Typically, every designer has blundered hard at least once or twice in their career.  Once you’re over the initial shock and embarrassment, opening up and talking about mistakes in order to learn from them helps elevate your design abilities.  Never make the same mistake twice.

After reaching out to multiple designers, here is a list of common mistakes and what they learned from them.  All designers requested anonymity!  Because clearances are the big daddy of issues, the first error to avoid is a no-brainer:

Missing obstacles such as vents, electrical panels/outlets and steamer units (if the homeowner has a steam shower).

Lesson learned:  Note obstacles at the beginning of the design process, even if your client says: “don’t worry about it, we’re not going to the ceiling”.  Designs change!  Be thorough and note every detail no matter how insignificant.  Measure twice, cut once.  It’s critical to take your time when measuring and double check your measurements, as it’s very easy to transpose numbers. Taking reference photos of obstacles and the room prevents “second guessing” or remembering wrong.  Having those photos for a reference view is a good practice so you can “see” the space.

If you’re measuring a new construction space, go back to the space at least 7 days prior to your installation date for a final measure.  Something may have been added that you didn’t note in your drawings.

In the early days of closet design, there were not as many offerings (3 colors, 3 types of handles, drawer slides, etc).  As the home storage industry has matured, more offerings have created more room for errors.  Don’t fall victim to an error that could easily have been remedied by more attention to detail!


Door swings and clear floor space, particularly around islands and peninsulas.

Lesson learned:  Don’t just plan for walk space around these pieces, plan for the usability of the space.  When opening drawers, can you stand in front of them, or do you have to stand to the side? Your client requested a 3-way mirror cabinet, did you leave enough room so they can see themselves in it?  12” of clearance in front of a mirror is not enough.


Overdesigning – 10lbs in a 5lb bag – a list of client must-have options that might fit into the space, but look so cluttered the overall organizational effect is ruined.

Lesson learned: Don’t be a client pushover!  You’re the expert, and they’re paying for your valuable advice.  Take time to step back from the design process to review design details, maybe even having a trusted designer friend lend a second set of eyes if possible.  Guiding clients in prioritizing their wish list from day one is essential.


Hardware – underutilizing the different options provided by the numerous hardware vendors to create a fully realized design. The opposite of the previous mistake, in this case “under-design”.

Lesson learned: Trying to keep it simple for the customer by just offering a few choices, (or the client could take longer to choose) deprives the aesthetics of your design.  Visually, it makes a difference when using proper sizes. Having a closet with all 6″ handles is ok, but tall doors that call for 10″ handles and 6″ handles on the short doors and drawers makes a closet more custom and less cookie cutter.


Crown molding not matching with the existing molding.

Lesson learned: Pay close attention to existing molding in the room.  The client loves the design but wants to take it up to the ceiling.  Their ceiling already has crown molding.  How is what you are designing going to mesh into the existing crown with a different profile and not look out of place?  The same applies for base molding.


While this is not a complete list, it’s a solid collection of missteps that have been relayed to me with much hesitation as the pain of the error has faded over time.  I’m sure there are some that are too awful to bring up but, an error made is also a lesson learned and not easily forgotten.  Onward and upward!