Think all home designers must have the most perfect dwellings imaginable? While it’s true that they’ve been trained to choose the right colors, fixtures, and furniture to make a space look amazing, they do make mistakes—even in their own homes.

“Designers often learn from their own mistakes, and our homes typically serve as personal laboratories where we experiment with new ideas,” explains Ana Cummings of the eponymous design firm.

Want proof? Check out these stories from design experts who’ve made missteps in their own homes, and consider them fair warning on what not to do in your own abode.


1. A bathroom door that doesn’t stay shut

Photo by Peace Design 

Stephanie Thornton Plymale, president and CEO of the Heritage School of Interior Design, loves the farmhouse look, so she put in a barn door that slides over the toilet area of her master bath.

“While it looks beautiful, it’s also a privacy disaster because it occasionally opens on its own, which is a bit compromising at times,” she explains.

The fix: “I wish I’d gone with a normal door or pocket door with a latch, but I just live with it since the whole bathroom also has an exterior door,” she says.

2. Uncomfortable floor tile that’s hard to clean

Photo by clé tile

Flooring mistakes abound, and this one comes courtesy of Jamie Gold, a design consultant and author of several books on kitchens and baths.

“I was choosing finishes for the Tampa home I bought before I was a designer,” she says. Her newbie status led her to choose tile in a too-small size with light-colored grout for her large, open-plan kitchen.

“Despite sealing, it was a constant maintenance headache,” she admits. “Plus it was hard to stand on for very long.”

The fix: She ended up keeping the tile but offset the hardness—and protect against spills—with a floor mat that she still owns today.

3. Hard-to-repair appliances

Photo by Design Moe Kitchen & Bath / Heather Moe designer 

Debra Kling, a certified color consultant and home decor expert, cites her rare fridge as a mistake in the making.

“When I was remodeling my Tudor cottage, I became enamored with a novel narrow refrigerator that looked like it had drawers,” she explains. So Kling bought this unique appliance, and adores it.

The problem? Since then, she’s learned that this unusual fridge had been discontinued, which makes it nearly impossible to order new parts for and repair.

“If and when this beloved item fails—and I’m told it will happen—I’ll have to remove a huge part of my kitchen to fit a new one,” she laments.

The fix: Kling urges homeowners to skip unproven appliances. As for her offbeat fridge? She handles it with kid gloves.

“I watch over this item as if it were another child and also vacuum the vents all the time to prevent the engine from seizing,” she says.

4. Pretty furniture without enough storage

Photo by Providence Design

Plymale experienced another bathroom fail with her choice of a vintage vanity in her powder room.

“I took out the built-in cabinets, put in the new piece, and thought the look was stunning,” she says. “But I had no storage for essentials.”

The fix: Plymale ended up adding a shelf in her half-bath, which helped but also made the room feel more cramped.

“Don’t get caught up in appearances—think about function, too,” she warns.

5. A shower head that sprays the whole bathroom

Photo by Emery Design Associates, LLC 

Cummings actually won a national award for the design of her own en suite master bathroom, though it does contain one significant flaw.

“It’s completely aesthetically pleasing, but the shower head faces toward the glass entry door,” she admits. “So if the head isn’t swiveled toward one of the walls prior to turning the valve on, water goes right out of the stall and onto the floor.”

The fix: When a shower sprays around a bathroom, you’d best make sure it won’t do major damage. The solution is to tile everything, since this keeps the surface waterproof.

“My bathroom is tiled, floor to ceiling,” she says. “But I still wish I had thought about the shower head some more.”

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