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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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Stylists Picks: 6 Best Gifts for New Homeowners

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Buying a home is a life milestone worth celebrating. But it can also be an extremely stressful time, with all the paperwork and packing and moving and decorating. And as the friend of a new homeowner, buying a housewarming gift can be pretty stress-inducing too! What to get that’s meaningful but doesn’t impose a design style on them? What’s too little or too much? Where to even begin?? To help you out, our stylist rounded up our favorite easy and thoughtful ideas for new homeowner gifts that aren’t a bottle of wine. Though, let’s be real, no one will complain about that one!

1. Candles

Candles are a fan favorite for housewarming gifts. They immediately cozy up a room and create a serene ambiance. We love soy candles for their clean-burning qualities – and bonus points if the scent is crafted with essential oils! This is a simple, lovely welcome gift for your new homeowner friends.

2. Coffee Table Books

Help you friend show off their style and sophistication with a lovely coffee table book. Simply pick one that goes along with their interests – whether it’s design, art, architecture, or even pop culture. You know your friends best, so find something that would inspire and delight them!

3. Door Mat

A doormat is probably not the first thing on the shopping list of a new homeowner, but it’s an item that helps set the tone and style for the rest of their home! This makes a welcome mat a lovely way to celebrate a new home and a great gift for new homeowners. We love welcome mats with a cute saying or sweet pattern. Though you could also go custom and opt for a personalized saying if your friend has a signature catchphrase!

4. Potted or Fake Plant

Who doesn’t want a feeling of life and vibrancy in their new home? This makes a bit of greenery a great way to celebrate a friend’s new digs. Whether its a real or fake plant (you know your friends best, after all), pick one that suits them and personalize it further with a cute pot or basket. If space is at a premium, opt for something small. Succulents are favorites of ours for their low-maintenance existence and loads of desert minimal style!

5. Coasters

A coaster set is a small gift, but one that will get a lot of use over the years. With so many style options, you can certainly find a set that suits your friend’s style. Our favorite part? They’re decorative, but unlike an art piece, you’re not making a major design decision for your new homeowners.

6. Modsy Design Package

Ready to get the friend-of-the-year award? Gift your friend a Modsy design package! Designing a new home can be stressful, but we help make it easy with designs that showcase exactly how new furniture will look and fit in their new home. And since you can shop hundreds of brands right through our website, we can save your friend the hassle of shopping for furniture and decor at a million different stores. Just imagine all the fun you’ll have browsing design ideas together! Trust us, this one will be a definite hit.

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