I won’t sugarcoat it… today’s topic is slightly controversial. There are several pitfalls I see when it comes to renovating and decorating a home, and even if they’re not pretty, I do feel that it’s my responsibility to share them with you. You deserve to live joyfully and proudly in your forever home. If I can help you get there (directly or indirectly), I will!
So, what is one of the most common hurdles homeowners face when designing their homes? It looks like this…
Most likely to thwart your forever home? The Stop.
In most design projects, you usually have two phases. First, there’s the build or renovation phase. Then, there’s the decorating phase, where you layer in your furnishings and decor. Well, somewhere in between these two, something happens that most of us don’t expect… the build phase gets completed and then homeowners just… STOP.
There are a few reasons behind this:
1. Overstretched Investment. They accidentally spend their entire budget on the build or renovation phase and have nothing left for new furnishings. This means moving old furnishings into a new space, which can make the home feel dated (again) and leave you with feelings of incompleteness and dissatisfaction.
2. Project Fatigue. Builds and renovations aren’t quick, overnight situations. They take time and emotional stamina, especially if you are living in the space during construction. For many homeowners, once they’ve made it through this phase, they simply want to rest and relax, and they tell themselves they’ll get to decorating later. (I can tell you from meeting these clients myself 1, 2, even 5+ years later, they didn’t get around to it.)
3. DIY Expectations. The third reason for an unexpected halt in creating their forever homes is that they think decorating is the easy bit and plan to do it themselves. Instead of hiring professionals to get it done efficiently and perfectly, they attempt it on their own and quickly realise they have bitten off more than they can chew. The project comes screeching to a halt in the midst of decision overwhelm, uncertainty, and in many cases, after investing in the wrong high-ticket items, the fear of making more costly mistakes.
The sad reality in these scenarios is that the home rarely gets completed how the homeowners originally imagined it. Instead of becoming the forever home they dreamed of, it’s more of a somewhere-in-between, decorating purgatory. This breaks my heart because decorating really does make the design. It is NOT something you can skimp on and still expect the same results. For example, take the two photos below.
This first photo was my inspiration for an interior design project we did for a Heritage Home in Ainslie.
I fell in love with this living room and the luxurious, classic look of the three gorgeous French doors. It became my inspiration for our client’s interior design project, but when the time came to decorate, you can guess what happened… they hit the brakes on their decorating phase.
Here, the three French doors look bare and naked compared to the inspiration photo. Elegant, flowing drapery would have made these windows appear continuous and the room would have felt taller, too. Instead, the doors look segmented and cold. It’s missing a welcoming softness and comfort. I definitely don’t want to make them feel bad — it’s more that I feel bad for them! They deserved to have a complete, finished space that was as beautiful as they originally wanted.
Which brings me to my point… These two photos perfectly illustrate the difference between interior design and decorating: design creates the bones, while decorating completes the space!
My goal is always to spare our clients from having to stop after the build. You deserve your forever home and not a halfway-there version. So let’s talk about a few ways we can avoid this distressing situation altogether…
How to avoid an incomplete design project
To recap, these are the 3 most common reasons a decorating project doesn’t get completed…
- Spending the entire investment on the build or renovation
- Losing motivation after an exhausting build phase
- Thinking that decorating is the easy bit that can be done yourself
And some solutions for each…
1. Budget from the beginning
First, it’s worth mentioning that “running out” of money has very little to do with someone’s financial situation. It’s simply that homeowners’ intended investment reached its maximum before they could decorate. Even those with the deepest pockets can accidentally allocate their whole investment into the design and renovation phase.
The best way to avoid this situation is to budget wisely from the beginning. If you can factor the cost of decorating into your project budget from the start, you will be far more likely to see the success you wish for. You might choose less expensive taps or tiles if you knew that those expensive ones you had your eye on would put an end to decorating your home. (Or at the very least, you won’t get a rude shock later!)
However, I also know that most people struggle to create a budget without some professional guidance — it’s very difficult to gauge a realistic investment if you haven’t gone through a home redesign before. This is where we can help.
Here’s how we can help:
- Download our free Guide to Budgeting a Decorating Project
- Purchase our Build Project Design Organiser (to organise and budget design elements)
- Book a Design Strategy Session to get our expertise during the planning process
2. Build and decorate in tandem
Even with a fantastic builder you are very likely to be tired after the build. That’s just the nature of it. But wouldn’t it be great to have all of your rooms totally kitted out as soon as your builder hands it over? (So you don’t have to wait 2 more years?) Yes, it can be done.
Decorating decisions could be made in conjunction with your build decisions for maximum harmonious effect. The builder can then build in any necessary decorating features, such as power for automated curtains and blinds or special joinery for libraries, wall panelling centred around special art pieces and furniture. The list goes on.
Pro Tip: If you think that the builder’s in-house designer who helped you pick “colours” during your build can implement decorating — I’m sorry to say it, but no, they usually can’t. That’s simply not their expertise. You need a professional decorator to do it and do it well. I wish I was overstating things, but I have seen too many sad situations where the clients didn’t get what they envisioned and called us years later to remedy the room and breathe some life back into their dreams.
Long story short: Trust a true decorating professional, and do the building and decorating in tandem, and you’re far more likely to get a home that you love and are proud of.
And if this sounds like a lot to finance all at once, go back up to Part 1… a little strategy in your initial budget will help you manage your investment for a move-in ready forever home that exceeds your expectations. (Cue the housewarming party!)
Go here for several ways we can help, from 1-on-1 advice to item selections to done-for-you rooms you’ll love for years to come.
This renovation in Deakin was an in-tandem design-build-decorate project and it turned out magnificently! It was also selected for House and Gardens top 50 rooms. 😉
3. Remember that decorating is a skill…and mistakes are expensive
And lastly, to those who believe they can decorate on their own. Yes, of course you can, but I can promise you that it won’t be the same as a professional’s work. Again, not commenting on your decorating prowess, just sharing what I have our clients have told us.
“Isn’t it just picking out curtains and a sofa?” Definitely not… I have lost count of how many clients have told me stories about trying to decorate themselves… investing in sofas (or rugs) that are either too big or too small… buying one piece at a time over several years… living with furniture that they truly loathe (looking at you, puffy recliner).
Those years of aggravation could have instead been spent living in comfort and sophistication, proudly inviting over friends and family.
Scale matters. Space planning matters. Materials and style and colour matter. If you thought there were a lot of decisions to be made when building, there can be just as many with decorating. It’s not nearly as easy as you think (and decorating mistakes can also be expensive). I think we have all lived with at least one piece of furniture we found unsatisfactory, even irksome, day after day. That’s all well and good for your first home (as you learn your tastes and preferences), but if you’re investing in your forever home… don’t you deserve better? I certainly think so.
So please, take the stress off yourself to do it all alone. (And don’t let your husband pressure you to become a professional decorator overnight!! Yes, I’ve seen that, too.) Instead, let a professional decorator guide you. It will be WORTH getting a forever home that you will truly love to live beautifully in.
How we can help:
- Choose Your Own Adventure (get just the bits you need)
- Ask an Expert (work with us 1-on-1 over Zoom to plan your layout, select furnishings, and guide you to decorating like a pro)
- Full Service Custom Decorating (hand over the keys and we’ll do it all for you)
- Luxe Custom Decorating (for full-home, done-for-you decorating from concept to installation)
Before I wrap this post up, I just want to share some encouragement. Even though many discouraged people have come to us over the last decade, we have always seen them to the other side – the side where they have the home of their dreams and an environment in which to live well, entertain proudly, and feel truly at home.
Helping you take pride in your home is my passion and life’s work, so if you have questions, I hope you will reach out and ask. Or book a 15-minute discovery call with me. With a plan and a guide by your side, your forever home is more than possible — it’s closer than you think. Why wait?