Michelle Binette, Interior Designer
Michelle talks about the top five design mistakes people make in their home when it comes to decorating their space
What are the top five design crimes common in every home?
What are the two main guidelines you could keep in your back pocket when you are hanging your art?
Why should you hang an art 8-10 inches above a furniture that is more than 30 inches?
How would extending the rod 3-6 inches on either sides of the window frames could make your room look bigger?
How could creating a floor plan make your decision process easier about buying the right size furniture’s?
How could living in a house for a while aide you in buying the appropriate furniture’s?
What is the mindset behind most people’s decision to buy a whole furniture set?
How could blending different textures, elements, scales and proportions make you feel like living in a home put together by a designer?
How could having a statement piece in your home personalize your space and draw people in?
Why should you avoid asking other peoples opinion on your home décor?
Davelle: Thanks everyone for joining us today on the podcast. Michelle Binette is here with us and she is an interior designer who prides herself on making the sometimes stressful process of decorating as fun and enjoyable as possible. She strives to make every interaction with her clients one they absolutely look forward to. Thanks so much for joining us, Michelle.
Michelle: Thank you so much for having me back, I appreciate it.
Davelle: No problem! You were going to tell us today about some decorating mistakes that you see people making often.
Michelle: Yes. On our last talk, we talked about the big mistake that people made, which is not planning their project. If anybody missed that podcast, that’s a great one to kind of figure out how you can plan your projects.
Today I was thinking we could talk about the five mistakes that people actually make in their home when it comes to actually decorating their space. I was thinking we would call these design crimes. We’re going to go over five design crimes that people make. How does that sound?
Davelle: Okay, that sounds great. Design crimes, love it. Let’s go.
Michelle: Design crimes. Yes. Right.
Design crime number one. Hanging art too high.
Michelle: I’m sure you have seen this in some of the homes you have – for whatever reason, when people hang their art wrong they never hang it too low, that’s never something I see. Always hung too high.
There’s two very simple guidelines that people can follow. Now, just like everything, there’s always exceptions to every rule, but 90 percent of the time, guidelines make sense and there’s other guidelines in addition. But these two are two that you can keep in your back pocket whenever you’re hanging your art.
The first one is that making sure that if you’re hanging art above a piece of furniture, let’s say a credenza, a couch, or the sideboard, or whatever it is, if it’s a piece of furniture that’s more than 30 inches then what you want to do is hang it about eight to ten inches above that piece of furniture. Basically, the goal is to make that art feel like a cohesive piece of whatever furniture or chair even that’s sitting in front of it. I kind of think of decorating in vignettes, if you will –
Michelle: Basically you want that art to feel like part of whatever’s going on below it. What a lot of people do is they hang it too high and it feels kind of like it’s floating away or just feels completely disjointed from whatever is going on.
That’s number one … And then, if you’re hanging something …
Davelle: Would you say that it needs to be eye level? Is that what you’re saying?
Michelle: It’s a little different. Eye level is what you may what to do when you’re hanging something on a bare wall or if you’re hanging something above furniture that’s less than 30 inches. What’s difficult with eye level is my eye level might be very different from your level and –
Michelle: My partner’s eye level. So a rule of thumb for that is really having the middle of the frame – if it’s one picture that you’re hanging, the middle of that one picture should be about 56 to 59 inches from the floor.
Michelle: If you’re hanging a group of pictures, you actually want to treat a group of pictures as one big picture. You’re going to find the middle point of the group of pictures and make it 56 to 59 inches. It’s really something you want to test out, and the way I recommend testing it out before … Because the thing is, you don’t want to put a bunch of holes in your wall and then realize, aw crap, I hung that too high, I hung that too low, it’s not really working … What I suggest is if you buy a … Let’s say you buy a frame from Ikea, for example. You’ll notice that when you open up the frame, there’s a piece of paper basically the size, more or less, of the frame that you’re about to hang.
Michelle: Take that piece of paper out, tape it on the wall … Use painter tape, because we don’t want to obviously mess up the paint on our wall from it … And actually tape it onto the wall, you would be made guidelines. So again, it’s 56 to 59 inches, the middle of the frame, if you’re hanging it above a low piece of furniture or on a wall with nothing else. And then you’re hanging it eight to ten inches above a piece of furniture that’s 30 inches or more.
The thing with the eight to ten inches is, the smaller the frame, the higher you’re going to go. You’re going to push it to the ten inches, I mean, if it’s a really small piece of art you might go a little higher. But with a bigger piece of art, then that would go in the lower end of that range.
What’s great is that you can basically just tape these inserts onto the wall, that you find in the frame that you’re purchasing, and actually take a step back, really get a feel … You know, maybe take two or three measurements … and then what I like to do is actually leave it there for a couple of days, maybe even a week, because I like to let it do its thing.
Michelle: Am I feeling it in a week? That’s cool. Let’s do it. Let’s go for it.
Davelle: See for me, I find I’m sort of the impatient variety and once I finally get around to doing something like hanging something, I basically just want to get it done all in one shot. It’s just like, let me get it up, let me be done with this, so I just don’t have to come back and do it again.
Michelle: Totally. And that’s fine too. You don’t have to wait a week, that’s for somebody who’s feeling a bit uneasy.
Michelle: As long as you’re following the guidelines I do recommend taping it on the wall, taking a step back and then making sure it feels right. If it feels right, then commit to the hole in the wall. This is a really easy way to make sure that you’re not putting holes all over your wall or just hanging your art too high or too low.
Davelle: What do you think about that sitcky tape? There’s this stuff that I got from Home Depot that’s Velcro. It’s a Velcro that sticks to the wall and then it’s Velcro that sticks to your painting. And so that way you’re just putting Velcro to Velcro on the walls so you’re not actually putting in any nails or screws into the wall. What do you think of something like that?
Michelle: I’ve definitely done that, actually. I’ve done that with … A long time ago I had the painted trays, they were really lightweight, they were … I don’t even know, I think they were called something like HomeScents … and they were a like a pink and a green – call it, not my idea of pink and green – call it in my apartment! … But anyways, I was like, you know what, I am not going to use these as trays, because I am going to actually hang them on the wall. I did the Velcro thing because, what I liked about that wasn’t a commitment to a hole that I did wrong, I was able to unstick it and re stick it until it was perfect.
Michelle: I think that is a great option, especially when you’re hanging more than one piece of art.
Michelle: I’ve seen it done where a bunch of mirrors hung with 16 of them in a square and I’ve seen people use Velcro to play with it, because that’s a really hard thing to do with the nail and make sure that it’s all straight. I’ve definitely seen people do that and I think it’s a great way to do it too.
Davelle: Great. Awesome.
Michelle: At the end of the day, you just want to make sure, because I’ve actually done this myself, where I’ve put way too many holes, luckily they’ve ended up being behind the frame that I’ve been hanging, but I’m like, “Why didn’t I plan this better!” I’m also guilty of it from time to time, but it is really good. It’s like anything, it’s like the last podcast where we chatted about planning, it’s planning, planning, planning that will help you not make mistakes.
Davelle: Makes sense.
Michelle: Do you want to talk about design crime number two?
Davelle: Sure! Go for it!
Michelle: Design number two, is hanging your curtains too tight to your windows.
Davelle: Do you know what’s so funny?
Michelle: Before – We got on this call –
Davelle: Well, because, of course, every crime that you’re talking about so far is definitely a crime that I’ve committed. I’ve definitely been guilty of hanging my pictures too high. I’ve had an architect friend come over and be like, what are you doing? And now as you talk about the curtains, I just literally, before we got on the call, finished hanging some curtains. My handyman was here in the house by himself so I wasn’t there to direct him, but he put it very close to the window and now I don’t care, I’m just gonna leave it that way. It’s my spare bedroom, it doesn’t matter.
Michelle: I get it. And that’s why it pains my heart when I go into a client’s house and I see really tight to the frame, really right on that frame, and I’m like, “You know, since we’re working together, we’re probably not going to do this – If we’re working together, that is getting fixed!”
Basically, when you’re hanging your curtains, you really want to create the illusion that the window is bigger than it is. It’s kind of like everything, you always want your room to feel bigger, you want your windows to feel bigger. This is a way to create the illusion that you’ve got big, tall windows.
Michelle: Obviously, depending on your house, you might – there might be – there’s always the – again, there’s exceptions to every rule, sometimes the architecture of your state, where the window is on the wall, doesn’t allow for that –
Michelle: But when you can, you want to try to take the rod about four to six inches above the window frame. An easier way to look at is … that’s not allowed to happen, is it –
Davelle: No, it’s not! That’s why I was laughing! [crosstalk 00:09:24] I’m like, wow! As you keep talking, I’m just thinking about how badly I messed up with this window sill and how much you would not like it.
Michelle: I know, we should have talked to you hours ago!
What you want to do is basically, you could just look at the middle sill of your frame and where the ceiling starts, you could just take it to the middle of those two – of that space. Sometimes people will actually mount the frame with a ceiling rod as well, which can look really well and look really good in modern – but yeah, you want to take it four to six inches above the frame, but not only that, you also want to extend the rod three to six inches on either side of the frame. And what’s great about this is that it makes the window look bigger, but it also allows more light to come in because when that curtain is actually hanging, it’s only covering a small portion of the window as opposed to the entire curtain panel with the window. You’re letting way more natural light into your room, which I will know, you want all the natural light you can get.
Michelle: You basically, you got more natural light and you’ve got a window that looks bigger. And to be honest with you, just frames the window in nicer way.
Davelle: I pretty much did –
Michelle: The next time you want to hire curtains, we’re gonna make sure that we tell the contractor – This is the other thing I worry about when I talk to clients too, is, contractors are great, but contractors are definitely not designers and what they think looks good … I’m very leery of making sure when contractors are working with my clients that I’m giving them very clear directions of where to hang things, but if they’re hanging a light, a rod or a sconce on a wall, or whatever that is, I’m very – love the contractors, but I very much make sure we talk so that I give them the right aesthetic and make sure that we’re doing the right thing.
Davelle: Yep, that makes sense. Because sounds good so far –
Michelle: Does that make sense?
Davelle: Yeah, because absolutely everything that you’ve said, I’ve pretty much did wrong, whether it’s the –
Davelle: Too close to the top of the window, too close to the sides of the window, pretty much everything that you’ve said, I did completely wrong.
Michelle: Design crimes, they’re happening every day! They’re all over!
Design crime number three is basically buying the wrong sized furniture.
Michelle: This one actually is, what we talked about when talked the last time, on the last podcast, it’s really all boils down to poor planning. The thing with buying the wrong sized furniture is that most of the time what happens is people just go, well, crap, this is it now and then they have to live with this furniture that’s too big. What a lot people think is my room isn’t too big, but I’m gonna go as big as I can with my furniture. I think they believe that that’s gonna make the space feel bigger.
Michelle: You want to have the appropriate sized furniture so that it has enough breathing room all around the furniture, which really does actually make it feel bigger and more spacious. On the flip side, if you decide, well I can’t live with it, you’re gonna lose your money if you can’t return the piece because nobody’s gonna buy it for whatever you paid for it, especially when it’s been – you know how that goes!
In order to avoid this design crime, you really want to measure – This is one of those things where I get that people don’t love to take the extra time it takes to plan, but the way I try to look at it and tell the people is, it might take you two to three times as long to do the planning of whatever furniture you want to buy and figuring out what size it is, but most people are going to live with that furniture for at least five years. It’s kind of like short term paying for the long term gain of making sure that you just love it for the next five years.
Michelle: You’re gonna basically measure your room. You’re gonna take all the measurements of your room and then you’re gonna draw your floors and I recommend just using online programs which are totally free. The one I like to use Roomle.com.
Michelle: And it’s amazing. It’s a really easy program to use. Like I said, it’s free, not affiliated, I get nothing, I get no kickbacks for recommending it. It’s just a really great program.
What you want to do is draw out, basically, the size of your room. You want to think about where your windows are, where your doorways are, all that good stuff. You also want to think about how your doors open and making sure there’s enough space for that. Once you have our floor plan drawn, you’re going to then use their catalogue of furniture to drag in, whatever it is you’re thinking in your mind about what that space should look like, what you mean it to be viewed –
Michelle: And then when you figure out what furniture you have in it, you can actually change the size of the furniture to be the appropriate size that fits the space. The key here is making sure you’re realistic. If you’re trying to put in a chair like an armchair, then maybe a 12 inch by 12 inch armchair is not realistic. What I like to do is kind of play around with the furniture and then I go validate, if I find it’s a bit small and I know it’s like, is this even a realistic size, I’ll go on [Westtown.com 00:14:39] and check out their smallest chair and make sure that these chair sizes actually fit.
Michelle: And then when you figure in your floor plan, then you can actually start looking for furniture in that size.
Michelle: What’s great about this is, it really minimizes your decision-making. The biggest thing too with decorating, that people struggle with is all of the decisions. Once you know that your couch might be six feet wide, now you’ve eliminated at least 50% of the couches that might like.
Michelle: And you know it’s not an option. Anyway, your pool of options gets smaller, making your decision process a little easier.
Then the next step on our front would be, when you start looking for the furniture –
Michelle: I normally start off online, but I might start going in store, then you when you find something you like, go back in your floor plan and actually change the sizes of the furniture to the exact sizes of the pieces you’re finding. And then you can really make sure that everything fits perfectly and feels proportionate, it’s not too tight and then you can feel really good about spending that money and not making a mistake on the one.
Davelle: Awesome. I’m kinda feeling like I’m up one, because the first two mistakes, I definitely have committed those crimes and so I felt like I was down two, but now I am finally feeling up one cuz –
Michelle: Yeah! You’re redeeming! I like it!
Davelle: I have not committed this crime yet.
Michelle: That’s amazing! I’m sure for you, you’ve staged many homes and you’ve had some rich experience with this front that you’ve just probably it’s just ingrained in your brain.
Davelle: Well, it’s funny –
Michelle: It really does hurt my heart to see people spend money, and not realize, a significant amount of money on something that just doesn’t fit, or doesn’t fit in the door. That’s another one that you want to make sure of! Make sure it gets in your house!
Davelle: Absolutely! I find that’s actually what I usually tell clients after they purchase a place is, don’t buy too much furniture before they actually move into the space. Because I find if people are not living in the space they tend to over buy and buy too much stuff. I always tell people, you know what, sure, you can buy a couple of pieces, but for the majority of everything just wait until you actually get the space and then start buying because you’ll have a better sense of the size.
Michelle: I agree. That’s kind of another thing as far as really planning the project, like we talked about before, sometimes what you think you’re gonna do in a room and how you’re gonna live and want to use the space, is one way when you first move in. This has happened to me time and time again, you have these ideas of, I’m going to do this in this space, we’re gonna have friends over and we’re gonna play boardgames at this table down in the basement, never once happened, good thing I bought that table that I never used. Even on some of this stuff sometimes.
Living in the space for a while allows you to really understand the house, the things that you’re dealing with, the lights, everything, the way the floors creak, whatever it is, the way you actually want to walk through the space. I definitely agree, always good to take the time to feel out the home and actually understand how you want to actually do each of the rooms.
Davelle: Yeah, absolutely, makes a lot of sense. What’s our fourth mistake to avoid?
Michelle: The design trends for buying the whole set of anything. Whether you’re buying the dining set, whether you’re buying the living room set, just don’t buy the set. I actually have a client right now whose like, “can we get the matching chair?” If – yeah okay, you can get the matching chair, that’s not a completely ridiculous thought, but it’s just an obvious thing to do and it doesn’t feel personal and it doesn’t feel like it’s been a curated room. Most people want to live in a house that looks like it’s in a magazine, a little bit more livable than it’s in a magazine, but you want it to feel like a designer came in actually pulled this thing together and designers don’t generally go buy an entire set of anything.
What you want to do is really just start buying that one main piece. In your bedroom, maybe that one main piece is your bed. Don’t buy those matching side tables, even though they –
Michelle: Feel like a great thing to do.
Davelle: Hold on, back up, back up. I was going ask you about this. You’re telling me that you can buy the bed frame but don’t buy the matching dresser or the matching nightstands?
Michelle: That is what I’m saying.
Michelle: I’m saying is that it kind of – you know what I’m – I think it’s kind of like when you go to the mall, maybe it’s not like this, but at this point what I picture it as – I feel like furniture sets are kinds of like outfits on manikins where it’s for people who just don’t – I think it’s great for people who don’t know what to do, but it’s not what a stylist wouldn’t do, they probably wouldn’t get their client an outfit that’s right on the mannequin, they’re going to really customize an outfit based the client’s style, their personality, all of this stuff.
Michelle: What you want to do is really find that key piece and then find elements that work with it and so they don’t match, per se, but they work with the other piece. What happens is when you’re buying an entire set of something, it means everything normally is wood, so you’ll have a bed that’s wood, a side table that’s wood and then a dresser that’s wood. Pretty design is really blending different textures, different elements, different – whether it’s scale, proportion, all of this stuff.
They think when it comes to somebody’s home and it’s their actual home that they’re gonna live in. I think that maybe when you’re staging a home it might be a little bit different –
Michelle: But when you’re trying to create a space that’s very personal to one individual person it’s nice to really blend different pieces together that really can speak for themselves as well and not just be kind of part of that –
Davelle: What about –
Michelle: That is a no-no!
Davelle: What about a dining room table then?
Michelle: Dining room, probably, one percent of the time I would buy a dining room table set. I would buy a dining room table and then I would find – normally I would try to find a chair that has some sort of contrasting element to it.
Michelle: Something that feels again like curated and not just like I purchased an entire set from somewhere.
Michelle: The only place maybe, maybe I would buy a set, maybe, is my patio furniture.
Michelle: That’s one of those times. Maybe I would buy the entire set. If I’m being honest, I totally did!
I would feel very confident to say that 99% of time I would never, ever force an entire set for a client.
Davelle: Wow –
Michelle: I think that’s kind of what makes, when you’re – that’s really what makes a space curated. I think that’s the difference between just furnishing your home and really designing a home and curating space to have personality.
Davelle: Right. Yeah.
Michelle: See, we’re learning things today!
Davelle: I know! I’m learning lots! I’m like, really?
Michelle: I actually like that. I like that I want to talk to you, yeah. I think that’s great! Clearly I would say that’s probably one, another, and now maybe you’re three for one? You’re at three and one now?
Davelle: Well I haven’t –
Michelle: With crimes that you’ve committed. One –
Davelle: It’s funny, no, actually I’m still good. Although I didn’t realize it was a crime not to buy the matching set, I actually haven’t done it. I bought a new dining room set last year and I bought the table, I bought the bench that went with it but then I ran around town looking for chairs that I preferred. It wasn’t because I realized it was something I should do, I just didn’t like the chairs that it came with. I just didn’t want them and thought –
Davelle: I’ll just buy my own chairs, but yeah, so far we’re good. So far I’ve committed two of the crimes, two of the crimes I haven’t committed.
Davelle: But one of them I didn’t know what they were.
Michelle: This is good! Now you know!
Davelle: Yeah exactly. What’s the fifth crime?
Michelle: The fifth crime is not having a statement piece. We could call it a statement piece or a conversation piece, a main personality piece, whatever you want to call it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying go crazy and have something that is so over the top out of control in your home. It’s really about, again, designing your home, creating your home. It’s about making a space that’s really about you, and it’s very personal to you. You need to make sure, it’s gotta make sense based on you and your personality. If you’re the type of person that wants a taxidermy moose head in your living room, that makes sense, then do it, go for it! If you are not that person, then find something that is interesting that is a statement, that has personality, that people are going to be drawn to and talk to you about and also makes you smile, makes you happy to have it in the room.
Michelle: An example for me would be, again, it’s not a crazy over the top piece, but in our dining/reading/listening to music nook, we have this big, bold red chair. That’s kind of like, both my partner and I – that’s another thing, whenever you can find something that both you and your partner can agree on, you want to nab that up quickly because that is far and few between – but we both loved it! It’s a piece that every time anybody comes in and everybody always comments on it, because it’s bold. It’s red. It’s very there. It’s just finding something, just something really interesting that’s not necessarily that chair from [Westtown 00:23:54], maybe it’s a vintage piece, maybe it’s a big zebra print on your wall, or a zebra rug, or whatever it is, something that makes you happy, something that really is you and something that kind of makes people go, “Hey, I love that rug, where did you get that!”
Michelle: Not a lot of people bring in something that makes people go, “Hey, I like that!”
Davelle: Yeah, I would say –
Michelle: It could even be just a turquoise couch.
Davelle: I would say that I actually don’t have a piece like that. I don’t think I – I feel like have a statement piece anywhere in my house. I think my kitchen is a statement piece, which isn’t furniture, but –
Michelle: Ooh, I like it.
Davelle: Other than that, I don’t really have statement pieces at all.
Michelle: I think it is one of those things that, it doesn’t have to have the room, because I don’t think you should force it. And one day you might come across something that really speaks to you and will wind up being some sort of statement piece that you’ll end up putting on your wall, or whatever, or a rug, or whatever it is. I would also advise people to not force it upon themselves, but make sure when you find something that really speaks to you, pick it up. Even – another thing I – kind of on the same front is – a lot of people always ask other people’s opinions.
Michelle: Like, “What do you think of this art?” You know what, what do you think? It’s your home, it should be what you love.
Michelle: Who cares what other people think! When Dave and I have these ridiculous random raccoon print and this random cat, because we just thought they were hilarious! You think for a second, what are peop – and then it’s like, I don’t care, this is my home, it makes me smile, it makes, we both loved it, again we nabbed it up because we’re both into it! But who cares! You know what? It’s you and I think people think that’s totally something Dave and Michelle would put on their walls. And it makes sense, so just don’t worry too much either about what other people think. If you love it, go for it!
Davelle: Okay, cool. Awesome! That is great advice. I have learned a lot today about five mistakes. Design crimes –
Michelle: I love it! We are saying you haven’t made a mistake, I would say for number five. I think you just haven’t had your statement piece yet.
Davelle: Yes, exactly.
Michelle: But, your kitchen is also a statement.
Michelle: I feel like you’ve done – only two out of the three crimes. I think you’re doing pretty good for yourself.
Davelle: That’s good! Someday I’ll have to have you over so you can see for yourself what I’m talking about!
Michelle: Yeah, I’m very intrigued! I’m gonna look away from your curtains though.
Davelle: Yeah! Well, that’s only in my spare bedroom.
Michelle: I just pretend I don’t see them.
Davelle: I just won’t let you see them.
Michelle: That’s right. There you go.
Davelle: You’re funny! Well thanks so much, Michelle, this has been very interesting. I have learned a lot today. Thank you so much!
Michelle: Thank you both so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Davelle: No problem! How can listeners get in touch with you? How can they reach you and find you?
Michelle: Sure, if people what to learn a little more about me or how we can work together, you can go to MichelleBinette.com. I’ll also post lots of tips, and inspirations. Again, it’s just MichelleBinette.com and you can also join my Facebook group at DreamHomie.com if you request access. It’s basically just a group of people who are giving each other a break, so if you have any questions. Maybe you’re trying to hang your curtain rod and you don’t know if it’s too tight to the trim or the right height. You can post it in there and I always reply to any questions people have. And a lot of people have a lot of feedback too, so it’s a great space.
Davelle: Cool. Awesome! Thanks so much for joining us, Michelle, it’s been great having you on the podcast. We’ll have to have you back in another month so I can learn some more!
Michelle: I love it! That sounds great!
Davelle: Awesome. Thanks a lot Michelle.
Thanks everybody for listening. You can find me at Davelle@BosleyRealEstate.com or on Twitter @DavelleMorrison or on Instagram @DavelleMorrison. Thanks everyone for listening. Bye for now!