6 Things An Interior Designer Would Never Buy

Have you ever watched a home makeover on HGTV and wondered how the interior designer achieved such amazing results? There are some rules of what to do and what not to do that even you and I can follow.

By Paula Gallagher3 min read

It seems to me that interior design is one of those creative areas where you need to have a knack, a flair, an innate talent for it to really shine. Or, if you're like me and your creative talents lie in other areas, then you have to learn the principles, study what other talented designers do, and practice, practice, practice. (Who else has rearranged their furniture just for fun?) Regardless of which group we fall into, we can all benefit from having insider knowledge about what not to put in our homes if we want them to look stylish, cohesive, and expensive.

Here are six things that interior designers have strong opinions about:


Rugs are one topic where most interior designers have an opinion; however, there seem to be two different camps about rugs. One camp argues for investing in higher quality rugs made of natural materials like wool or cotton blends as they will hold up better and longer. Bethany Adams of Bethany Adams Interiors tells Real Simple, “I get it – carpeting is expensive! But when you compare the lifetime costs of maintaining and then replacing cheap man-made fiber carpeting with a high-quality wool carpet, you will find the costs are similar. Wool carpet is naturally flame-resistant, which makes it a safe choice for nurseries and kids' rooms.”

The other camp argues for cheaper synthetic rugs because rugs get worn out or stained or you want to refresh your style and you need to replace the rug. Designer Kate Dawson argues that “Most people want to change up the decor in their home every five or six years, so why spend $8,000 on a rug, when you can get a great rug for $500 that you can swap out down the line if you want to? Buying a lower-end rug gives you more versatility for the space down the line. You won't feel like you're forced to use the rug since it didn't break the bank.”

Whichever camp you personally fall into is up to you and your preferences. If you like changing up your interior design periodically, then choose a cheaper rug. If you’re a once-and-done type person and you prefer high quality pieces, then choose the wool rug. That being said, all interior designers will insist on purchasing the correct size rug for the space.


Window treatments, however, are an area that all interior designers can agree on. Blinds are out. Full stop. Instead, interior designers prefer Roman shades, woven wooden shades, or drapery. If you go the curtain route, you want to use the curtain placement and size to create the illusion of space. Award-winning designer Marie Flanigan tells PureWow, “When it comes to drapery hardware, always think taller (especially in a home with lower ceilings). The goal is for your ceilings to feel as open and airy as possible. Install drapery hardware three to six inches beyond the window frame for the illusion of wider windows, and four to six inches above the frame for the illusion of added height!”

Matching Furniture Sets

Another topic that one interior designer echoed after another in my research was that matching furniture sets are anathema. Avoid full bedroom sets like the plague. Yes, it takes the guesswork out of arranging furniture when you buy matching pieces, but the finished result lacks character and interest. Furniture should feel collected, and many interior designers recommend incorporating at least one antique piece per room to make the space feel established and grounded and give it character. Also, when shopping for furniture, give the futon a hard pass. 

“The goal when creating a home is to look layered, interesting, and unique to you,” Chicago-based interior designer Julie Mitchiner of JAM Interior Design tells The Spruce. “It shouldn't be 'one size fits all.’ Find individual items you really love – not just copy and paste out of a catalog.” 

Mass Produced Art

You will also never see an interior designer buying mass produced art. Sorry, Hobby Lobby, but your art and sign section is loved by too many people and can be found in too many homes. Instead, many designers recommend shopping thrift stores, community art shows, Etsy, or directly from artists to find good deals on unique art you don’t have to worry you’ll see at your neighbor’s house. You also want to avoid buying art that matches the room’s color palette too closely. Use art to create visual interest and focal points; you don’t want it to blend in so seamlessly that no one ever notices it.

Faux Plants

One item you might feel tempted to purchase while you’re browsing the thrift store is faux plants, trees, or flowers. But interior designers suggest you leave them on the shelf and instead invest in living plants. Bringing in live plants adds life to your home (and it cleans your air!). Besides, who really wants more dusty plastic things in their life? There are many lists of indoor plants for beginners to get you started.

Harsh Lighting

Lastly, lighting is a big area of what not to do in interior design. You can save money with cheaper light fixtures and then invest in custom lampshades that inject color, patterns, texture, and personality into the room. Lauren Buxbaum and Sasha Adler, Design Directors at Nate Berkus Associates, also recommend avoiding fluorescent floor lamps as “they can be very unflattering.”

Buxbaum and Adler tell Elle Decor, "Incandescent and soft lighting floor lamps are just as accessible, but they're easier on the eyes, prettier in the space, and do wonders for your complexion."

Closing Thoughts

This short checklist should be a good starting point for a home revamp. Swap out items over time (maybe start with any fake plants you definitely do not have) and give your home a glow-up!

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