Style is not eternal. It’s hard to believe that my own beautiful, pricey granite kitchen counters installed in 1999 are now considered passe. This does not mean that I am tacky. It means that this part of my house looks dated.
I’m not the only one. With the lingering recession, many remodeling and redecorating projects are on hold and we are living the “as-is” lifestyle.
“ ‘Dated’ means that at one time it looked good,” said interior designer Amy Zantzinger. “Bad taste never looked good.”
Compare your interiors to a clothes closet that is never weeded out. From time to time, rooms need a fresh eye and a wardrobe change. In the spirit of fun, we asked a few designers to come up with a list of the seven deadly sins of dated decorating and how to fix them. How many will you confess to?
Mauve: A paint color of yore
Mauve was big in the 1980s and 1990s, when the distinctive dusty rose color showed up on carpeting, sectional sofas and especially accent walls. If your bedroom is painted mauve, you are sleeping in a time warp. Designer Debbie Wiener has strong feelings about this color. “Mauve has come and gone, and there is no place for it in our future,” she said, singling out Benjamin Moore’s Mauve Mist. “Horrible.” As an alternative, she is hot on Benjamin Moore’s Rhine River, a medium-intensity green that can be warm and cool at the same time and fits modern or traditional decor. “Where mauve resembles nothing in nature,” Wiener said, “this color has a very natural look.”
Track lighting: Way off track
Designer Amy Zantzinger thinks lots of living rooms need an overhead lighting overhaul. “Track and recessed fixtures interrupt a beautiful ceiling. They are overdone and look tired,” she said. “Track lighting is also bulky and clunky, cluttering up your ceiling.” Making a comeback: floor lamps. Zantzinger likes a combination of floor and table lamps to personalize a room. Some of her favorite floor lamps are skinny metal ones that give an overall glow and add height to a room. She likes those from Holtkoetter.com, especially the floor lamps with a small metal shade.
Flower power: Not on upholstery
Remember when huge roll-arm sofas upholstered in bold floral prints were a living room mainstay? Fabric in dramatic patterns isn’t generally a wise investment, said designer Erin Paige Pitts, who suggests keeping to neutrals in sofas and club chairs. Get your jolt of color in pillows, which you can buy inexpensively or, better yet, make. Splurge on good-quality fabric (look for sales) and sew 22-inch squares. Her tip: “Use fewer, bigger pillows. If you buy two yards of fabric, make two large fabulous pillows out of it.”
Tiles: 20 years in Provence is too many
If you went on vacation to Tuscany or Oaxaca, fell in love with vivid tiles and installed them in your kitchen or bathroom 20 years ago, it’s time for a change. “In a brand-new construction home . . . using French or Italian tiles just doesn’t seem authentic,” said designer Marika Meyer. Although French style is classic, the romanticized American version of French country feels tired. Instead, try subway tile, the glossy white rectangular tile (traditional size is 3-by-6 inches) created for the walls of the New York transit system. Meyer also likes the 2-by-5-inch size for kitchens and sometimes a 6-by-12-inch for baths. “Stick with a simple, neutral backsplash or bathroom wall,” she said. “That fancy tile work will feel dated in just a few years.” If you want to add a modern element or a vacation memento, accessorize with a coffee pot, a contemporary glass bowl or a set of towels in a fun color.
Valances: Say no to the droopy swoop
A decade or two ago, homeowners fell in love with draping their windows in yards and yards of fabric. We now live in simpler times. A tailored valance with box pleats or a cornice style is a clean, classic look, said designer Annie Elliott, who suggests avoiding anything “flounced, unstructured or droopy.” She recommends exposed metal rods and ring-top drapery panels with straight curtains hanging to the floor.
Brightly colored Orientals: Can your rug be saved?
Good, hand-knotted Oriental rugs are an investment and a decorating staple, and they look better as they age. Cheaper, mass-produced Oriental rugs with thick pile and vibrant reds and navys became popular about 30 years ago. Today, the look has moved to new Oriental rugs that actually look old. If you have an Oriental of a darker genre but are ready for a fresher look, designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey suggests taking it to a rug expert, who can do a chemical wash for about $300 to $500 for a 6-by-9-foot rug. “That will create a rug with a more variegated color, like what you’d find in an old rug,” she said. “It will give it a much more youthful look.”
Wallpaper borders: Bordering on antiquated
While wallpaper is staging a major comeback, those six-inch-wide borders that were glued to the top of many walls look like yesterday. “They look especially tired when they sit on top of another wallpaper,” said designer Annie Elliott, who noted that the “matchy-matchy” look is out of favor. Wallpaper a whole room, not just a border.