20 Unfortunate Ways Your Home Looks Super Dated
So long, popcorn ceilings.
If interior design shows are to be believed, all it takes is a few days of demolition and a keen eye for style to fix up any house. But any homeowner knows that in reality, it’s not as easy as it seems to do an Architectural Digest-worthy renovation. And that’s particularly true when you live in a house of a certain era. There are countless dated design details that inextricably tie your home to a bygone era. To help you bring your humble abode into the 21st century, we talked to experts about the ways in which your home likely looks dated—and how to fix them fast.
Canvas Frame Chairs
Sorry, ‘70s fans. Those canvas chairs—like butterfly, Acapulco, or saucer chairs—just won’t cut it if you’re eager to bring your home out of the past. They “evoke a very specific, long-past time,” says interior designer Denise Gianna, owner of Denise Gianna Designs in Beacon, New York.
So, how can you bring this look into the present day? Swap out those canvas covers for leather ones.
Ruffled bedding definitely keeps your present-day home stuck in the past. This aesthetic, Gianna says, makes it look like “your taste—or your circumstances—haven’t evolved since you hit your prime sometime between the mid ‘80s and late ‘90s.” To make your space more modern, opt for “quirky, unmatched color or patterned bedding,” she suggests.
Those not-quite-white lampshades instantly make it look like your space hasn’t been touched in years.
However, the fix here is simple. “Yellowish lampshades and light fixtures get swapped out for whiter, brighter fixtures that allow for higher wattage bulbs,” says interior designer Lori Wiles.
That collection of nautical memorabilia—particularly the basket of seashells in your bathroom—screams, “I’m stuck in the past!” If you simply can’t part ways with the sea-themed décor, pare it down to “one fabulous seashell as an accent—and not in a bathroom,” says Gianna.
Popping silk flowers into every vase in your home doesn’t make it look like you have a green thumb—it just makes it look like you haven’t redecorated in decades. While fake plants are certainly easier to care for than real ones, they’re also a hallmark of dated design.
If you must opt for plants of the not-living variety, go for something super intentional. “Fake plants made out of interesting, improbable materials, like felt or stone,” can bring your space into the modern era, according to Gianna.
At one point in time, a room wasn’t fully decorated without heavy curtains, valances, and matching tie-backs. But in recent years, those heavy drapes have fallen out of favor. Luckily, you can ditch those drapes and modernize your space in mere minutes.
“We usually simplify the window coverings with adjustable shades in interesting textures and add clean, linear drapery panels,” says Wiles. “This combination can be installed so maximum light can shine in the rooms when it’s wanted and things can be closed for privacy.”
Tuscan décor—especially kitchens with rustic cabinetry, dark wood accents, and arched entryways—had its time in the sun a decade or so ago. But by today’s standards, it looks woefully outdated, says Gianna.
To modernize your kitchen, opt for a lighter color palette and don’t be afraid of a bright accent or two. Lower cabinetry painted in a hue that pops, ceramic doorknobs, or curtains in a fun color can all instantly update the room.
Those tchotchkes you’ve been collecting and proudly displaying atop tables and bookcases for years? Well, it shows. But you don’t need to send those knick-knacks packing, necessarily. “If the small collectibles are meaningful to our clients, we find ways to display them so they’re easier to move or clean,” says Gianna. “We use trays, platters, and glass boxes for better visual impact.”
That orange-hued oak cabinetry might just be among the worst offenders when it comes to dating your home, says interior designer Tyler Wisler, a former contestant on HGTV’s Design Star and mentor on The Apartment. “They just reek of acid-washed jeans, big perms, and Sweatin’ to the Oldies!” jokes Wisler.
Fortunately for the budget-conscious, an upgrade doesn’t have to mean a full kitchen remodel. “Take a weekend to sand down the cabinets and repaint them! Try something bold like a peacock blue” or a deep navy, he suggests.
White Wicker Furniture
Beachy décor, like linen sofas or blue-and-white-striped curtains, may have their place; but white wicker furniture should never make its way inside. It “screams ‘aged and staged,’ like bad motel décor or a dinner theater set,” says Gianna.
If you just can’t let go of the wicker, opt for pieces in a rustic, unpainted style. Also, be sure to make them accents to a room—a side table or single chair, for instance—not the centerpieces.
Wine Cork Displays
If you love a great bottle of wine, there are better ways to celebrate your status as an amateur sommelier than by decorating your home with a dated-looking display of wine corks. If you must keep a few corks around, make sure they’re from truly special events, like a wedding or birthday, suggests Gianna.
This may seem like a small detail, but having the wrong doorknobs in your home can instantly make your space look like it hasn’t been updated in ages. “The sight of gold or brass door hardware screams dated!” says Nicole Gittens, principal designer at New Vision Interiors & Events.
The good news? “The ways to remedy this are endless,” she adds. Chrome, ceramic, black metal, or stainless steel options will all make your home look more modern.
Something as simple as an old thermostat can bring down the aesthetic appeal of any room, making it look undeniably retro (and not in a good way).
“It’s a must to update old thermostats to a newer, smarter, more energy efficient one,” says Gittens. “The smart thermostats are easy to install and have such great modern looks that will instantly update your home’s old dated heating and cooling systems.”
Those floral-print or damask panels on your living room or bedroom walls are keeping your home stuck in the time you first chose it. However, there are tons of easy ways to refresh your room.
“Today’s wallpaper options are the coolest! Every design you can imagine is available,” says Gittens. “The greatest part is that a lot are removable, so they can be changed out as your tastes and the times change and they won’t damage your walls.” To modernize, opt for larger patterns instead of petite ones, and avoid a pastel color palette.
If you thought you could get away with a thinner strip of fussy wallpaper, think again. Wallpaper borders also make it look like you haven’t redecorated in years.
“When I walk into a space that has wallpaper borders that have been there for too many years, I can tell,” says Gittens. This one also has a simple fix: Take the border down and repaint the wall in a solid color.
Brass Light Fixtures
Much like brass doorknobs, brass light fixtures are undeniably dated, Gittens says. For an easy update, choose fixtures with silver or black hardware instead. Your space will look up-to-date in no time.
There are few things that mar the appearance of an otherwise tastefully-decorated home like a popcorn ceiling. “These ceilings shout, ‘Update me!’” says Gittens.
Her suggestion? “Hire someone to remove those popcorn ceilings and have them covered with new drywall layers for a smoother, cleaner, more streamlined look in your home.” It’s important to bring in a professional, since popcorn ceilings may contain asbestos.
Those woven wall hangings you bought at a novelty store may have seemed cool in college, but they’re doing your space no favors now that you’re an adult. If you simply love the look of fabric wall art, make sure what you’re hanging isn’t some mass-produced piece in a kitschy pattern. “Genuine tapestry or other authentic, meaningful textile” can still have a place in a modern home, says Gianna.
It’s time to ditch those Edison bulbs and dim, yellow-toned lights once and for all. Once you make the easy upgrade to brighter bulbs, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do it sooner. “Swapping a similar type of fixture or shade, like a pendant for a pendant, is a quick and easy way to get an updated look,” says Wiles.
Sure, sponge paint may hide a myriad of problems with your walls, from uneven paint underneath to cracks in plaster. But it’s also a design decision that can make it look like you haven’t changed your space since Ronald Reagan was in office.
If you want to make your home look more up-to-date, just paint over the sponge design in a solid color. Or, if you’re feeling inspired, paint some wide vertical stripes for a more unique look. And for more décor you should keep in the past, check out the 40 Ugliest Interior Design Trends of All Time.
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