I (Deb) bought a sofa on sale at the old Famous Barr many years ago... the most comfy sofa ever, but HUGE. It never really fit anywhere I lived. It was perfect for a haunted English manor house: a dark floral pattern, beautiful turned wooden legs. Unfortunately, I have never lived in an English manor house. My mistake: I didn't measure before saying, "Yes, I'll take it!" I know better now! "Too big to fit" is a fairly common mistake in these days of over-sized furniture built for McMansions. And, furniture always looks smaller on the showroom floor: as furniture showrooms are quite a bit bigger than even the biggest living room, this creates an optical illusion that can "bite you in the hind quarters!"
Speaking of furniture that is too big for the room, how about furniture that won't fit through the doorway, or can't make it up the stairwell? Nat remembers the high anxiety of the great bunk bed set she bought for her then pre-school aged son (he's now looking at colleges). When it was delivered she was shocked to find out that it would not fit up the stairwell because it did not break down into sections as she had thought. Ouch!
Another from Deb: Many years ago, I bought a cute and comfy club chair at a garage sale, then went to a retail fabric store and bought a darling white and tan checked fabric to reupholster it. A wonderful upholsterer redid the little chair for me and it looked beautiful...for about a year. What I had unknowingly purchased was regular fabric as opposed to upholstery-grade fabric. The fabric on the chair seat "pilled" after only minimal use. It looked just like mummy bandages (perhaps some creatures of the night were sitting on it while I slept?). My investment was now shabby-looking and not making me happy! I ended up giving the chair away. I now know lots more about upholstery grade fabrics. They are tested for durability and should be marked as to the degree of wear they can tolerate: light, regular, or heavy. No more "Boo Boos!"
Here's one that makes both of us cringe: decorators who will only work with their "signature colors". What if you don't like their colors? Or their taste? The decorator is working to make you happy, not to add you to their haunted menagerie of cookie cutter clients. If you LOVE a decorator's style, yea... but if you don't and they insist, then Girlfriend, you go right ahead and lock the door tight!
It's not just decorators who we occasionally question. We sometimes see odd suggestions in decorating magazines. Some recent questionable advice came in the form of recommendations for an art grouping. The magazine did everything that we, as decorators, try to avoid: they hung art that was unrelated in scale, subject matter, color, or frame-style together on the same wall. We shrieked when they threw in a rack of antlers, painted black, and labeled this arrangement as "chic" and "up-dated". We want you to trust your own taste. When you have questions, need ideas, or support, then hire a decorator (preferably us). Please, do NOT believe everything you read in décor magazines or see on HGTV. Not everything there is right for your home or family. This is where a personal consultation is invaluable.
This one is really scary! Buying paint in the store without ever checking paint samples in the lighting of the room to be painted. The store's lighting is always fluorescent. Your home lighting is mostly natural light from windows plus incandescent. We always send our clients two big 8" X 8" swatches of each color being considered. We suggest that the client tape the samples to their walls and view them during different times of the day and at night to make a final color determination. It is important to see what the color looks like in shadowy corners, too!
Another paint color factor to be considered (Deb having learned this one the hard way) is that bright color swatches turn out to be BRIGHT colored walls! There seems to be a brightness-enhancing factor related to the volume of space covered. The only thing that saved Deb's hot pink bathroom walls from being blindingly bright was the very large piece of artwork used to cover much of the biggest wall.
Are you a sucker for a deal? Here's a hint to remember when going to purchase a sofa: for every $1000 paid, expect to get about 10 years of good wear. So, if you know you will be moving and wanting to redecorate/ to upgrade in ten years or so, go ahead and buy the less expensive sofa. Just don't dream up a "nightmare scenario" for yourself where you get what you paid for...
One last "horror"... back-ordered items. When you want to have the house looking beautiful for a special event, Murphy's Law often will rear its ugly head in the form of that last item to dress the room... to complete your décor project. It may literally be on a slow boat coming from China. We say: "Buyers beware!" of the dreaded back order! Really, the trick is to keep asking the retailer when they expect your item. It is appropriate to ask them to keep checking in with the manufacturer, to keep tabs on your light fixture, rug, or wall covering... Sometimes your continuing requests to check on progress make the difference in how long you will wait. Give only polite and gracious "nudges" so the retail staff will love you and be on your team! No need to be monstrous!