If you grew up in the 1970s, it likely means your fridge was chocolate brown, your bathroom, sink, tub, and toilet were green, and there was shag carpet on the floor in the living room and velvet wallpaper on the wall.
It might be safe to say homes like those got caught up in some hot design trends of the day – and it’s something that homeowners today want to avoid.
Some East Coast interior designers have offered ideas on how to avoid getting caught up in hot trends that you’ll be tired of in a few months when decorating your home.
Don’t be tempted
Interior decorator Deborah Nicholson, who lives in Wolfville, N.S., says interior design trends have a life cycle.
“Starting from the original designer who created a magazine-worthy idea, through the high-end home set, over to the average homeowner, and into the big-box stores,” she explains.
“Once I see it in the big-box stores or even all over the magazine racks, it’s well and truly a trend and something I would suggest avoiding.”
Nicholson points out that “a design element, in and of itself, is not really a trend. What makes it a trend is its pairing with other design elements.”
Robin Lush of St. John’s, N.L. is a designer and owner of Decorating Den Interiors.
“Trends absolutely drive mass-produced design – they create ebbs and flows in what’s ‘popular’ – i.e., what sells quickly for the manufacturer, so things will be all the rage one season, and ‘so over it’ the next,” she says.
Lush says the thing about great home design is that it should never be mass-produced.
Consider the current trend of all-white kitchens, Nicholson says.
“There’s nothing dated about an all-white kitchen necessarily, but when we cookie-cutter repeat all the currently popular elements – like white marble, wicker, gold hardware, raw wood, hand-hewn tiles, and waterfall islands – we’ve firmly planted that new kitchen in the current moment,” Nicholson says.
“That’s what will make it generic in the short-term and dated in the longer term.”
Each of those white kitchen elements are fabulous in their own right, she points out, “but we need to use them and pair them in ways that achieve the goals of and tell the unique story of the people who live there.”
Go with what you love
As a homeowner, Lush says it can be challenging not to get caught up in trends – but there are ways to avoid it.
Both women suggest working with a professional because, as Lush says, “it’s our job to create unique spaces that you won’t get tired of.”
But, if you’re going it alone, it’s important to be true to yourself.
“If you’re doing it solo, first take a step back from all the ‘Insta inspo,’ and get inspiration from your life currently,” she says.
Nicholson’s main advice to her clients is to use finishes, shapes, colours, and fittings that they love. If it doesn’t make you happy, it doesn’t belong in your home, she explains.
“Rather than trying to repeat someone else’s look, your design goal needs to be this: a kitchen that’s organized and efficient, with a spirit that inspires and nurtures everyone in it. With that target in your sights, it’s much easier to know if a white countertop is for you,” she says.
But take that with a grain of salt and remember: less is more.
“Of course, putting everything you love into your kitchen could look like a toddler’s birthday party gone wrong,” Nicholson adds.
Keeping basic design rules in mind can help you avoid that.
“There are design rules of proportion, shape, space, colour and function that, when followed, will come together in a kitchen that says what you want it to say in a beautiful way,” Nicholson says.
Big investment pieces
When you’re shopping for a new appliance, or something like countertops, tiles and flooring that can’t easily be swapped out, remember that they’ll be recognized for the era they were popular in – think of those harvest gold-coloured refrigerators that had a place of honour in so many early 1980s kitchens.
“However, if you’re choosing what you love, it won’t be sharing your kitchen with all the other elements from the same trend,” says Nicholson.
“When a home is designed with finishes, fittings, and furnishings from different times and paired together to tell your unique story, it won’t feel dated and dull.”
That story is what makes a home feel like home, she believes.
“This nugget of truth frees you up to choose some lower-priced big-ticket items because they aren’t at the top of the trend,” she adds.
Lush points out that when stainless steel came out, we couldn’t imagine ever wanting white appliances again. Now matte white appliances are all the rage.
If budget permits, Lush says another option is to consider incorporating panel-covered appliances so they blend straight into the cabinetry.
“At the end of the day, think less about what’s on trend and more about what you love, and what incorporates best into your overall design plan,” she says.
As for high-ticket items like countertops, flooring, tile, and appliance colour, Lush further suggests incorporating natural elements over man-made.
“Natural elements will always feel more classic, because they’ve already been around for hundreds of years in the earth,” she points out.
“Marble, limestone, slate, granite, copper, unlacquered brass – these will maintain a fresh feel no matter what. They patina and age – just like us people do – so their character develops over time, giving a home a well-lived, has-a-story-to-tell vibe that can’t be beaten by trends and ‘the next big thing’.”
“Based on what’s going on in the world, at large, aspects of colours shift in and out of the public’s attention,” Nicholson explains.
“For example, with so much fear and uncertainty in the world these days, optimistic, positive, sunny colours are on the upswing. Remember, this doesn’t make it a trend unless we pair these colours with a bunch of the other on-trend elements.”
Response to colour is a personal thing, she says. Time and again, however, Nicholson meets with new clients who are looking to change their wall colours because the colours have become dated and uninspiring.
“Why? Because someone chose colours that were on-trend and, more often than not, they chose safe colours,” she explains.
The mistake that Nicholson sees the most? Not choosing the colour you love and instead opting for what paint producers have deemed the “colour of the year,” like the must-have revere pewter that was all the rage a few years ago.
“If you want your home to never look dated and dull, choose colours that make you happy,” she says.
“Paint is one area I would say to not be afraid to go bold, or trendy, or whatever you feel like – it’s a quick job to redo when you are tired of it, and isn’t a high price point item to change.”
And Nicholson encourages people to be fearless.
“If purple makes you happy, I guaranty you, out of the millions of purples in the world, I can find at least one that will be a timeless neutral and will make you fall in love with it every time you walk into your kitchen,” she adds.
Trends, Lush says, is the antithesis of design.
“True, great, ‘classic’ home design is about creating spaces unique to the people living in them, spaces that tell a story, spaces that make you want to sit, look, and stay longer,” she explains.
Choosing quality upholstery and furnishings that you love won’t make you want to feel like replacing them in a few years. Selecting paint colours from that palette will likely have the same effect.
But if you’re unhappy with the shade, paint colours, Lush adds, can easily be swapped out.
“Paint is one area I would say to not be afraid to go bold, or trendy, or whatever you feel like – it’s a quick job to redo when you are tired of it, and isn’t a high price point item to change,” she says.
Questions to consider
Lush recommends asking yourself a few questions before you start a home decor project:
– What’s your fashion sense?
– Do you love antique pieces?
– Are you an art collector or history buff?
– Is funky, statement jewelry your thing, or are you more inclined towards crisp, tailored pieces in your wardrobe?
These questions will help guide you in design choice, she says.
“There are always clues to our own personal design style in how we currently live and express ourselves,” Lush explains.
“Once you have some of that inspiration, it’s important not to jump all in on whatever that style is. If you like mid-century modern, don’t buy every MCM piece you see; blend in pieces just because you love them, or because they mean something to you, not because they match perfectly.”
The unexpected in design, she adds, “is always the most interesting part.”