Thursday, January 10, 2013

10 Design Fads that need to go away!

Every decade has a "style" of its own.  To be fair and honest, I've been guilty of more than one of the examples below....okay...all of them.

In the past we've had wicker everything that was all the rage.  Wicker fans on the walls, wicker furniture, wicker accessories, etc. Then there were ducks everywhere in the kitchen.  Wall paper, curtains, canisters, ceramic measuring cups....ducks everywhere.  We had mushrooms that eventually took over from the ducks.  To make the kitchen even more "special" there were the avocado green, brown or even turquoise appliances which just made the ducks and/or mushroom accessories pop! (note some sarcasm there?)

There was the carpet craze where every surface (sometimes even walls) were covered in some type of carpet.  We had the dreaded shag (currently staging an updated comeback) which secretly and securely harbored every pointed object in your house, such as safety pins, needles and sharp toys so that when you walked through your living room barefoot, well, you get the idea.

Then there came the horrors of the indoor/outdoor carpet that folks glued down.  Not only was this carpet particularly ugly but it takes an act of God to get it all off your floors when you get ready to change it out. The really scary thing about this fad is the fact that folks put this carpet everywhere!  Even in the kitchen and bathrooms!  NOTE: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ANY TYPE OF CARPET EVER BE INSTALLED IN A KITCHEN OR BATHROOM.....EVER.  The most favored color was green.  It was supposed to simulate bringing the outdoors in (I guess).  But it also came in patterns! Much easier to clean than shag - but again, ugly.

No article on ugly past decorating choices would be complete without mentioning paneling.  I'm not speaking about the thick real wood paneling that you see in many upscale homes.  I'm speaking about the faux wood paneling that is most closely associated with trailers.  Notice I didn't say mobile homes. There is a difference.

At some point someone obviously thought, "Sheet rock is pricey and difficult to put up correctly.  Let's try this fake wood product"....and our world was suddenly thrust into being a world of fake wood paneling.  Not only is this a very ugly design choice but all manner of critters love this product.  Roaches especially are drawn to it. Ever try to hang a picture on a wall covered in paneling?  It takes about 5 or 6 generous nail holes before you finally find a spot secure enough to hold your picture without it crashing off the wall.

I've always been shocked by the areas in which people decided to put this paneling.  For some reason it's always in the darkest rooms in the house and usually accompanied by an equally dark floor product.  Basement family rooms and bedrooms appear to be the first choice of paneling hangers. I've often wondered why anyone ever thought "This is a dark room.  I think I'll make it even darker by installing faux wood paneling on the walls and some brown shag carpet on the floors".
Anyone remember the fake brick that folks used to slap on their walls?  Especially in the kitchen?  Has anyone ever been fooled into thinking it was actual brick? I have seen a resurgence of this product recently.  Thankfully, it has been improved and has more of a realistic touch and appearance, but it will wear on you over time so my question is - why do it?

There are past fads that went away and are staging comebacks.  Some of them don't make me cringe. I'm actually good with the resurgence of grass cloth (and to a point, shag carpet).  That is, as long as I'm not the one having to take it down. Grass cloth is textural and really adds depth and character to a room when done correctly.  However, cats LOVE to use it as a scratching post, smells (and stains) stick to it like glue (as in smoke and/or cooking fumes) and it seems nothing attracts dust quite like grass cloth.  One of the biggest draw backs to grass cloth is the fact that when you either get tired of it or decide it's too ripped up or stained to be attractive any longer - it can be impossible to take down without having to do massive repair work to your sheet rock.  I hear the newer version of grass cloth is a bit more forgiving in the take down department than its ancestors but quite honestly I haven't tried any of it so I can't vouch for that rumor.

The modern use of grass cloth is done in a more subtle way.  Sometimes it covers the entire room but usually it's done either above or below a chair rail or perhaps only on one wall.  The new grass cloth wall paper also comes in a variety of colors and designs.  If you find yourself with the old version of grass cloth and don't really want to fool with the considerable time and expense necessary to take it down and repair your walls, you can actually paint over it which leaves the texture but gives the old wall covering a fresh new life and eliminates both the old odors and stains.

The new incarnation of shag carpeting is a wonderful improvement when used correctly in your room.  The new version is thicker with a deeper pile and normally a single color.  No more varying degrees of brown, blue, orange or green swirling around on your floor.  Shag is a wonderful carpet when used sparingly.  Such as using it only in the bedroom or perhaps only in the family room.  My personal favorite is to buy an area rug version of the shag and use it in such a way that the wood or tile floors still show around the border of the room.  Otherwise, shag can be overwhelming.
Below are my top 10 choices for the most overused and (I hope) quickly becoming past fads of the past decade.

1. Granite?  

Am I the only person left on the planet Earth who dislikes granite?  Sure, it's pretty and the options are endless in the color and vein department.  However, it's not the indestructible natural product that folks would have you believe.  It takes maintenance   It's pricey.  It doesn't hold up well to heavily used kitchens and/or bathrooms.  No matter what your salesperson told you, granite will break and/or chip.

The key to maintaining your granite is to closely monitor its use.  Trivets always beneath hot pans.  Don't dare spill wine or other acidic liquids on it!  Seal it at least every six months.

Marble is another surface product that is equally as high maintenance.  If you are Suzy Clean and live alone with no children to worry about - then you could probably do marble and granite without it looking atrocious after only a couple of years.  But otherwise.....forget about it.  When you couple the above with the fact that you can spend nearly the same amount and get an actual maintenance proof product like soap stone or Quartz - why get granite or marble? I'll give you that marble is the best surface for baking - but most of us don't bake every day of the week so why even consider that when purchasing a surface product? Especially one as expensive as a good marble or granite.

Back in the day when the fad was laminate or ceramic tile surfaces, it wasn't a big deal to go with the fad.  Both of the products were very reasonably priced and easy to both install and remove.  However, granite and marble are not such creatures.  They require professional installation and professional removal.  They also cost at least 4 times the amount of money.

2. Monochromatic decorating.

Please God make it go away!!  I remember the Shabby Chic trend - I liked it for a minute.  The stainless and concrete urban trend - I liked it for a minute.  The 70's retro trend - I didn't like it at all.  But this monochromatic, white on white or white on beige trend is really annoying me.

A lot of the older homes are filled with wonderful moldings, casings and beams that should be showcased and accentuated.  However, this trend covers them all up and makes them go away.  Did I say that I really hate this trend?  Paint is a wonderful invention!  It is by far the cheapest and most effective way to change the look of a room.  Or house for that matter.  However, before you paint a good quality wood, think about how much time and money it's going to cost you if you change your mind down the road and decide you want the look of the wood back.  Trust me, sand blasting is not cheap.

Below is a photo of a room in a castle.  If you look closely you will see magnificent woodwork.  But you have look closely because the designer has opted to paint it all white.  The designer should be arrested for defacing such incredible craftsmanship.

3. Open Concept.

I hate open concept nearly as much as I hate monochromatic rooms.  There are times when it is advisable to knock down a wall or two.  For example, many row houses have a lot of rooms but they're all very small.  I can see the necessity in taking a few of those walls down in order to expand the area.  However, why would you tear out walls in a four square or a craftsman bungalow?  My personal feeling is that when I am hosting a dinner party or a family holiday meal, the last thing I want is for everyone to be able to see directly into my kitchen.  To me, there should always be a wall dividing the kitchen from the dining room and/or living room.  Always.  Can't see your kids when they're in the living room playing and you're fixing dinner?  I think there are other ways to deal with that situation than to knock down walls and destroy the integrity of your house.

4. Stainless steel and/or black appliances. 

Nice to look at in the show room but have you ever tried to keep them clean in real life?  Fingerprints and dust collect on them like flies to honey.  I don't care how good your exhaust fan is, there will always be some level of moisture, smoke and/or grease that is going to escape into your kitchen.  Where does it all go?  Straight to your stainless steel and/or black appliances.

The picture below shows an oven that was all the rage back in the late 1970's early 1980's.  It was quite the fad.  Now?  If you walked into a house for sale and saw it would you want it?  Same thing will happen in the next year or so when folks walk into houses for sale that include granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances.

5. Smooth cooktops and/or Induction cooktops.

Do I need my water to boil 3 times faster?  I really don't.  Do I want a smooth cooktop?  I truly don't. Where does the water go when you boil the pasta over when you have these?  I don't even want to know.  Also, if they have to come out with specific products that should be used to clean the cooktop, it should warn folks that maybe these aren't going to be the easiest things to maintain.

6. Chalkboard anything.

I HATE chalkboard paint.  With all my heart.  End of discussion.

7. TV's above the fireplace or anywhere on the wall.

Several years ago while touring a new upscale housing development I noticed that above every single fireplace was a "TV nook".  Really?  First, unless you had a TV that exactly fits into that nook, you're screwed.  Better get a large vase and fill it with flowers because otherwise that is absolutely wasted space.

Hanging a TV over your fireplace or on your wall, is never a good thing.  First if you are like me and you like to rearrange your furniture, you're screwed.  Once you go through the time and expense to find a stud and attach the mounting hardware necessary to hang your TV, there's a good chance that you're not going to take it all down and move it to the other side of the room.  Right?

Secondly, who wants to have to crane their neck at an unnatural angle in order to watch TV?

Thirdly, after decades of designers vehemently declaring that TV's are NOT focal points in rooms - when did they suddenly decide that they should be the focal point of your room?  Personally, I like well crafted open entertainment centers or TV armoires   Then if I get a larger TV, no problem.  If I decide to put it on the opposite wall?  No problem.

8. Desk in the kitchen.

I don't know about you, but I like storage in my kitchen.  I have a room that is designated as an office space so why do I need a desk taking up valuable space in my kitchen where cabinetry could have been?

9. Fake hardwoods.

To me laminate hardwood floors are the new millennium's version of vinyl flooring. Laminate hardwood floors are nothing but fake trailer paneling on your floor.  They look like it, they warp like it, they sound like it when you walk on them, they feel like know the old saying..."if it quacks like a duck and looks like a's probably a duck."   Spend that extra  approximately $3.00 per foot and get some real wood put down.  The money you will save down the road will make the extra investment well worth it in the end.  The reason I'm saying that is because just like the indoor/outdoor carpeting, the fake brick back splashes, the orange swirl carpeting and even the granite counter top fads....laminate flooring will become a design faux pas and when you get ready to sell your home, potential buyers will cringe when they see the laminate floors.  Same thing goes for your expensive granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances.

10. Textured anything - ceilings, walls - anything.

This includes the paintable textured wall paper.  I understand that sometimes you have a wall  that is badly damaged by years of bad repair work or whatever.  Or maybe you have some trailer paneling that you want to cover up rather than remove.  Textured wall paper or a textured paint finish might sound like a good solution.  I'm here to tell you - it's not.  Below is an example of what I'm talking about.

My recommendation is to stick to the classics.  The finishes and reno choices that have withstood the tests of time.  You can always jazz your interior up with fad furniture, current paint colors, trendy rugs or artwork/accessories if you want your home to be current but when it comes to the pricey and sometimes pretty permanent upgrades, stick to what will get your home sold quickly and for more money in the end.  Even if you are certain that this is your "forever" home, always remember that things go out of style and design choices will eventually look ugly and dated even to you over time so spend your money where it counts.

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