My Biggest Design Regrets – And What You Can Learn From Them

My Biggest Design Regrets_Emily Henderson Guest Room_Curtains

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 #5: 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.

The post My Biggest Design Regrets – And What You Can Learn From Them appeared first on Emily Henderson.


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