Designs That Look Bad in Real Life, According to Interior Designers

Estimated read time 5 min read

Pallet furniture may not be very comfortable.

Two pallet sofas with brown cushions beside white table

Pallet furniture can also sometimes have splinters.


Pallet furniture — minimalist pieces mainly made of wood — may look creative and relaxing, but Andra DelMonico, lead interior designer at Trendey, said to approach the trend with caution.

“On social media and in pictures, pallet-wood furniture looks creative and comfortable with its large seating areas and plush pillows thrown on top,” DelMonico said. “However, in real life, these sofas and chairs aren’t that comfortable.”

These pieces don’t include springs like traditional furniture and lack support since many people buy pillows instead of seat cushions with a firm interior. 



Don’t skimp and paint your kitchen appliances.

Kitchen with plant, white cabinets, and small blue refrigerator

If you can afford it, you’re better off buying a colored appliance.

Olena Gaidarzhy/Shutterstock

Instead of painting refrigerators and turning them into creative canvases, DelMonico recommended splurging on a colored appliance.

“If you want a colored, large kitchen appliance, just commit and buy one. Don’t try to paint your current appliances,” she told BI. 

You’d need to prepare and prime the surface before adding any paint, and even then, a brush or sponge can leave a streaky finish. Plus, the coat likely won’t hold up against scrubbing and cleaning in the long term.

Dark spaces can have noticeable flaws.

Bathroom with matte black walls

Dark bathrooms are a popular design choice.

Suleyman Ozkan/Getty Images

Dark, moody bathrooms are trendy, but photos don’t always reveal how difficult the upkeep can be, according to Hillary Stamm at HMS Interiors.

If you are going to opt for the trend, be mindful about where you include it.

“In children’s bathrooms or any spaces that get heavy traffic, this can be a poor choice, as any nick or dent will show quickly,” she explained. “A month after installation, we have a dented and banged-up, albeit new bathroom.” 

Accent walls are not always a good fit.

living room with yellow accent wall

Accent walls can make a room feel unfinished.


Julie Brayton, lead designer of Brayton Interiors, told BI that no matter how trendy and fun an accent wall might seem, it may not be a good fit from a design perspective.

“While these can photograph nicely, oftentimes it really throws off the balance in a room when you’re actually in it and can make the room feel unfinished and unconsidered,” Brayton said.

You can still make a statement with other forms of art or unique decor.

Shabby-chic sofas require a lot of maintenance.

Living room with white shabby chic sofa, coffee table, and TV

The cushions often slide off of shabby-chic furniture.

Enrika Samulionyte/Shutterstock

Pieces that look lived-in, shabby-chic sofas can be challenging to take care of, according to Morgan Blinn, interior designer at Rumor Designs.

“Shabby chic sofas are all over TikTok right now. The worn-in look is great in photos, as they are staged for the moment, but in real life, this style sofa takes a lot of upkeep for something that is marketed to be ‘effortlessly’ chic,” Blinn explained.

The cushions on these pieces often slip, so you’ll likely need to consistently readjust them —  though some higher-end products include straps to keep them in place.

Mismatched dining chairs tend to look more confusing than chic.

Open concept dining room and living room and kitchen with mismatched dining chairs

Mismatched chairs can make a space look messy.

Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

It might seem like mismatched dining chairs add variety and personality to a room, but interior designer Leah Atkins of Leah Atkins Design said this choice could look unintentional. 

“Mismatched dining chairs are a cool idea in theory and can look fun and eclectic in pictures, but they tend to look messy in real life,” Atkins said. “It just looks like you are living in a shared college living space where everyone brought their own chair.” 

Instead, opt for a matching set that fits the aesthetic of your space.

Painted kitchen cabinets usually look “too good to be true” in pictures.

Painted blue cabinets in a kitchen with white counter and backsplash

The paint may not look great over time.

David Papazian/Shutterstock

Many folks paint kitchen cabinets when they need an upgrade, but Devin Shaffer, lead interior designer at Decorilla, advised thinking twice about this DIY project.

He said usually the trend looks “too good to be true.” 

“Oftentimes, photos of people’s DIY projects are taken right after they finish their project,” Shaffer explained. “In the case of painted cabinets, they’ll quickly start to peel, the dry paint will show bumps and drip lines, and will eventually lose their shine as grime and dirt start to collect on the improperly finished surface.”

Reupholstering furniture might not be worth the hassle.

Blue and white upholstered chair in front of gray wall

It may be worth hiring someone to reupholster it for you.

LOOK Photography/Getty Images

Shaffer told BI that reupholstering furniture rarely ends up being as easy and seamless as it looks on social media.

“Shoving cushion filling into a vintage seating piece will turn into a mess, and I can guarantee you that about five minutes into the project, you’ll get frustrated and end up discarding the entire piece and fabric,” Shaffer said.

Even though he said reupholstered pieces “definitely look fabulous,” he instead recommended buying a new sofa or chair, or hiring a professional to do the job, if your budget allows.