10 Cringe-worthy Design Fails (and the Apps that could Prevent Them)

From ill-advised dorm posters to impulse buys at IKEA, we’ve all fancied ourselves interior designers when we’re not. Luckily, most of us just end up with an ugly DIY fail that we get rid of with only a little bruise to our ego.

The design fails we are about to show you are not these small bumbles. Whether they’re the fault of the retailer, a saw-happy DIYer or possibly a color-blind roommate bent on enacting revenge, take heart to know you’ve never pulled off a design fail this bad.

Color and patterns: too little or too much, never just right

Color and pattern can make or break an interior design. Too little color and your house will look like nobody lives there. Too much, and your guests will need to put on shades before they enter. While most of us are content to throw in a striped accent pillow or a few family photos to spice up our living spaces, these amateurs went to extremes.

Call the cleaning staff, asap

Generally, the bathroom isn’t a place for big bold patterns. The people who decided on this countertop wanted to buck the trend, but it backfired — big time. Instead of being a fun addition to a small space, this design fail countertop looks like it’s covered in hairballs or clods of dirt:Poor choice for bathroom sink color_pattern


Not to mention, the countertop doesn’t match the texturing or patterns of the tiles at all. Dirty countertop look aside, the tiles are giving off a more rustic, muted feel, and a huge shiny countertop would have looked bad here no matter what.

Get thee to the container store

Home offices and desk areas can be great spaces to add a few touches of life. A vase of fresh flowers or a bookcase can add warmth and a personal touch. But if you jam too much in the space, it ends up looking like your stuff is creeping towards you, slowly staging a rebellion.

This home office space has two different flower vases, a bunch of books and DVDs that aren’t displayed well, wires everywhere, and stacks of coffee table books taking up valuable desk space.

Too much clutter (1)


With some more attractive storage, this could be a nice space to work in. But right now, it’s somewhere that’s so overcrowded with random objects — a reed diffuser? — that it seems too distracting to get anything done in there.

Did you move in yesterday?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, this living room area is severely under-decorated. It is a small space so we’d bet that the decorators didn’t want to risk making it feel even smaller and more crowded. However, aside from a tiny plant and one ornament hanging from the wall, this is bland, bland, bland. Classic design fail.

Needs art (1)

That wall right above the couch is prime space for hanging a painting, poster or tapestry. Those two white coffee tables could easily be dressed up with a few decorative coasters or even a big, colorful candle. Anything to make this look like it’s not Scandinavian minimalism gone wrong.

If you are afraid of color or worried you’ll botch your space with anything other than beige, an app like Color Capture can help you out — it automatically generates palates for paint colors from your inspiration photos that you can use to help yourself accessorize.

Pink punch

This is a great example of a theme gone too far. Actually, there’s some good here — that bedspread is cute, and the dresser works well with it.

But if we had to guess where this went wrong, it would be one of those cases where you can’t really imagine what the walls are going to look like… until they’re actually done. A test patch definitely wouldn’t capture the chaos that appears when you throw away your abandon and just jump straight into hot pink.



It’s times like this when you really need a tool that will let you “paint” things virtually, so you can see them before you commit. Lucky for all of us, that exists now.

Measure once, cut twice — wait, no!

That old saying measure twice, cut once seems to have been scrambled for a few people on this list. While home decorating can sometimes mean breaking out a level, a hammer or even a saw, it’s prudent to take a step back — sometimes literally — and think about the effect of your DIY demolition before you go ahead with it.

Get ready to make an entrance

A doorstopper shouldn’t be hard to get right, but by now a design fail of this magnitude shouldn’t surprise you. What we have before us is a basic measuring error that could have been easily avoided. Rather than putting the doorstop on its traditional location at the corner of the door, these homeowners needed to shift it in by a few inches:



This could easily have been fixed with a few extra minutes, a ruler and a pencil. Heck, you can even get high tech these days and use your phone to measure for you — there are no excuses anymore.

Make way for the porcelain palace

Here’s a quick tip: if you’re doing a bathroom reno, make sure that there’s enough space for your door to open. Otherwise, you’ll be taking drastic measures to make things work.



It might be hard to believe for the perpetrators of this DIY design fail, but visual technology is so good now that you can actually make a perfect scale model of anything you want at home. So the next time you’re redoing your bathroom, you can know exactly what the end result will be before you have to cut a hole into your door.

Even spacing? Never heard of it

Asymmetry can be a cool and funky element to add to a design, but it needs to be intentional. Hanging up a few paintings on a wall is not exactly the time to take a big plunge into uneven designs; it just looks like you don’t know how to measure or level anything.

Not evenly spaced (1)

Especially for home interior designers who are flying solo on their projects without a second set of eyes to tell them if things are even, it can be hard to maintain spacing and straightness. But these days you don’t even need a good friend to help; visual tech has your back. Next time, try an app that has a digital level and a measuring function.

*Items on box are not to scale

Buying and arranging furniture can be difficult, but it shouldn’t be so hard that you end up with one of these design fails. Whether it’s too much stuff in one place, incorrect layouts or accidental orders, all of these design fails could have been avoided.

So much furniture, so little room

The owners of this home clearly have some beautiful pieces, but no eye for the flow of a room or furniture arrangement. They’ve packed in five or six chairs, a stool, a loveseat, a huge hutch and no fewer than four tables in this living area.

image (3)


This is when you realize just how hard all those people on HGTV work. These pieces are beautiful, and this room has potential, but the room gets totally wrecked by amateur designs. If you can’t hire an expert, you can at least download an app to see how things are scaled and arranged in a room.

A teeny tiny mistake

Unless you’re six inches tall, this TV stand probably won’t do you much good. For shoppers, it is massively disappointing when an item arrives that isn’t to size, but this furniture fail is way more dramatic than a table that’s a few inches shorter than promised.



Although it’s easy to laugh at this poor purchase, for retailers fails like this are a big signal of bad UX. Are your search filters accurate? Can customers looking for items like furniture specify dimensions? Why would doll accessories get sorted into TV stands? Yeah, a customer should check twice before hitting “add to cart,” but this is a UX fail just as much as a design one. Our sympathies to this roommate with their TV still on the floor.

Bring it in really close, everyone

This room is just plain old puzzling. It’s a huge design fail because we can’t figure out what the person arranging this room was thinking at all. Were they going for an extremely cozy nook? There’s a lot of wasted space here, making this bedroom look awkward and cramped.

image (4)

It can be hard to make bold choices with furniture, especially when it comes to creative arrangements for a smaller space. Nobody wants to move around heavy furniture more than once, and an awkward arrangement like this can easily become permanent just because you get tired. No more! There are a ton of great apps out there that can help you see exactly what a design of a room will look like (with color and scale) before you lift a finger.

Help others, help yourself

These design fails are a fun commiseration for all of us who have ever tried our hand at DIYs and decorating. For us as consumers, they are a reminder to take a step back and see where help is available. With the boom in visual technology right now, there are professional-grade tools that are being made easy and available to the public for the first time. You don’t have to have a designer’s eye or a drafter’s knack for measuring to get yourself on track anymore.

And for retailers, this is a call to action. If you’re selling home goods, paints, interior items — don’t just stand back and let consumers go wild. The companies that are actually helping consumers envision their spaces with innovative apps, including the ones we linked here, are reeling in people who are walking away from you.