Buying a home for the first time is exciting. With all the information and ideas flowing on those popular HGTV shows, many people think they can be their own interior designers. They feel they have watched JoAnn Gaines on “Fixer Upper” enough that they can follow suit and fill the home with perfectly sized, perfectly colored furniture and décor for their spaces.
Well, for some, they probably could pull it off. But for many, it’s a big no. Melinda Estridge, owner of The Estridge Group, a real estate company in the Washington, D.C. area, has seen too many new homeowners make big mistakes when furnishing their home.
“Many come with a lot of pieces of furniture from relatives and friends. Many of it is mismatching and old,” she says. “But you can refurbish it or paint it to fit in with some of your other stuff.”
Most of her younger clients are moving toward the Crate and Barrel look – simplicity and casual but long lasting.
“The traditional pieces they get from parents and grandparents just don’t match things they want in their homes,” she says. “Setting a plan is important. Look through magazines and websites to come up with color schemes and ideas of what you like.”
Here are some of the big mistakes they make and how to remedy it:
Not hiring an expert
“Many feel like they can’t hire a home stager or decorator,” Estridge says. You don’t have to hire an interior designer for the entire project. You can pay a stager or decorator by the hour to just give you some ideas of what kind of furniture and colors to purchase. Some companies offer online help with your dream spaces, which can cost less $100, depending on your needs.
Ignoring scale of a room
A tiny room just looks odd with a big, oversized sofa no matter how comfy it is. Furniture needs to relate to the home’s style and size. Small vintage furniture in a huge, open floor plan of a contemporary home just looks odd. However, you can always use a few pieces from different eras as accent pieces.
Less is better, Estridge adds. You need to figure out how you will use each room. Will you congregate most of the time in the family or living room, and how many people will actually be there at one time? Would using pull out ottomans from under the sofa table help when you have an overflow? Would a bench by the fireplace give you extra seating on Sundays when friends come over for the game?
Filling all the space on the walls
“Art is very user-specific. Buy what you like,” she explains.
But just like putting too much furniture in a room, you can also go a little crazy on filling each wall. Adding a mirror, painting or shelf here and there can make your home feel lived in. Highlight your best artwork in a prominent place such as above the fireplace or on a big dining room wall. Don’t detract from the best focal points of your room.
Buying too expensive or too cheap furniture
Instead of buying a $5,000 sofa and getting tired of it in a few years, buy something that will look good for four or 5 years, and then you can decide to go a different route without feeling guilty financially, Estridge states. Most people keep a house usually only 5-7 years.
Also, don’t furnish your home so it’s all one style such as Shaker, Santa Fe or modern. Keep it neutral. Inexpensive accessories such as pillows, candles and rugs can add splashes of color and style without breaking the bank. But Estridge says to buy quality. Really inexpensive furniture can fall apart pretty quickly especially if you have kids or pets. You can even consider going to a second-hand furniture store or an estate sale for great deals, or even stores such as Home Goods for designer-style furnishings without big price tags.
Not getting rid of clutter from the old place
“People get used to living around clutter. When you have children, especially, you just keep collecting things,” she says. “People just stop caring and have beat-up lamps and old carpet. Not everyone cares about their surroundings.”
But with a new home, it’s a fresh start. That means getting rid of all that stuff you haven’t touched or used in a few years. Take loads of stuff to the Goodwill and other charity organization thrift stores to rid yourself of the past.