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Real women share: My worst decorating idea and how I fixed it

When you imagined it, it was fabulous and brilliant. But when you put it into practice, it just looked awful. Interior decorating is funny like that. We found five women to share their worst decorating disasters — and how they fixed them.

Woman with paint swatches

Paint dries darker

Paint is a fabulous way to freshen up a house, but sometimes a color just isn’t what we expect. That happened to Michele Borboa of Montana:

“When I was pregnant, I decided that the interior of the house needed new colors to welcome little Tanner. A ‘subtle’ shade of green seemed appropriate for the living room, since I have sage green furniture and blinds. I spent a weekend up and down a ladder (at 7 months prego) ‘beautifying’ the walls. Initially, they looked like great; however, when the paint fully dried, the subtle green had darkened and even changed hue to resemble swimming-pool green that not only clashed with my furniture, but also distracted everyone that walked into the house. Solution: Repaint, repaint, repaint. Now the walls are a nude color and far more welcoming.”

Take Away: Always test-paint a portion of a wall before painting a whole room. Paint tends to dry darker, so this will give you a chance to see it before committing.

Rethink placement

Furniture placement can change a room completely. When Maris Callahan, who pens In Good Taste, recently moved to Chicago, she put her furniture where it seemed to make sense. She quickly learned, though, that placement defies logic sometimes.

“I had my desk near the entryway to my apartment, and it was turning into a catch-all for my purse and other junk as I walked in the door and was less useful for its intended function. So I moved it across the room. Now, it’s practically in my dining area, but when you walk in, the apartment looks neater and I’m able to use it for actual work.”

Take Away: If your furniture placement isn’t working, keep an open mind. You might find the perfect spot in an uncommon area.

Color scheme oops

In your head, it makes sense — all the colors, patterns and ideas. To someone else, though, those colors can say something very different. That’s what happened when Cate O’Malley of New Jersey, who pens Sweetnicks, decorated her son’s room in blue and orange:

“When we moved into our last house, I set my sights on doing the kids’ room first. I chose a dark blue carpet for my son’s room (the better to hide the inevitable barrage of stains), and went with a lighter blue for the walls. He was big into tie-dye then, so when I saw some awesome tie-dyed orange and white curtains on clearance at Pier 1 Kids, I snapped them up. I figured they’d be the perfect thing to offset the darker blue colors. The first time our neighbor walked into the my son’s room after it was finished, he said, ‘Oh, nice — Mets’ colors!’ Needless to say, it was all I could see every time I walked into that room. After I finished his sister’s room, I went back in and started his room all over again.”

Take Away: Run your color scheme by one or two people before committing. The independent opinions can help.

Try, try again?

Speaking of colors: When one color doesn’t work, it’s natural to try another. When colors fail repeatedly, however, what do you do? Patsy Kreitman of New Jersey, who writes Family, Friends and Food, went through many colors in painting her kitchen:

“We bought quart after quart of different colors and tried them on small patches on the wall, only to find we hated each color. The last color we bought became the color just because we were tired of buying paint. I think we went through four colors (all in the same color family) before settling for the final choice, which was completely different from the others.”

Take Away: If something isn’t working, sometimes it helps to take a totally differently approach. Those yellows not working? Try a green!

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