We’ve all come across them. Some of us even have been guilty of them. Hasty, rush jobs of interior design or simply really bad ideas that end up transforming a house into a large monument of shame.
Of course, it’s entirely up to you what you decorate your own home with; but, as an investor you can’t afford to alienate the majority of the human race with the choices you make on your property.
For example: walls that are painted violently red fighting with somber autumnal coloured furniture, in a battle that no one will win. Or styles that suit the owner down to a tee but that are mildly disturbing to everyone else: one case we’ve heard of where an owner thought a men’s urinal in the living room would be “a kitsch talking point”. Quick note: Any design ideas that start with the word “kitsch” or “retro” should be stopped immediately.
“This sounds harsh but you may have to reconcile yourself to the fact that your personal taste may not be for everyone.”
What are some of the worst offenders? And what’s the best way to avoid them? Let’s have a look.
Hodge podge of styles: This seems like an elementary mistake to avoid yet it’s surprising how often it crops up. It’s the result of either indecision to commit to one style, or else trying to be too clever and putting a few different styles in, or simply just loving multiple styles and throwing them all together. Extremely good stylists can create a space with a few different styles that complement each other. Like a nineteenth century rustic look with a few contemporary touches to lift it. But a hefty barrage of different styles is just a little too schizophrenic for the average person. Also some styles simply are not meant to live together. They’re simply terrible roommates. For instance, using austere Victorian styles with 1960s retro. Or an industrial kitchen with folky 70s touches. It’s worth remembering that even types of wood can clash.
Using too bright colours: Ever tried to stroll through a room of vibrant banana yellow walls offset by gaudy pink furniture and electric blue rugs? It’s like living on the set of the Wiggles. You do want to create a sparkling, pleasant environment but you don’t want to blind people’s eyes. Relentlessly bright and upbeat can overwhelm like a bad 80s synth record. Rooms need to be a place that entices and exudes comfort and space; not making you feel like the Bananas In Pyjamas will suddenly crash through the door. There’s an equal case to make for not going too dark. No one wants to live in a house with black walls unless they spend a lot of time listening to the Cure.
Idiosyncratic can be idiotic: This sounds harsh but you may have to reconcile yourself to the fact that your personal taste may not be for everyone. As an investor your priorities for a house should be functional first then aesthetic second. Ideally the two should come together beautifully: form and function. But if your aesthetic choices mean you create meandering corridors; a bad use of natural light or a striking, overwhelming colour palate, then this impedes with both form and function. Or you may love wood paneled kitchens where the entire floor to wall is wood – however be prepared you could be in the minority. Don’t overwhelm would-be-renters with your own tastes. This also covers other sins such as building windows that are far too high up the wall; remember you’re creating a tasteful living space not a small church.
Random use of small rugs: For some reason there’s a section of society that is obsessed with putting tiny rugs into living spaces. This eventuates into bizarre looks like this.
You need a few inches border between the flooring and the rug around a room's perimeter. Any less than that then the rug seems a bit pointless. This also goes for putting tiny rugs or square rugs in toilets and bathrooms. Rugs can help define a space with warmth or colour and pull disparate elements together. A large rug will help to build an impression of size in the space. A small rug shrinks space and confuses the eye more than a Justin Bieber science textbook.
Popcorn ceilings: Also known as cottage cheese ceilings, these spray on ceilings are quite contentious. They were very much of their time - the 1960s. However it’s worth noting you never hear them mentioned in a good sentence about the Sixties: ie. “Hendrix; Woodstock; popcorn ceilings”. It simply doesn’t happen. The fact is: some love them; quite a few can’t stand them. As an investor it’s best to avoid anything contentious. Given that there are many blogs devoted to the removal of popcorn ceilings, it’s safe to assume that popcorn ceilings are like the Ebola virus of real estate. When the majority are trying to quarantine themselves from it, it’s probably not a great investment.
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There are some general rules of thumb for design as an investor, which are:
Use natural light as much as possible
Open up the property so it feels free flowing
Make sure the colours all match and don’t overwhelm with too garish or bright
Don’t impose your own tastes too much on a property unless you’re quite sure that your tastes are very mainstream. For example, you may love lots of staircases and split levels, but families looking to rent may find it frustrating
If the property you’ve invested in needs work don’t make the solution too elaborate. For example, creating narrow hallways and doorways, which may look attractive but don’t help with the day to day traffic in the house
Finally, when in doubt seek help and guidance from a professional designer. As much as we all like to think we have interior design brilliance and creativity, the fact is very few of us really do. Sometimes acceptance is not that far from genius.