nowhere to put it, it becomes clutter.

Always take into consideration what you’ll need to store or display, and purchase your shelving, cabinets and other storage solutions accordingly. Don’t forget to consider your entertainment systems and their many cables and wires. There are fabulously designed ‘cable organisers’ on the market.

Functional dysfunction
Always consider the function of a particular room when making decisions regarding its decor. Your choice of paint, colour, lighting, fittings, furniture and flooring should all stem from a room’s function.

Think beyond the concepts of “bedroom” or “kitchen”. Practically speaking, a room is a verb, not a noun. Think about spaces in terms of doing. Relaxing or entertaining? Cooking or studying? Some rooms might have more than one function and require you to make choices about creating balance.

Unfinished business
A room is only complete once all pictures have been hung and accessories displayed. Don’t get us wrong, we love minimalism. But it takes a very precise approach to pull off a minimalist space and even then, deft use of a few key accessories is needed to avoid an unfinished look. Remember that your artwork and accessories say a lot about who you are. Adding those small touches of personality is what makes a space inviting, what stamps your personality into the environment. Remember too, that a room is a living space and you might change some things around, or add new touches as time goes by. But a total lack of any artwork or accessories at all, will make a room feel incomplete.

A toxic mix
Some devilishly daring fashionistas may be able to pull off mixing disparate patterns like polka dots and stripes but for most of us, it just looks like we got dressed in the dark. The same thing applies in home décor. Mixing that bright pink Indian-inspired cushion with a traditional floral country couch is ultimately going to look like you shopped exclusively from the local charity shop.

We’re not saying you can’t ever mix different styles together. When done well, eclectic spaces can look just as harmonious as sticking to one style, but we are saying that mixing and matching should be done carefully and conservatively, otherwise it will look chaotic and garish. Disparate design elements should ultimately tie together to form a cohesive whole. But always think carefully before introducing any new element into a room, and consider basic principles of scale, proportion, form and colour.

Colourless colour
Always have an idea of a colour palette when putting together a room. This doesn’t mean that every single object in a room has to be matchy-matchy, but not having a clear colour palette to work around can make a space feel bland and uninspired.

Your colour palette can be as subtle or as bold as you like, from a monochromatic palette that incorporates the same colour in different hues, to the combination of several different colours that complement each other. Start with a single colour and build your palette from there for a modern room filled with energy.

Across dimensions
Misjudging the scale and proportion of your lighting and furniture incorrectly can make a room feel off-balance. Furniture that is too big can overcrowd and stifle a room. On the other hand, filling a room with small pieces can lead to a space feeling positively Lilliputian.

Rather focus on one larger statement piece and complement it with smaller pieces to make a room both aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate. Measure your room beforehand to make sure anything you buy, fits.

Overdoing it
Quality will always win out over quantity. Rather focus on fewer smaller key pieces instead of filling your rooms with every assorted knick knack and impulse-buy that catches your eye. You don’t have to use every idea that crosses your path. Over-furnishing will make your room seem congested and visually noisy.

About me

Creative Director + Photographer and founder/owner of BigCityLife. Ingrid Alice is a Creative High End Commercial & Portrait Photographer who has her feet firmly on the ground and her aesthetic in Wonderland. A true-to-life marketing leader, her approach to brand development and image creation has been shaped by seventeen years in the international creative and design industries. Her practice is grounded in engaging concept driven design and bold advertising strategies. A whimsical flower child with a Rock and Roll Soul.  LOVES horses, vintage cameras, travel and tea.


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