Worst Decorating Mistakes

By Fred Albert

I recently wrote an article for Houzz in which I acknowledged the dumbest decorating decisions I'd ever made. More than 300 of you responded with your own tales of woe. Most of them fell into four categories:

1. Painting anything yellow.
2. Furniture that wouldn't fit through doorways.
3. Leaving town while someone worked on your home.
4. Painting anything yellow.

Because it can take a while to read 300 comments, I collected some of the most memorable tales from fellow Houzzers to share with you. Schadenfreude alert: Some of the following stories may cause involuntary laughter. Don't resist.

Note: Photos are for illustration purposes only and do not portray the actual disasters described.

Color Trouble
Once my color-blind husband picked the color to paint our traditional home. He said it was tan. I came home to a lavender house.

I love the color purple, so I wanted one room in purple. Well, it looks like Barney puked all over the walls.

When building our first house I painted the whole house what seemed to be gray with a purple undertone. My first mistake was in not understanding how tough it is to get gray right. My second mistake was not getting a test pot and trying it out in the space. My third mistake was being out of town when the painters did the job. "Slight purple undertone" was Barney purple. My entire home. Needless to say, my husband was less than pleased having to repaint it. All I can say is test pots, test pots, test pots.

I painted a two-story Florida room a Pepto-Bismol pink called "Rose." Then paid the painters to come back and repaint the room Bennington Grey. Only my husband was so mad at me he only let them paint one coat! The results actually turned out interesting - a mauve that shifts around in color from morning to evening. I can't tell you how many people have asked me the paint color. ("Well, it's complicated ...")

A few days prior to a huge Thanksgiving gathering I noticed how dingy our living/dining room looked and decided to paint it a cheerful and bright color. Went and picked out something called "English Rose." When I tested it on a small area of the wall, it looked quite nice, so I painted the whole room. Once finished, I stepped back to look. To my horror, my "English Rose" room looked as if it had been painted in Pepto-Bismol - not the look I wanted just prior to Thanksgiving ... or anytime, actually!

comfy by design
When I was in design school I decided to paint my kitchen yellow. "Wow" is all I can say. I felt like I had been swallowed by Big Bird!

I once painted my kitchen a lemongrass green. Everyone, no matter the skin tone, looked ill or jaundiced under the cast of this awful color I put up with for six years.

I trusted my husband to pick yellow paint for the exterior of our home. The salesperson convinced him the paint would fade. It was neon yellow. People passing by would stop and laugh. I had to have it repainted.

Stacey at Dohiy.com
Two words: periwinkle kitchen.

Gemma McLuckie
Picking fabric to reupholster chairs while nine months pregnant. Went to hospital to have baby. A few weeks later, newly covered chairs arrived. Yikes! Pumpkin - in indestructible 1970s Naugahyde. Those chairs haunted me for years and are probably putting out radioactive orange rays to this day. Luckily, I made a much better choice with the baby. She's still quite lovely.

Brown Thumbs
Whenever I place an indoor plant in my shopping cart, I try to resist the urge to yell, "Dead plant rolling!" on my way to the checkout counter.

Karen Robinson
I killed two fig trees, a couple dozen African violets, uncounted ferns and cacti, and a devil's ivy, before I finally accepted that I cannot be trusted with a living plant. If North Carolina (where I live) put me in charge of keeping all the kudzu alive, the entire state would be kudzu-free within the year.

Size Matters

My master bedroom furniture looks like I shopped at the Shaquille O'Neal Design Institute. The headboard alone is so big, three burly deliverymen struggled to haul it upstairs.

Shelley Ferguson
I searched for the perfect cool-looking sofa at a consignment store. Found it! Bought it! Didn't measure to see if it would fit through any door of my house! It sits in my garage still six months later.

Becky Blackburn
Bought this beautiful four-poster bed for a steal at an estate sale. I had always wanted one and could not pass this up. Brought it home (paid a ridiculous delivery charge plus tip), put the bed in the master bedroom, then the box spring and mattress did not fit by ½ inch on either side! I then began my research on the Internet. My new bed frame was made in Mexico, and Mexico's standard queen is 59 inches, when the U.S. standard queen is 60 inches!

Buyer Beware

Tried for years to have children: expensive medical bills, no responses from adoption agencies. Bought a very attractive white sofa. That did the trick - two little boys in less than one year.

Buying a giant glass-topped table. It was really way too big for our dining room, plus it was really only practical when we had 8 or 10 people sitting there; the table was just way too wide. My husband told me that if I wanted to get rid of it, I'd have to carry the glass out to the curb myself. We kept it for several years, then ... offered the table for free on Craigslist and Kijiji. Someone did pick it up - so now it's their problem!

I bought a custom sofa over the Internet without ever sitting on it. Down cushions, extra slipcover - the works. It was so uncomfortable! I lived with it for two years, then sold it to a friend for 50 bucks.

Having a larger glass top made with beveled edges for a coffee table base. The corners weren't rounded, and it seemed that everyone who came to visit gashed their leg on it, even when warned. Still I kept it, until the family started calling it "the table of death."

Charmean Neithart Interiors, LLC
Beautiful antique trunk with gorgeous hardware, patina'd leather and ... beetles! Aack! Straight to the exterminator!

I saw one of those strange-looking ergonomic wheeled chairs on clearance at the office supply store - the kind where you have to look at it a couple of times to figure out which of your body parts go where. I took it home and when I went to sit on it, it scooted across the floor with me halfway on and halfway off. No wonder it was so inexpensive. I was afraid I'd get hurt, so I put it out at the curb and one of my neighbors scarfed it up. It was out at the curb in front of her house a couple of days later.

I listened to the tile installer who said I should go with a light-colored grout with the dark brown textured tiles, when I had originally chosen a grout that matched. Now my shower looks like a prison cell.

e design
Dumbest decorating decisions? Buying anything "temporary." There is nothing more permanent than something temporary.

Seller Beware

I was turning 40 and had spent a lifetime assembling a collection of really fun, eclectic furniture, artwork and accessories. Somehow I got it into my head that "grown-ups" have furniture that actually matches, so I went out one day and bought brand-new furniture for the entire apartment. I put ads on Craigslist and basically ended up giving [the old furniture] away. As much as I love my lovely mission-style cherry furniture, five years later I still regret letting go of all those colorful, unique pieces that actually reflected my history and true personality.

Keep It Clean

Spent decades accruing things I love: 2D and 3D. Now, getting them to live "peaceably" with the couches and chairs can be a challenge. I cannot imagine selling them to strangers. Every time I cough, my daughters look at each other worriedly.

jill clothier
My biggest decorating mistake was the black and white checkerboard floor in the bathroom. I thought it was going to look so classy and elegant. And it does - for about 10 seconds after I clean it. Solid black and solid white show everything: dog hair, cat hair, people hair, dirt, lint etc. That floor doesn't hide a thing. And did I mention it's the only bathroom in the house? I could mop that floor every day and it would still look dirty 95 percent of the time.

Rustic Mexican Talavera tiles with white grout on the kitchen counters. What the $#^@&*% was I thinking? I loved the look for the first month or so, then liquids started invading the grout lines, despite sealing. Someone who doesn't know me well suggested scrubbing the grout lines regularly with an old toothbrush. Like that's going to happen. Then the edges started wearing off the uneven tile surfaces from sliding plates, glasses and so on, and hairline cracks appeared in the glaze. Yuck. After seven years, I'm remodeling the kitchen again, and this time it will be dark Formica.

I bought lined curtains (four pairs) for my living room. When they needed cleaning I had them dry cleaned to the tune of over $200! The next time they needed cleaning, I decided to do it myself. Huge mistake! The curtains shrank but the lining didn't! The lining hung down 4 inches below the curtains.

Do not "puddle" drapes with cats. They brought the original meaning of the word to the bottom of the drapes.


Apartment 46 for the Home
I moved into a rental and hated all the plastic blinds on the windows. I spent my own money on beautiful woven roll-up blinds. Love! I noticed, though, that all the cords were too long. I cut them all to a more manageable length ... then I tried to roll the blinds down. The too-short cords disappeared up into the blind, never to be seen again. My husband came in and asked me why I didn't cut them with the blinds already down. Well, no s**t, Sherlock! There they stayed in their crooked, diagonal, half-up/half-down state while I:
1. Cried
2. Developed a swearing problem
3. Went broke replacing my replacement blinds.

I gold-leafed the ceiling once. When one of my friends came to see it, after warning me not to do that, she just nodded and said, "Just like I expected - it looks like a whorehouse." After that, anytime I had guests over they would focus on the ceiling. I just knew they were thinking what my friend had said.

David Kramer
I was painting shutters for my son using a spray painter. I set the sprayer down, stepped back to admire my work, caught my foot on the hose and ended up spray-painting half the contents of his garage, the driveway and myself. Haven't used a sprayer since!

Hanging a lightweight tapestry on a rod supported by "no damage" strips just before company arrives. Ten minutes into conversation and crash. Well, now we have a new topic of conversation.

Pauline Lorincz
In the '70s, when the boys were little, I papered one wall of their bedroom with a cute and very child-friendly wallpaper. Shortly afterward one of them caught a cold. I filled up a vaporizer, turned it on and shut the door to keep the steam in. In the morning I walked into the room to find the paper had peeled off all the walls.

'Nuff said!

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