9 Common Design Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them)

So, you just bought your first home. Congratulations! This is a major step and commitment—especially if you’re someone who historically moves once a year into a new apartment! While there are so many joys when it comes to home ownership, there are also a lot of challenges, especially in the design process. And plenty of mistakes to be made!

While new home design mistakes are par for the course, we surveyed our network expert designers to share some of the most common design mistakes first-time home buyers make so that we can save you some grief! They shared some amazing interior design ideas, with tips on how to avoid these common design mistakes.

Read on for 9 new home design mistakes and tips on how to avoid them!

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Don’t: Buy All of Your Furniture at Once

When you move from an apartment to a house, you’ll likely have a lot more space to fill—and with that comes a need for more furniture. But fight the urge to buy new furniture all at once! You don’t need to buy everything you want or need in one trip to the store or even one week!

When you rush to fill up and furnish your space, you may find that you buy pieces of furniture just to have it instead of taking the time to find stuff you really want and love. Plus, it helps to take some time to acquaint yourself with your new space so you can really discover what you need. (You might be surprised to discover that something you thought you needed right when you moved in doesn’t feel as necessary a month or two later!) “People often don’t think of furniture as an investment, but if they did they could get pieces that are more durable and would last them longer,” says Modsy Designer Katelin Rae S.

Do: Methodically Plan Out Your Furniture Needs

Prioritize the essentials—like a bed, dresser, sofa, and coffee table—and then save for or plan out the other pieces like accent furniture, decor, and textiles. Modsy designer Rebecca S. also recommends decorating with future plans in mind. If you and your partner just bought your first home but plan on having kids in a couple of years, think kid-friendly when it comes to sofas and chairs! Need a little extra guidance? Check out our new home furniture buying guide. Our series of interior design buying guides will also help you as you look for specific pieces of furniture or look to design specific rooms throughout your home!

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Don’t: Buy a Full Matching Set of Furniture

When outfitting your living room or bedroom, buying matching sets of furniture may seem tempting. It’s easy, since you can buy everything you need all at once and know that it matches, minimizing the design choices you have to make. But a full set of matching furniture can make a room look generic at best and cheap at worst due to the lack of variety in texture, color, and style. And sets are often on the larger size, so a full set may feel cramped in the average living room or bedroom.

Do: Buy One Piece at a Time

Buying furniture pieces one by one assures you’re getting what works for your needs, your style, and your space. It also gives a room a more polished and curated look—as opposed to it looking like you just walked into a furniture store. So, instead of buying a full set, start with the major pieces of furniture (a sofa in the living room and a bed in the bedroom), then build out pieces from there. However, don’t be afraid to buy a matching set of nightstands, end tables, or even accent chairs if you like a symmetrical look! A pair of something can be quite nice—just avoid a full matching room. If you’re not sure where to start in the furniture design process, our room checklists will guide you through the essentials, along with the furniture and decor that will help take your room’s design to the next level!

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Don’t: Immediately Make Big Decisions

It’s quite common to buy a home and want to make some updates or design changes right away so that your new space better aligns with your personal style. Whether that’s changing out light fixtures, painting the walls, or just buying new furniture, it’s tempting to dive right in. But we recommend taking a bit of time—even just a week or two—to live in your new house before making any big decisions or design choices. This gives you time to live with the flow of your home, assess your needs, and establish your style within the home will save you from making costly mistakes!

Modsy Designer Katie W. says she sees a lot of people immediately buying new sofas for their new homes without planning. “So many people end up with a sofa that’s too big or doesn’t fit with their other pieces. Or they quickly decide it’s ugly or not durable enough for their lifestyle.” So, don’t rush into a whole new look without thinking it through and seeing how the home will come together as a whole.

Do: Take Time to Live in Your Home Before Making Big Purchases and Changes

Take your time making big decisions—especially large furniture purchases or changes like painting the walls or updating the flooring. (More on painting next!) Spend time in your new house to see how you use it, learn the natural light patterns, discover how you navigate the space, and even where you spend the most time. This will help guide your big decisions and prioritize any changes or updates you want to make!

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Don’t: Paint Right Away

Many people want to paint the walls of their new house right away—or even before they move in. And we get it. From a practical standpoint, it’s much easier to paint an empty room, and fresh paint gives you a lovely backdrop when settling into your home. But when you do this, you lose the opportunity to get to know how the natural light plays in your home and how that can impact the way paint colors look in your space.

The thing is, paint color can look great in the morning light—but by late afternoon, it might have a totally different tint because of the way the natural light looks in your space. Plus, did you know that what’s outside of your windows, like a wooded backyard or the neighbor’s house, can impact the way colors look inside your house? A backyard full of greenery can cast a green hue on your interior walls and floor. And a neighbor’s sunny yellow house can give everything a yellow tint. There’s no way of knowing what those factors will be without living in your home for a bit!

Do: Take Time to Understand Your Home’s Lighting

Take at least a week to see how the natural light looks in your home throughout the day. Spend time observing the morning, afternoon, and evening light—as well as any light reflections from outside or from other flooring or fixtures in your space. From there, you can decide on paint colors for the rooms in your home that not only look good from room to room and create a beautiful color story in your home but that take into account these outside factors.

And you don’t have to take months and months on these observations. A week will do just fine! And then you can move forward with painting to your heart’s content! (Bonus: moving usually results in at least a few scuffed walls—so waiting to paint will save you from those pesky touch-ups!)

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Don’t: Rush into Un-Researched DIYs

We know we already said not to make any big decisions right away—but we’re going to reiterate our point specifically for DIY-ers: Don’t rush into un-researched DIYs! It may be tempting to rip out dated kitchen cabinets the first day you move in, but chances are this will result in some headaches and mistakes! Plus, there’s a good portion of the population that loves starting a project. But finishing it? Not so much. When you rush into a DIY project, you’re more likely to make a good start but then put it to the side when life gets busy, which can make the project go on for months without finishing it!

Do: Have a Plan

Rather than rushing in, live in your space for a while to get an idea about what you want, what you need, and what’s realistic to do yourself versus what you should hire out. Take time to research your DIYs before starting them to make sure you have everything you need, and then budget more time and money than you think you need! Having a plan the whole way through will help you see it through from beginning to end. (Are you starting to sense a theme in all of these mistakes and tips? It’s all about taking your time!)

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Don’t: Push All Your Furniture Against the Wall

Ok, this isn’t a mistake that only first-time homebuyers make—this is one that people across the board struggle with! Many people have the instinct, when arranging furniture, to push everything against the wall. While this isn’t a cardinal sin, in many spaces the layout will look better with some furniture pulled away from the wall. (Also called “floating” your furniture.)

The thing is, pushing all of your furniture against the wall can make it feel thrown together, like you just shoved the furniture into the space. Contrary to popular belief, this can also actually make a room feel smaller! You might think that leaving as much open floor space as possible in the center of the room will open the space up, but a room full of furniture-lined walls actually visually shrinks a room. So, even floating a sofa six inches away from the wall creates some visual breathing room.

“I’ve had several interactions with clients who see a blank space and think they need to push all of the furniture against a wall—especially a sofa. But ‘floating’ a sofa can often create a more successful floor plan,” says Hope C., Modsy designer. “And adding a console behind it actually gives you additional surface and storage space!”

Do: Get Creative With Your Layout

Don’t be afraid to try a few different layouts after you move into your new home! Moving is overwhelming, and many people end up just leaving furniture where the movers put it. Instead, try moving stuff around and take a few chances. Even if it seems like a certain arrangement won’t work, give it a shot—it might actually look good! In a large living room, especially, it helps to float furniture so the seating zones can feel cohesive and feel balanced. Check out our layout guides for some creative layout ideas for bedrooms and living spaces.

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Don’t: Fill Every Corner of Your House with Furniture

When you have more space to feel, many people’s instinct is to fill every corner. But when it comes to good interior design practices, it’s actually best to leave some breathing room. Filling every corner and empty wall with furniture, art, photos, and decor can make a space feel suffocated and small.

Social media can leave you with a lot of pressure to make your home picture-perfect within a week of moving in. But over-filling your home just to make it feel “finished” so you can post photos will just result in you feeling like there is too much clutter later on, and you’ll end up having to edit down your possessions. So, save yourself some time down the road and keep your furniture and decor edited from the get-go!

Do: Leave Negative Space and Breathing Room

This might not seem intuitive—but negative space and empty walls can look just as intentional as designed spaces. In fact, it helps a room’s design to build in some breathing room. So, even if you’re a maximalist, not every space and corner of your home needs to be maxed out. When designing your new home, take your time. Assess what you really need, and then plan out your furniture and decor.

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Don’t: Neglect Designing Private Spaces

When designing a new house, many people prioritize their living rooms, entryways, and dining rooms first. And that makes sense—these are the “public” areas of your home, where you host guests and the spaces where you tend to spend most of your waking hours. So, it’s natural to want to fix up those spaces first! But once these spaces are finished, many homeowners end up feeling burnt out and don’t have enough energy (or budget) left for “private” spaces like bedrooms, home offices, or bathrooms. But these are very important spaces in your home to design!

Do: Design Your Bedroom Early

Instead of spending all your creative energy on your living room, entryway, and dining room, save a bit of time, energy, and money for your own personal spaces—especially our bedroom. Might we even suggest prioritizing these spaces and working on them first?? We’ve seen way too many clients design beautiful living rooms while their bedrooms are filled with mismatched furniture and boxes. The way we see it, designing your perfect bedroom, bathroom, and home office is actually a form of self-care! These rooms give you a space to retreat to and enjoy. In fact, working on your bedroom first will actually help rejuvenate you as you tackle other rooms in your home. Think of it as taking care of yourself so you can take care of others!

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Don’t: Keep Old Furniture Just Because You Have It

Buying a home is no small financial feat. And after closing costs and moving, you may feel like you don’t have money in the budget for new furniture. So, you keep using that dresser you got at a garage sale in college, the sofa you thrifted in your mid-20s, and the bedframe you bought from IKEA. That works for a while—but Modsy designer Rebecca S. says she sees a lot of clients who have held onto secondhand and cheap furniture they acquired during their college years—even when their budget allowed an upgrade. Because, why replace it if you already have it and it works just fine? The answer: because you deserve better.

The reality is, the furniture you bought in college or for your first apartment has probably seen better days. Some pieces may even be beyond redemption—but you’ve gotten so used to seeing it in your space, you don’t realize how dilapidated it really is. Lack of comfort aside (because that sofa from your 20s really isn’t that comfortable), a mismatched collection of old furniture can cheapen the look of your beautiful new home. It may even make it seem like you haven’t developed the more refined taste that we know you have!

Do: Give Yourself a Fresh Start

Rather than holding onto all those old pieces, give yourself a fresh start in your new house. Get rid of your old college furniture for high-quality pieces that will last and are reflective of your personal style. It likely won’t happen all at once—so you may have to live in the “in-between” time for a while. But it will be so worth it to give yourself the gift of a home that’s beautiful and thoughtfully designed!

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New Build Decor Tips: 6 Ways to Give a New Build House Personality

Moving into a new home is a big step. It’s exciting to think about all the ways you’ll decorate the home. But it can also be a challenge, especially if it’s a new build home.

With a new build property, the challenge is it’s generally made to appeal to a wide range of tastes so it can feel a little cookie-cutter, or even bland. On the flip side, there’s no better blank canvas for decorating than a new construction home that already has modern amenities built-in.

For many people, the first instinct is often not to add or change too many things that don’t feel in line with their new home, in case it “messes things up.” But adding furniture and decor that shows off your personality and changing things up to suit your lifestyle and taste is exactly what you want to do to make the space your own.

For inspiration and a little guidance, we’ve rounded up some tips for adding personality and character when decorating a new build home. Scroll for our new build house decor tips and how to work them into your space.

Just moved and need help finding the right furniture? Check out our new home furniture buying guide or connect with us and get help from our Modsy designers through online interior design.

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1. Decorate With Antiques

The most common challenge with any new build home is they often feel glossy and almost too perfectly polished. If you like the modern and contemporary look, play it up and go for decor in those styles, but if it’s not your aesthetic, don’t feel boxed in by the home’s style.

Just because your home is new doesn’t mean your furnishings have to be. The best way to inject your own personality into the space is by contrasting all the ‘newness’ with furniture and decor in different design styles.

Try decorating a new build home with antiques and various vintage-style pieces that give your space a lived-in, collected feel. You can go big with a vintage sofa and a large antique chandelier, or if you want elements of the vintage look you can keep to smaller accents, such as weathered-wood side tables, a collection of flea-market objects, or a vintage painting or print.

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2. Avoid Matchy-Matchy

Buying a boxed set of furniture is an easy way to outfit a space, but it can sometimes leave your home feeling even more cookie-cutter. So as a rule of thumb, we like to skip the matching furniture sets and instead buy individual pieces when decorating a new build home.

It’s all about mixing without matching. Think the marble-and-brass side table with the slipcovered sofa, the sheepskin on top of a vintage rug, or the black leather armchair alongside the classical painting. The result will be spaces that have more character and a collected look. If matching furniture is your thing, try sticking to like pieces, such as matching nightstands or end tables, then juxtaposing them with an unexpected sofa, armchair or table for a similar effect.

For easy ways to master a stylish furniture mix, check out our tips on how to decorate a room.

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3. Work in Lots of Texture

Another way to balance out the new look and feel of a home is to play up pops of texture—whether it’s accents in natural materials or wood with aged finishes.

Organic textures add instant character, personality, and charm to any new construction home. Furniture made with natural materials, which can be a rattan armchair or a woven light pendant, always warms up a modern or contemporary room. Mix it with other textures, such as leather, embroidered fabrics, rough-hewn woods, stone, and even smooth ceramics.

The best part is that you can’t go wrong with too much or too little texture. You can play it up as much as you need to for the look you want, whether it’s going for tons of texture for a rustic and boho look or keeping it a little more casual for a coastal look.

Also check out our tips for Decorating With Leather and Mixing Wood Tones.

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4. Switch Up Light Fixtures

Lighting is also a key consideration for a new build property. Swapping out the existing fixtures in a new home is a great way to bring in a touch of character. It will also change up the vibe in your space dramatically. This could mean replacing a modern bathroom sconce with a design that’s more in your style or hanging up a more vintage-style pendant light in a dining space.

Some new build homes come without fixtures, which means you’ll have to add your own lighting. That might sound daunting at first, but don’t be. It’s a great opportunity to set the mood with lighting that fits the home you want to live in and let your personality and style shine.

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5. Add Layers of Lighting

Most new builds feature a lot of downlighting, aka. ambient lighting, which can make the home appear stark and dark.

One of the key factors to any happy home is good lighting, and that means having a range of different lights. Lean into a mix of lighting at every level, from sconces to floor lamps to accent lighting on tables. This will allow you to control the ambiance and mood in your home while also adding function throughout.

Try bright task lighting for a desk or workspace, a cozy table lamp next to a reading chair, and install dimmers for sconces to create low-lit mood lighting for evenings. The type of lighting you choose will depend on your lifestyle and needs, but it’s also a chance to add character to blank white walls that are common across new build homes.

For more tips on choosing the right fixtures, check out our Lighting Guide.

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6. Make Some Cosmetic Changes

Finally, more than just furniture and decor, you can also make changes to existing physical features in a new build property, like the walls or socket covers. (Note: Some new build home communities restrict the changes you can make to your space, so just be sure you’re in the clear before making any major changes!)

The easiest cosmetic update you can make to your new build home is painting the walls. It’s a bold way to bring your personality into the space, be it a whole painted room or an accent wall in a bright color. Other ways to change up your space could be adding wood paneling or DIY wainscotting if that’s your style, installing a ceiling medallion to give your hanging light fixtures a stylish edge, or swapping out light switch covers with vintage or brass ones that provide a chic metallic touch.

Get more Interior design ideas for new homes!

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Moving Made Easy – 5 Home Design Tips to Simplify Your Summer Move

Moving Tips – Designing a new home You’re crazy excited to be moving, and crazy stressed out by just how much there is to do. Sound familiar? We’ve been there. In all the stress of relocating, it’s sometimes hard to remember that finding your new home can be fun and exciting. Cut down on stress and focus on having fun with these summer moving tips.

Read on for 5 moving tips that will make designing your new space a breeze!

1. Take Inventory

Before you spend all that time packing and lugging around things you don’t need, it’s time to hit pause and take inventory os all the furniture and decor you’ve already got.

  • Take stock of all things seen and unseen. Time to drag out the stuff hiding under the bed, in the attic, and other tucked-away places!
  • Divide and conquer. If you feel overwhelmed, call in reinforcements to help you decide what stays and what needs to go.
  • Sort your items into groups. Label boxes with sharpie or use a label-maker to help organize. For boxes of items you intend to take with you, this will help you and the movers sort everything out on moving day.

2. Make Room

Now that you know what you’ve got, it’s time to decide what stays and what goes.

While this task may seems stressful, it can be helpful to think of it as an opportunity to declutter and start fresh! Even though it can be hard to let go, the freedom that comes with clearing out is well worth the effort.

When in doubt about whether to keep something, ask yourself:

  • How often do you use it? That furniture that’s been stuck in the attic or garage for years? That artwork you didn’t even remember that you had until you found it shoved under your bed? If you haven’t used it or missed it, it might be time to let it go.

Consider a garage sale to put extra cash toward your move, or donate your items to clear out stuff fast and do some good.

Moving tips – plan your layout3. Consider Your New Home’s Layout

If you’ve ever moved before, you might know how stressful it can be to live out of boxes with all your possessions shoved into the middle of the room. Instead, consider putting one of our favorite moving tips to work – plan your layout before you even move in.

We know what you might be thinking – Moving is stressful enough, there’s no way I can get my act together and plan my layout! But what if we told you that you don’t have to? Just snap a few photos of your new space and send them to Modsy and we can help you design your space, long before you move in.

This way, you’ll know exactly where everything goes on move-in day.

Looking for layout help? Check out our Layout Guide series to see solves for rooms of all shapes and sizes.

Moving Tips– Envision the possibilities4. Have Fun Envisioning Your New Space

And while you’re planning a layout, you can also have fun envisioning your future space! A move can be a great opportunity to explore different design options and define (or redefine!) your style.

Consider your new space a blank canvas. The possibilities for it are endless! So go ahead and dream up the perfect space for your taste and lifestyle.

Short on creative energy after all that work? Modsy Designers are ready to help you bring the possibilities for your new space to life with 3D home design. See your new space designed with real furniture and know exactly how it will look and fit, all before you move in.

Read this next: How I Designed My Home Before My Move-In Date

5. Ship to Your Door, No Moving Truck Required

Transporting furniture is one of the most expensive, time-consuming and complicated parts of moving. Consider instead one of our favorite moving tips, and have your new furniture delivered straight to your new address, no moving truck needed.

When you shop through Modsy, our concierge shopping service can even help coordinate your deliveries based on your move-in date!

Got a trick or two up your sleeve? Share your moving tips in the comments below!

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My Modsy Story: How I Designed My New Home Before Moving In

designing a new home Lauren wanted to design her family’s new home before they moved in. The only problem? She couldn’t be in the space to design it. See how finding Modsy on Instagram helped her take on designing a new home, virtually.

designing a new home

Homeowner: Lauren T, Sales Manager

Location: Arlington, VA

Room: Open L-Shaped Entry, Living, and Dining Areas

Her Style: Refined Modern


The Backstory

Designing a new home and wanting it furniture-ready by move-in

We’d just purchased a new family home, and I wanted to have a design plan before we moved in. I wanted us to be able to order furniture ahead of time so we could turn our new place into a bright and beautiful home right away.


The Design Dilemma

Not having access to their new home right away to make design decisions

We’d just purchased our new home but didn’t have access to it yet. Designing the space was a huge struggle as we couldn’t visualize how furniture would look. Not to mention we couldn’t keep going back in to measure and make sure everything would work (or fit!) the way we wanted. It was like we were designing a new home in the dark.

To top it all off, the new space isn’t very big so we needed it to feel open and bright. We wanted to tie the entry, living room, and dining area together while still making them feel like three distinct spaces.

The Modsy Moment

Scrolling for inspo on and finding a solution to her dilemma

I came across Modsy in an Instagram Ad and thought I should give it a try. It was very easy to get started.
designing a new homeLAUREN’S MODSY DESIGN #4

How Modsy’s Renderings Helped Lauren

Designing a new home before move-in day

In our first Modsy designs, the designers had come up with some interesting ideas we hadn’t thought of before. We ended up incorporating some of them into our final design.

The first design we got from Modsy gave us a lot direction for our project. We were able to incorporate some things that we already owned (like our sofa and dining table) to save money.

designing a new homeLAUREN’S MODSY DESIGN #1

We had planned to put a large hutch in our entryway, but the Modsy design gave us another idea.

The design plan inspired us to try a leather bench and hanging mirror with an open shelf on the adjacent wall. It made the entry seem more open and the furniture Modsy selected helped to tie the rooms together.


We created a few more Modsy designs (we had seven in total!) until we landed on one that was exactly what we wanted. Modsy’s renderings looked exactly like our space in real life. Seeing real furniture we could buy in our space made designing a new home so much easier.

Designing a new homeLAUREN’S MODSY DESIGN #6

So far, we’ve purchased the bench, mirror, and some accent decor from our first design. We swapped out a few other items in our final design that we’ve also purchased.

It was amazing to see how using smaller and slimmer furniture with glass and mirrors helped to open up and brighten the space.

Designing a new HomeLAUREN’S MODSY DESIGN #7

In the end, the final design was our favorite and most reflects what the room is looking like!

Throughout the process we told so many friends about it that are buying houses, and we even showed our realtor how we were redesigning the space! Seeing how our new home could look, before we even moved in, has made the whole process so much easier.

See Lauren’s favorite design in 360!

Designing a new home? See it fully furnished before move-in day.