Decorating Mistakes We’ve Made Over our 35 Years

Decorating mistakes we've made from Ballard Designs archives

Since it’s our 35th anniversary, we’ve been taking a walk down memory lane. While there are plenty of things we still love about our early collections, we feel it’s time to own up to some of the decorating mistakes we’ve made over the years. 

1. Kitschy versus Playful

There’s a fine line between quirky and kitschy, and apparently we even have trouble seeing that line sometimes. Don’t get us wrong, we’re in favor of playful elements to give your room personality, but in the spaces above, we’ve got to admit that we didn’t just step over that line, we did a swan dive over it!

Archived cover of Ballard Designs catalog

2. Moody Covers

Even after asking around the office, we couldn’t come up with an explanation for this catalog cover from 1987. Is the spooky ambiance and collection of broken columns supposed to make us want to buy these plaster pieces? 

There’s no big decorating lesson to learn from this space, but rest assured that this catalog cover is tucked safely away in our archives never to be seen again!

3. Climbing Vines

I think we all wish we could scrub the climbing vine trend of the 80’s and 90’s from our minds. Now, we make no objection to faux plants or botanical inspired prints; in fact, we love both of these things. We may have gone a little overboard with our commitment to this trend in these rooms though. Apologies.

4. Rug Islands

The general rule of thumb for rug sizes is that the majority of furniture in a room should have at least two legs on the rug. Break this rule and your living room rug looks more like a bath mat. We’ll grant exceptions to the Two Legs rule to runners, actual bath mats, and small rugs layered over larger ones, but the rooms from our old catalogs above are just disgraceful. 

5. Forgetting to Edit

We’ll admit that editing your room can be one of the hardest decorating skills to master. It requires you to step back and think objectively about your space. Evidently we also needed to learn that lesson if evidenced by these rooms from our archives. 

What’s happening with the room on the left? We’re not against using bold patterns on large upholstered pieces, but this sofa upholstered in fabric made from architectural drawings reminds that sometimes it’s not what you put in a room but what you don’t put in it.

6. Art Project Gone Wrong

Maybe this goes along with our previous lesson about editing, but when we came up these shots from an old catalog, we couldn’t help but think of an art project gone wrong. Painted furniture is in no way a ‘faux pas’ in our book, but these pieces definitely push the envelope on what kind of paint finishes make sense. Let’s just say we plan to keep painted finishes more subdued from here on out.

Matching dining room set from Ballard Designs

7. Matching Sets

We love eclectic rooms, so we can’t help but cringe when we look back at old catalogs and see matching sets. Yikes! Each of these pieces — the dining chairs, table, and sideboard — are classic in their own right but together it feels dated. Mixing up furniture styles is way more our speed!

Are there any decorating mistakes you’ve made in the past? Here are 5 common decorating mistakes and how to fix them.

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.