How to Conquer Your Interior Design Phobias


(Photo: Lonny)Sometimes the biggest hurdles to designing your home aren’t money or ideas but the crazy voices inside your head. Here’s a breakdown of common design-related psychological stumbling blocks and solutions for getting over them – and on with the business of creating your ideal space.

Fear of Hardwood Floors in the Kitchen or Bathroom


Once upon a time, people had hardwood floors in their kitchens and bathrooms and the sky did not fall nor did the world end. Tile floors in these rooms, where fear of water damage and hygiene rules, aren’t required by law. In fact, if you have a small space or an open-plan loft or one-story house, one of the secrets to creating flow is keeping flooring consistent throughout the space. If you spill water on a hardwood floor, all you have to do is mop it up. Wood isn’t as slippery as tile. Its lifespan is longer than yours, and, unlike aging skin, tired wood can be refinished.

Fear of Using White in a Family House

The all-white decorating scheme offers an appealing neutral backdrop, a serene atmosphere and an easy way to mix old and new pieces. But parents of young children often fear that white is high maintenance, too hard to live with, and unfriendly to families.

Granted, you might want to think twice before installing a white wall-to-wall carpet in a family house (or any house) but painted white floors can be mopped up, a white cotton slipcovered sofa cover can be bleached. A white laminate table can be wiped clean with a sponge. White walls and furnishings can create a sanity-preserving backdrop in a house riddled with children’s toys in a riot of colors, and white walls are the perfect place to showcase kids artwork. 

Fear of Visible Electrical Wires

Nobody likes staring at an unsightly snarl of electrical wires and cords, but hiding the wires that connect us to light, media, and technology has become a bit of an unhealthy obsession. Cord management can be a sane goal but don’t let it bloom into a neurosis. If you choose the perfect lamp for your bedside table, don’t worry too much about hiding the cord. And if you are a renter who wants to hang sconces or a chandelier but aren’t allowed (or don’t have the budget to pay an electrician) to drill holes into your borrowed walls or ceiling, have it wired as a plug-in and know that nobody is going to be looking at the electrical cord when it’s illuminating your room.

Fear of Color


Neutral spaces are a lifestyle choice that provide a sense of calm and comfort for those who cultivate them. But if you love color, don’t be afraid to embrace it.

Test your appetite for a favorite color by painting the walls. It’s inexpensive, you can do it yourself, and if you change your mind, you can paint right over it. Otherwise, pick a color that makes you happy and incorporate it in small doses.

Before you start investing in colorful pieces, use flowers, fruit or colored candles as a way to test how it feels to live with a certain color. Or invest in small accessories and inexpensive throw pillow covers for a test run. When mixing colors, consider pairing colors that are on the opposite sides of the color wheel – like orange and green or blue and yellow. But it’s your home, so make your own rules.

Fear of Spending Money

Learning how to spend money wisely on home furnishings and decor is a rite of passage into adulthood that nobody prepares us for. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a clear design sense, it can be wise to experiment with secondhand pieces and inexpensive finds. But if you know what you like and plan to be in your home for a while, don’t be afraid to invest in quality pieces that will stand the test of time. Skimp now and you will be replacing things sooner than you think. Invest where you can in those things you use most; then round out the rest of your space with cheap chic accessories or DIY projects.

Fear of Not Spending Money

On the opposite end of the spectrum are people who think that a high price tag means quality and insist on paying over-inflated prices when a less expensive solution will do. Sometimes it takes money to buy excellent craftsmanship, a rare pedigree, or to acquire a rare find, but you should always do your homework – if only comparison-shopping on the web – before spending lots of money on furniture, accessories, or art. Spend your money on room-making items, not on everything. Nobody – including you – should care what you paid for that lamp or table or chandelier or work of art, only how it works in your room.

Fear of Not Having Enough Storage

A place for everything, and everything in its place. Ok, we get that. But since when does every object need a tailor-made coffin? And if you have a built-in closet, do you really need a dresser? Does every dining room need a sideboard? Do you need a magazine rack if you read your favorite publications on your iPad?

It’s smart to anticipate future needs, but one should never build storage for anticipated future hoarding. If you have too many shoes to fit in your closet, why not do a little decluttering before you go building a shoe closet? Before you build another shelf for your book collection, weed out old books that no longer hold meaning for you, and remember that in five or 10 years, the bulk of your reading material will he housed in an electronic reader or other virtual home. We have less stuff than we used to, so think twice before adding storage out of habit or by default.

Fear of Embracing What You Want

Perhaps the biggest psychological hurdle when it comes to designing your space is deciding how you want to live in it. Of course, what you want must always be tempered with a realistic sense of what your lifestyle is, what your needs and priorities are, and what your space and budget can handle. But life is too short to feel ashamed to express your eccentricities or create a home that makes you feel happy, calm, secure, and inspired.

Your decor doesn’t have to say something about you, but it should reflect what makes you feel good and help you live your best life. Couples should respect one another’s needs and compromise whenever possible. Children should be allowed to choose a favorite color for the walls or build a fort out of their child-sized bed. Those who live alone should celebrate their freedom to build a nest tailored to fit their needs and desires.

(Photos:Lonny)
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