Design directions: what designers want to change in your home

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press •September 10, 2016

It happens a lot. I am often asked what I most want to change in client’s homes. And there have been a lot of articles recently about “what designers dislike most.”

As a Southwest Florida interior decorator who goes into lots of homes, I can tell you a little secret: there are things that make us cringe and they may not be what you would expect. The good news: most of them are easily corrected and some can be done before the end of this article.

So, if your home is not feeling quite right, you may want to read through this list.  What bothers your decorator or designer is likely what is keeping you from loving your home.

Welcome or go away?

Starting at the front porch, there is nothing more boring than an entry that says nothing. It makes me think that this must be a really sad house that needs my help. Try this: Paint the front door (outside and inside). Hang a seasonal wreath on the door. Pottery or plans on either side of the door. Pretty (welcome) mat. Chair or bench with plants. Good lighting. Clean the cobwebs and the glass fixtures.

Who lives here anyway?

A reclaimed wood console table is the perfect base for building a collection in an entry or family room that reflects the owner of the home. Artwork, greenery, books, lamp and natural touches including natural seagrass beachcomber baskets that are beautiful and perfect for storage. All anchored by a handwoven diamond-wrapped jute rug. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn. 

The minute I step inside, I want to know who lives here? Someone who loves art, the beach, the outdoors, collectibles, vintage pieces, eclectic design? If I don’t have a few clues in the first few minutes, we need to get to work, which is why you called me. Try this: Style a table in your entry to reflect who you are and your lifestyle. Lamp. Plant. Shells? Books. Artwork. Mirror. It can be anything as long as it reflects YOU. This is what makes a house a home.

 Decorative painting.

Don’t try this at home. If you must have something sliding and sticking out from your walls in a strange glob or “unique” treatment, let a professional give you some suggestions and do the work for you. As designers, we have access to experts who provide faux and other finishes to accent your walls, so please leave this one alone.  Instead: If you have the DIY bug from too much unreality TV, paint your walls in a beautiful color and call it a day.

Fake flowers and greenery.  

If you have these in your home, please stop reading this article and remove them immediately!! From the top of kitchen cabinets and armoires, in pottery, table centerpieces and any place else.  They don’t hold up, look fake and accumulate dust.  Try this: Purchase a few real plants. They are good for the air in your home. If you have a not-so-green-thumb or maybe do not live here all year, use something else. And honestly, if artwork doesn’t work above your kitchen cabinets, the empty space is not so bad.

Furniture smashed up against the walls. 

Disclaimer:  there are absolutely times when this cannot be avoided.  But those times are few and far between.  Instead: arrange your furniture in a U-shaped configuration with a comfortable conversation area. And don’t worry about the back of your sofa showing.

Everything matches.

Sofa. Chairs. Ottoman. Coffee table. End tables. Okay. We know that planning a room takes some creativity. But if you just walk into a furniture store and purchase everything in the display, you likely aren’t going to be very happy in the long run because, well, your living room looks like a furniture store. Instead:  Add a vintage piece, or something eclectic to break up all of the “matching furniture.  Break up the sameness in color with throw pillows (that don’t all match), fabric window treatments, recover the sofa or the chairs and add some texture to the room.

Nothing matches. 

The eyes like pairs and pairs are needed to create a restful space. So if absolutely nothing matches, try this: Purchase matching lamps.  Add solid color pillows to help tie the unmatched grouping together. Coordinate a rug in a solid color to anchor the room.

Every room in the home is a different color.  

This one makes me smile. There is a pattern here. When most homeowners move to Southwest Florida, they want a tropical look. In-your-face-brights. I did this myself. But after a couple of years of that, most of us are ready to something calm and soothing. Try this: Go with neutral paint colors in the main living areas of the home (kitchen, family room, den, hallways, office). Incorporate color through accessories, fabric or window treatments, as well as an accent wall with paint color or wall covering. In the bathrooms, go bold with paint color or wall coverings.

Contemporary and traditional empire scroll rug has the look of an antique time-work work of art and ties this room together as it fits under legs of chairs and sofa.  Notice the pillows, pair of paintings and pair of chairs that also make this room cohesive. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn.

The floating rug.

A rug should be used to anchor a room.  But in most homes that I visit, a much too-small rug floats beneath the coffee table like a magic carpet. This is easily fixable when you are planning your room (most rugs are too small) and there are lots of variables but a general rule of thumb: Extend rug beyond the coffee table and at least under the first set of legs of sofa and chairs.

Drapes that are hung too low.

If you make an adjustment on this one it will completely change the room. Try this: Hang drapes as high as possible just below the ceiling or crown molding. They should also come all the way to the floor. Don’t be afraid of too much fabric. A tiny amount of puddling is better than too short!

Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator, A.S.I.D. associate and certified gold member of the Interior Redecorators Network. She has helped homeowners throughout Southwest Florida with timeless, affordable ways to create beautiful spaces and to solve decorating problems. Her column appears the first Saturday of each month. For more information visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips, articles and photos, visit