Monday, January 28, 2013


I have lived places that had paneling.  A couple of those properties had the really nice real wood paneling that gave the room a distinguished and warm feel.  However, the majority of those properties had sheet paneling that has about as much real wood in it as my plastic lawn chairs.  In my neck of the woods, we call that trailer paneling.  There has never been a painting or piece of furniture ever made in the history of the world that when put up against this type of paneling will make it look better.

When dealing with a wall covering that you can't live with, the best solution (in a perfect world) would be to have it all removed and replaced with nice new sheetrock.  However, what if you don't have the budget to have that done?  My solution?  Paint it!  This post will give you instructions on how to do this and a few visuals as to what it will look like if you do.

I'm a little torn about the thick really nice pine paneling.  I get that it's real wood and my rule has always been "if it's real wood - never paint".  However, when you have an entire room with it on every wall and only one or two windows.....I have to break that rule and paint it.  Once in while I will leave maybe one wall with the paneling untouched.  Another option would be to tape it off to chair railing height.  Paint the upper portion of the walls, clean the lower portion, add a chair rail and love the results!

But this post will be about completely changing paneling so let's get going!

Most people clean, prime and paint and then call it a day with paneling.  I don't know if it's because I'm a masochist or a perfectionist but when I cover paneling - I don't ever want to be reminded that there's paneling beneath that paint!  My only exception is when the paneling is real wood and you get that 3-D effect in the grooves.  I like the look of the deep groves once painted.  But trailer paneling?  I fill in the grooves and once I'm done, you'd never know it's not sheetrock.

Here's a few before shots of the paneling in question.
There's nothing even remotely attractive about this paneling.  All it accomplishes is making the room look dated and very dark.  Who could live in these rooms and not become suicidal??

Now some folks agree that they should paint the paneling.  But some folks obviously need more practice and taste before they attempt it judging from the picture below.

Below is an example of paneling that I'd never paint!  The first picture shows a room with floor to ceiling wood and then more wood in the beams.  However, it has tons of natural light that floods the room and keeps it from looking dark and depressing.  I'd never paint the wood in this room!

The room below has such gorgeous paneling!  Anyone who would even consider painting that should be arrested!

The room below has wood on every surface.  Floor, walls, ceiling.  Yet, again, because of the high ceilings and huge volume of natural light, it looks neither dark nor cave like.

Next take a look at the real wood pine paneling I was talking about.  It's real wood.  It has a nice wide plank.  It has wonderful knots.  I really love it.  Except for the fact that it covers every wall in a small dark room.  I've noticed that to be a real trend back in the 60's and 70's.  They invariably saved their dark paneling for small dark rooms.  Not a good idea.

Now how do you paint paneling?  While it's not a hard job, there are more steps to correctly paint paneling than sheet rock.

1.  You have to clean the paneling.  Paneling will grab hold of more dust, smoke, cooking oils than sheetrock, so while it may be okay to just take a dust mop and wipe down a wall covered in sheetrock, you need to actually hand wipe a paneled wall because every place that has a film will reject or at best, severely weaken the paint coverage.  Best to do it right the first time than to have to repeat the job down the road.

2.  Once you've cleaned the paneling and it's completely dry, we move to the next step.  Lightly sand the paneling to remove any gloss and take care of any splintering in the product.  Once you're done this, wipe the wall down with a damp (not wet) cloth to remove any dust.

Warning:  Shortcuts are awesome!!  I use them whenever possible.  However, if you don't remove the gloss and prime your paneling, your paint will literally slide off......below is an example for you.

3.  While you are cleaning and sanding your walls, stay on the lookout for any portions that have bowed.  As long as the paneling is dark, these bows don't seem to show up as much but once you have lightened them up - any bows will be glaringly obvious.  Using a nail with a head (to prevent the nail from eventually slipping through the paneling), nail these areas down to reduce or eliminate the bows.

4.  Now we get to fill in the all the grooves.  This is not as much of a time consuming job as you might think at first glance. Trust me, it's all worth it in the end.  I use the same joint compound used on sheetrock because it tends to shrink less over time.  I have used spackle in the past.  It worked just fine and my finished product was beautiful.  However, in about a year's time, it had shrunk to the point that it cracked in spots.  Those cracks showed through the paint and a redo was necessary.  For most sheet paneling the grooves aren't very deep so one good application should be all that is needed.  Once you get into the swing of it, it'll go by really quickly.  Let the compound dry (or cure) completely.  I did my paneling over the weekends so in one weekend, I cleaned and filled in the grooves and didn't come back to prime it until the following weekend which gave the compound more than ample time to cure.  However, if you're trying to get it done quickly, I'd follow the directions on the compound and allow it to cure based on the manufacturer's recommendations.  Normally 4 to 6 hours will be fine.  Below is an example of the process.

5.  Now that the compound is cured, go back over your work with a 100 grit sandpaper and just lightly sand to remove any excess.  You don't have to get every single drop that has gotten onto the paneling.  Just sand enough to make it all smooth.  Then, again, wipe the walls with a damp cloth to remove any dust.  If you still notice the grooves, go back over it once more with the joint compound step.

6.  You are ready to prime!  Any DIY store or paint store can point you in the direction of the proper primer for this project if you just tell them you are priming sheet paneling.  If you hate asking or the store's too busy for you to wait on a clerk, then just look for a shellac based stain blocking primer.  Make sure you turn the can around and read the directions to make sure it's the product that is geared for sheet paneling.  With this step, you apply it the same as wall paint.  I like to do two coats letting the first one cure completely before applying the second coat.  After you have applied the first coat and it has cured, go back over your wall with your hand to look for any rough spots that might need to be spot sanded.

7.  Paint!  This is the absolute last step in the process!  I am a two coat kinda girl but if you've properly prepared and primed your wall, one coat will usually do the trick especially if you've asked the paint guy/girl to tint your primer - highly recommended.

Below are a few examples of painted paneling.  The first is a kitchen covered in fake wood. A great big shout out to Kristie Barnett (The Decorologist) for these kitchen pictures.

Look what she's done to this kitchen!!  No new custom cabinets, just new lighting, counter tops, cabinet hardware, new floor covering and (most importantly) she painted all that dark wood! Beautiful!

Below is a paneled den.  It's not sheet paneling but there's just SO much wood in this rather small room.  From the picture it appears the room gets ample natural light.  But it's just not enough to liven up this dark room.

Now look at what she's done with it!  An amazing difference!  How bright and clean does this look?

Below is a very dark living room.  Even with the huge windows, this room looks like a cave.

Look at it now!  Again, light and clean.

Below is an example of paneling without filling in the grooves.  It looks amazing!

Below is another example of not filling in the grooves.  However, this one just looks like painted sheet paneling and I am not impressed.  I'm sure it looks far better than it did before, but it would have looked so much better with the grooves filled in.  Also, if you will notice about the middle of the wall towards the top is a section of paneling that has bowed.  I can't stress enough the importance of checking your wall (before you do anything else) for bowed sections and putting a few well placed nails in order to straighten it out.

As I said earlier, the best possible solution to replacing wall coverings such as sheet paneling, is to have a professional rip it all out and replace with sheetrock.  But sometimes for various reasons, this is not an option.  Maybe you're putting your house on the market for financial reasons and the money's not there.    Maybe it's a room that isn't used much and the added cost just isn't worth it to you.  Maybe you're like the majority of folks in this country and all your paycheck is already spent on rent, groceries and utilities.  Whatever your reason, painting the paneling is both a viable and attractive alternative to replacing it.

Feel free to let me know how your paneling experience goes!  I'd love to see photo's!

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Beadex 1 Gallon Pre-Mixed All Purpose Joint Compound 385278 (Google Affiliate Ad)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to NOT sell a house

Selling a house in today's market is difficult.  However, why make it impossible?  Are there really people out there who list their homes for sale when they really don't want to sell them?  Apparently.  I can't think of any other reason as to why folks do the things listed below.  And for the record, none of the houses that I've pictured below were For Sale By Owner.  ALL of them had licensed real estate agents who actually allowed their name and the name of their company to be associated with the properties.  Moral of the day?  Just because you have an agent to list your home does not mean he or she is going to clean your house for you to get it sold.

Now let's get started on the list!


4. Things that don't work or fall off when you touch them.

Everything in your house should work before you put it on the market.  Nothing in your house should fall off whenever someone touches it.  Two simple rules to live by.

Trust me.  When people come to view your home they are going to open your kitchen drawers and your kitchen cabinets.  They are going to slide the closet doors open and flip light switches.  They are going to use the banisters when they go up or down the stairs and believe it or not - they are going to fully expect them not to wiggle or fall off.

None of your lights should flicker - replace bulbs.  None of the drawer fronts should come off in the buyers hands.  None of the cabinet doors should swing off the hinges.  Invest in a pack of light bulbs and a screwdriver and fix this stuff BEFORE you put your house on the market or your only option will be to live there for the next few years because that's how long, if ever, it will take for you to even get an offer that will let you break even on your loan.

3.  Odors.
Let's picture an all too frequent scenario.  Your house is on the market and your agent calls to let you know that there will be an open house from noon to 4 this Saturday.  The entire family cleans and declutters to a frenzy and then packing up the kids, dogs and spouse you make yourselves scarce on Saturday between noon and 4.  By the time you get home you are about 2 seconds away from taking the dogs to the pound, the kids to the orphanage and the spouse to divorce court.  The only thing that could possibly save your day (and family) will be news from your agent of an offer!!  But, alas, you get no such news.

Why?  The house and yard are spotless!!  I'll tell you why.  The basement smells a bit musty.  Your son's room smells like dirty socks, your daughter's room smells like the dog that sneaks into her bed every night.  The master bedroom smells like an odd mixture of after shave and hair spray and the entire downstairs smells faintly of last night's dinner.

You and your family don't even notice any of the above.  Why?  Because you all live in the house and have grown accustomed to those smells.  With the ever growing number of non smokers in this world, odor is a real threat to selling a house.  Gosh real estate was so much easier back in the days when everyone smoked 2 packs a day....

One last note on odor.  GET RID OF THE PLUG-INS!  Sure they smell good but they also send a very loud message that there's something to cover up.  Try the scented melting waxes or simple diffusers instead.  Trust me, if those two things don't work - you have a serious odor problem.

2. Overpricing.
I know you love your home.  You're proud of it.  You've worked hard to get it and keep it.  To you it's worth millions!!  However, at the end of the day, it's really only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  I don't care if it appraised at $250,000.  Always remember that what a bank will loan on a house and what a buyer will pay for it are usually two entirely different numbers.  If the only offer you get on it is $150,000 then that's probably what the house is worth.

You can try the old "slap a price on it and see if anyone bites" routine and then lower it until someone makes an offer.  Sure you can.  Just be ready for a long long wait and many low ball offensive offers to come your way.  There's an old real estate saying that goes something like this "It's better to be the cheapest house in an expensive neighborhood then the most expensive house in a cheap neighborhood." (or something to that effect).  This is very true.

It doesn't matter if your home really is worth $250,000 if all the houses around you are only worth $100,000.  Very few, if any, people are going to pay 2 1/2 times what all their neighbors paid for a house.  If you just can't stand to part with your house for less than you think it's worth, stay put and hope the real estate market bounces back with a vengeance.

There are a couple of other reasons you should never get crazy on your pricing.  One of them is the fact that buyers (and their agents) can smell blood.  If you have reduced the price on your house 4 times in the past 6 months and still no offers, they will be able to smell the desperation and the low ball offers will begin to flood you.  The second reason is they will assume that something is seriously wrong with your house, neighborhood or both - and they'll run in the opposite direction.

And the number one reason houses sit on the market for so long?

1. Clutter and Filth.
I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Do you really want the whole world to know you live like a pig??  Why anyone would allow their home to be photographed or shown when it's dirty is beyond my comprehension  Further, why a professional real estate agent would ever photograph or show a nasty house is beyond my comprehension - but that's for another blog.

Clutter could be toys strewn about. It could be laundry that has yet to be folded and put neatly away.  But it can also be collectibles - LOTS OF COLLECTIBLES!  I know you might love your plastic flowers, dolls, elephants, religious artifacts, clowns (shudder) - but believe me when I tell you - you are in the minority.  Again, I will say - You're planning to move anyway (otherwise your house would not be for sale) so rent a storage unit and pack at least 50% of your stuff up and store it away from the sight of potential buyers......please.

(Doll collections creep me out)
Roosters don't creep me out but in this instance they do prevent me from seeing the window, the walls, the floor....

Some people think that dishes and groceries all over the counters, in the sink and covering every other inch of square footage in the kitchen and dining room falls under the heading of clutter.  I, for one, think it falls into the filth category.  When I look at the pictures below, I don't think "They must be a busy family who just haven't gotten around to putting the makings of breakfast back into the cupboards" think "there are roaches and rats in here - I just know there are!!"

Side note:  It's sad when you have to bring in a TV dinner tray in order to have a surface upon which to put your garbage....
This gem of a kitchen sports a "lovely" wallpaper border, missing drawer front and plenty of garbage for the truly discerning home buyer.
The picture above is from a house for sale in New Jersey.  I got nothing else to say about this kitchen that wouldn't get me booted from this site.....

I think I can smell this bathroom through my monitor - that's how nasty this looks.
The ad for this house actually touted the fact that this house has a home office!  There's nothing about this room that I'd tout....
How much money would it have cost the home owner to rip up that worse than nasty carpet, slap a coat of paint on the walls, rip down that sheet they're using for a curtain and pick up the garbage littering the floor?  Answer:  About $30 and 2-4 hours of their time.
Again, take the carpet to the curb and slap some paint on these walls and ceiling. 4 hours of your time, $30 for paint and you've just added maybe another $10,000 to the price of the house with it selling in half the time.

To recap this section, it's not difficult to get ready to put your house on the market.  You don't have to rip out the kitchens and bathrooms and put in high end ones.  You don't even have to replace the carpeting that you rip out and take to the curb if you can't afford to - you'll still make more money from a naked, but clean, slab than you will from exposing potential buyers to this filth.

All you have to do is wash (and put away) your dishes.  Grab a couple of garbage bags and pick up all the garbage.  Wipe the light switches and - for God's sake - clean your bathrooms!!

Everything above is really common sense.  Most people knock themselves out cleaning and straightening up in preparation for company.  Strangers coming to your home to decide if they want to write you a very large check is a category far above "company".  They deserve the extra effort for sure!

But that's just me.....

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Open Concept.....ugh

My last post was about things that I hope will go out of style very very soon and things that have gone out of style (thankfully).  Today I'd like to revisit one of those.  Open Concept.

If I hear that term one more time, I very well may throw up in my mouth.

As I've stated before, there are houses that need some walls taken down.  Row houses are notorious about having small rooms.  After both WWII and the Korean War, small bungalow type houses were built for the returning veterans.  They were cracker box houses.  Very small foot print.  1 bathroom.  Closet sized kitchen.  No exterior decoration.  I know you've all seen them before. Below are a couple of photo's.
  Over the years some owners have embellished these houses and added to them but without additions, unless you rip out nearly all the interior walls, you will always have small rooms.

In these instances, I completely get open concept - as long as it doesn't bother you that you are permanently and forever changing the entire character of your house. Or in some folks opinions, taking the character away from the house.

There are a few things people should realize about open concept.  Things they never ever mention in all the home improvement TV shows.

The noise. 
When you remove walls, it creates open space which allows sound to bounce around in a more open area causing it to amplify.  Think about a bowling alley or a train station.  This means your footsteps will be louder, your laughter, your voice, the kids playing...everything will be louder.

If you aren't very careful when deciding which walls to remove and you take down the walls where the hallway once stood, you can say goodbye to nap time for the kids or your being able to get to sleep while your teenagers stay up late watching movies in the living room because your noise buffer (the hallway) has been removed and now sound can float all the way to (and into) the bedrooms.

Display area.
Obviously, open concept also means much less wall space.  For those of you who don't particularly like hanging family photo's on the walls or artwork or even mirrors, this may not be an issue.  But for those of us who do.....bad situation. Good news is that you'll save a ton of money on paint.....because there aren't many walls left to paint.

If you don't mind sitting down at a dinner party or holiday meal with your kitchen completely exposed for all to see, then open concept won't be a big deal to you.  But if you do - then you're out of luck.  Also, if you are the cleanest, neatest and most efficient cook in the world, then having the kitchen open for all to see will just cement the legend of your prowess as a cook.  But if you are like me and occasionally drop stuff, use prepackaged stuff that you just dress up to look home made or don't clean as you cook and wait for the party to be over before cleaning the kitchen - you're screwed.

Shoddy or ill advised workmanship
I'm sure your cousin's husband's father Harold, is a great guy and he's been doing this kind of work forever!  However, just because he eyeballs the wall and tells you that it's not a load bearing wall - it don't make it so. You really need a licensed/bonded professional to make that call.  Perhaps even a structural engineer.  Then if they make a mistake - there's something to sue for the damages.  Harold might not have the funds to make this mistake right.

Let's say Harold is correct in his assumption that it's a load bearing wall and all you have to do is add a beam.  Will the beam that he adds be enough?  Should he have added a footer?  Again, consulate an experienced professional who does this type of thing often.  Otherwise, one day you may see your roof slowly falling into your brand new open concept kitchen.

The picture below shows an example of what I like to call "bowling alley" living.
Yes, it's pretty.  Yes, it's functional.  Yes, it's loud. No, it's not private.  While it looks great just remember the old saying "Looks can be deceiving".  That old saying goes perfectly in this situation.

Is there EVER a time that open concept is advisable?  Sure there is.  Nothing is ever 100% this or 100% that.

The picture above is an example of (in my opinion) one of the ONLY times anyone should open their kitchen up to the rest of the house.  If you had walls that divided this kitchen from the rest of the house - you'd never be able to cook in it because it would send you running to the pharmacy for anti-anxiety medication!

Another good reason to take down a wall is when you have 3 rooms that together really only equal 2 rooms.   Then when you take down a wall or two you will actually have 2 good sized rooms.  Sometimes you really do need to steal footage from one room in order to make the other room truly functional.

The only other time is when you have 3 bedrooms and 1 bath.  Stealing one of the bedrooms might not be a great idea if the market is over-saturated with 2 bedroom 2 bathroom houses but I greatly doubt that turning a 3 bedroom 1 bath house into a 2 bedroom 2 bath house would alter the price drastically.  Especially if the conversion is done with high end finishes.  Giving a potentially new home owner a master bath and walk in closet plus enlarging the master bedroom a little will more than not compensate them for the loss of a single bedroom.  These days potential homeowners would rather double up a couple of kids in the same room than share their bathroom with their kids.

Do I hate open concept?  No.  I see the need from time to time.  I'm just overly sick of it being applied to every house on the planet.  I am sick of hearing people list open concept in their wish lists.  Honestly, I don't think half of these people truly understand the way an open concept will affect their lives.  It's like everyone wanting granite and stainless steel appliances.  Do most of these people realize the maintenance required?  Probably not.  They have just heard it and seen it on all the TV shows and they don't really know why they have to have it - they just know they HAVE TO HAVE IT!

So to recap here in a nutshell are my views on open concept.
1.     Having your kitchen open to the family room or breakfast room is acceptable.  Having it open to your ONLY living space is not.
2.     Knocking down a wall to steal square footage for another room is acceptable.  Knocking down all the walls so that the only walls left are the exterior and bedroom walls is not.
3.     Making a mid century modern house open concept is acceptable.  Making a Craftsman bungalow or German 4 square open concept is not.

Last note (I promise).
Eventually open concept will go far far out of style.  Just as shag carpeting did.  Just as grass cloth did.  Just as pink and black tiled bathrooms (with matching pink bathtubs, sinks and toilets).  Just as granite and stainless steel will.  The major problem with making your home an open concept is the fact that when this "style" goes out of style, it will cost far more to rectify.  You can't just hire someone to come in, take it out and replace it in an afternoon as you can with granite counter tops or stainless steel appliances.  There will be major carpentry involved and possibly even electrical, HVAC and other professionals involved.

It's always best when wanting to update your home that you try to stick with the things that will be the least trouble and expense to change.  Counter tops. Appliances. Wall coverings and colors.  Flooring.  These things can be easily changed out when the mood (and budget) hit.  Structural things - not so much.

There you go.  Hope this was informative and that you come back for more!!  

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.