TRENDY VS TIMELESS: How to Design a Home that LASTS
Rather than patiently waiting for our monthly Better Homes & Gardens subscription to show up in the mailbox, we now have 24 hour a day access to ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ in the design world. With online websites like Pinterest and Houzz, the revolving door of trends is spinning faster and faster; it’s hard to know where to jump in, with the fear of getting spit out on the other side already behind the times.
Now, I’m sure some of you will get your knickers in a knot over the ideas and advice you read below (if you’re not wearing knickers, that’s a whole ‘nother story). The thing is, you’re allowed to like trends, there are many I like too – trends I’ve committed to in my OWN HOME. However, if you want to build a TIMELESS home, it’s about finding a happy medium between what’s going to last vs what speaks to you on a personal level.
So, how do you build a home that stands the test of time? And why would you even WANT to?
There are two GOOD reasons…
1. RESALE VALUE
When it comes to selling your home, either now or in 20 years, nothing dates a home faster than a trend. Anyone who’s living in the early 2000s Tuscan trend that they (or someone else) chose 15-20 years ago can attest to this.
This next kitchen is a great example of an over-commitment to trends…
- cream cabinets – trendy at the time with travertine tile (which they don’t suit in the first place)
- travertine tile – no longer a selling feature (personally, I still love it)
- diagonal pattern tile installation- not only did they install a trendy product, but they also installed it in a trendy PATTERN
- speckled granite that was popular in the early 2000s
- unnecessary decorative details (corbels)
- 12×12 beige floor tile
And don’t even get me STARTED on the hot mess of undertones – GAG ME WITH A SPOON! And guess what that last sentence does? It tells you I’m a classy broad born somewhere in the 1970s, just like the previous kitchen’s finishes date it to the early 2000s.
IF YOU NOD TOWARDS A TREND (or saying) THAT’S PARTICULAR TO A CERTAIN ERA, YOU WILL EITHER DATE YOURSELF (I would never date myself, I’m way too weird) OR YOUR HOME.
BTW, if you plan on selling your home in the next few years and want to update some finishes, you’d be smart to hit a few trends on the way. As long as they suit your target market and are done tastefully, they can add value to your home.
2. PERSONAL TASTES
Sure, RIGHT NOW you like your gray cabinets or your hexagon tile backsplash, but what about in five years, ten years? While there are those who pick something and stick with it, MANY of us like to switch things up. Maybe not every month when they’re emotional and hormonal (like me), but AT LEAST every few years.
And while some things are easy to switch every few years (if you’re so inclined), others are too expensive and labour-intensive. There’s also the ‘hubby’ factor. Yes, I’m totally generalizing, but I find that women are often QUITE happy to switch things up, on average, every 5-10 years. Men, however, are often fans of the old saying, ‘why fix it if it ain’t broke?’
I’m not just talking about SOFT furnishings, and am DEFINITELY not referring to decorative pieces – I’m talking about some serious HARD FINISHES. You know, the ones that are a royal PITA to replace (an acronym, I’ll let you figure it out) and have you breaking open the kid’s piggy banks while they’re sound asleep.
BTW, IF YOU LIKE CHANGE (you don’t expect a sofa to stay in your home longer than five years) and resale doesn’t concern you, then I ENCOURAGE you to have fun with trends, fill yer little trendy boots (although knee-high boots aren’t trendy any more apparently, so don’t fill those).
While nothing is FOOL-PROOF – you can’t make everyone happy, there are a few tried-and-true products, patterns, and finishes that are the most likely to get you through the next quarter-century or so.
1. BACKSPLASH TILE
It’s ALLLLL about subway tile. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s overdone (something I hear a lot), the fact that it’s used a lot means it WORKS. And there many ways you can add personality to a traditional subway tile without stepping too far into a particular trend (read about these ideas HERE).
THINGS TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHEN CHOOSING YOUR SUBWAY TILE
Please, don’t do a decorative tile panel behind your stove – keep it simple.
COLOURS. Keep it neutral or white (keeping in mind that even neutrals can become dated, as is the case with gray, which is slowly on its way out). There are some COLOURS that are timeless for a particular style of home or location (ie. a lake home), however, that same colour in a standard neighbourhood setting could really limit your future potential.
SIZE. While I’m enjoying the 4 x 12 look, especially when it’s stacked horizontally, this too will fade. In the ideal world, your tile size will be somewhere around 3 x 6 for a timeless approach. However, as long as you don’t go SUPER long and linear or stacked (tiles are laid in perfect rows rather than brick layout), you’ll have several options to choose from.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT MARBLE. Whereas tiles like travertine and encaustic tiles will ebb and flow in popularity, marble is a timeless choice as long as it suits the space it’s in. Again, pay attention to PATTERN and stick with the classic rectangle/brick layout over hexagon, herringbone or otherwise.
2. WOOD FLOORING
It’s hard to go wrong with wood flooring itself, but SUPER EASY to miss the boat when it comes to finish, colour and size.
THINK ‘MODERATE GRAIN & MODERATE STAIN’
STAIN COLOUR: While it might not be TRENDY (right now), a medium-toned wood stain (oak in particular) is the most timeless look. It’s the OVERLY LIGHT, OVERLY DARK, GRAY-WASHED and STRONGLY STAINED woods you want to be careful with.
In this space below, while the COLOUR of the floor is timeless, the wider board could date things in the coming years. I say ‘could’ because at 7″, it’s on the border.
And ABOVE ALL ELSE, avoid any type of gray-wash. This is a trend…errr, was a trend, as it’s already on its way out. And don’t panic, ‘already on its way out‘ means you still have many years to go before it’s actually ‘dated’.
BOARD OR PLANK SIZE: The ideal board size for longevity is approx. 5-6″. Anything over that is doable…right now, but who knows how it will hold up. Anything under 5″ can be reminiscent of the ’80s and ’90s.
FINISH: A glossy finish is not desirable on flooring unless you like washing your flooring every day. And while a wire-brushed, slightly matte look is trendy now, it’s also a look that’s in it for the long haul as homeowners are embracing the low maintenance factor.
SPECIES: Stay away from the exotic stuff. Nuff’ said on that. Moderate grain and stain is usually the best choice.
3. CLEAN & SIMPLE LINES
Whether it’s a piece of furniture, fireplace surround or cabinet profile – clean and simple is going to last longer than a more ornate, decorative choice. And while there are definitely exceptions, like Spanish style homes that should always BE Spanish style, the average home suits a more simple approach.
In this next kitchen, my clients were able to KEEP their cabinets in their natural wood finish, even though they updated the rest of the space. Why?
- the stain colour is moderate
- the shaker style doors are simple and timeless
- the grain is moderate
- no exposed hinges
Should the doors have a cathedral/arched style with a stronger golden stain on them with exposed hinges, we’d be looking at more of an overhaul. Instead, a simple white subway tile backsplash (timeless), quartz countertops (trendy), and a beautiful blue-green island (trendy, but the easiest feature to change) bring the kitchen up to today’s standards. Should these trends shift, the cabinets and backsplash will keep on truckin’.
Same goes with furniture. Without going too wild on curves and decorative touches, these fabric chairs will last through MANY decades of trends (should they last that long with two young kids in the house)…
4. CHOOSE FINISHES WITH A VARIETY OF NEUTRALS IN THEM
Consider installing one permanent hard finish that has a variety of flexible neutrals in it. The more neutrals you have to choose from, the easier it will be to accommodate future tastes without having to rip this surface out.
While the speckled look of this granite is an early 2000s giveaway, at least it has a wide range of neutrals to play with, making it easier to change the finishes around it as needed…
While the tile in this bathroom (below) suits the current warm gray trend, it also has warmer beige tones in it, allowing flexibility for future updates…
HOWEVER, with such a strong OVERALL COMMITMENT to warm gray and taupe, it’s only a matter of time before the other elements in this bathroom are indicative of 2015. This means that while the tile floor is in it for the long(er) haul, the other surfaces may need facelifts. Yes, the walls do have subway tile on them, and if these tiles were white they wouldn’t be an issue. It’s the combination of the warm gray/taupe on multiple surfaces that has a compound effect.
This countertop below suits current trends, and also has a range of neutrals in it, allowing for flexibility in the future. The cabinet colour and backsplash? Not so much.
HOWEVER, guess whose home these finishes reside in? MINE! And who loves change? ME! Really, Tim and the kids are the only things I’ve kept for any period of time, otherwise, Momma loves to switch it up!
Let’s take a look at this space on a larger scale…
If I wanted a timeless kitchen, I would’ve made WAY different choices. While I would still choose the countertop and flooring again and again, here are the trends I chose and WHY…
My love is a fleeting thing.
Sure, I loved my warm gray cabinets three years ago (Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter, darkened), and while I still love them, I’m hankerin’ for a change. I don’t EXPECT my cabinet colour to last me longer than this, whether they’re white, blue, or gray – that’s not how I roll. If you don’t roll this way either and are up for a repaint, you don’t need to worry about timelessness.
As for my dark island (Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze) while I have MAD LOVE for it, give me two more
months years and I’m out. Not because I want something TIMELESS, I just want change. In fact, I CRAVE change.
The backsplash. Sure, I’ll get some distance out of the fact that it’s a subway tile, however, I’m tired of the colour, and again…CHANGE IS GOOD WHEN YOU’RE ME.
What I’m trying to say, is that I was happy to choose finishes that satisfied my current cravings, knowing that I would HAPPILY change them down the road – I didn’t need timelessness.
- Painting the cabinets? Totally doable.
- Painting the island? Consider it done.
- Changing the grout colour on the backsplash? No problem, this shift will get me a few more years before I totally replace it.
- Replacing the countertop for 10K plus? NOT AN OPTION, which is why it’s the one surface I chose to be the most timeless (along with the oak flooring that runs through our entire home).
5. DON’T COMMIT TOO HARD TO ONE TRENDY COLOUR
It’s okay to love gray cabinets with the understanding that you might tire of them in five to ten years, as long as the other finishes in your room aren’t gray as well. Why? Because painting cabinets is manageable (generally speaking). HOWEVER, add in countertops and a backsplash with a lot of gray in them in a pattern that’s particularly trendy, and you (or the next owner) will have a HECK of a project on your hands.
Why is this next bathroom an exception? Why does it work well for the current owner’s tastes as well as a potential FUTURE owner?
SCALE & EFFORT
Sometimes it’s about the SCALE of the finish you’re dealing with as well as the effort/cost it takes to change it.
- the shiplap is SO paintable – minimal cost and effort (this particular chair rail height installation will also last longer than a full wall of shiplap)
- the vanity is small and VERY paintable – again, pocket change (colour ideas HERE)
- the square footage of the flooring is MINIMAL, making it easier to replace in the future
This means that should the owner get tired of this room, with a bit of blood, sweat and beer (or wine if you’re me), this bathroom could be changed for under $300.
The 3 MOST TREND-PROOF Paint Colours (link at the end of this blog post too, so keep reading)
6. TIMELESS CABINETS
When I hear someone say that ‘white cabinets are so overdone’, I’m like ‘HELLO, THAT’S BECAUSE THEY WORK!’ And you’re more than welcome to choose gray, greige, green, or the hot colour of the moment, but you’re only going to limit yourself in the long term. When creating a timeless kitchen that grows with you or the NEXT family who owns your home, white is hands-down the smartest choice.
This kitchen was installed approx. eight years ago, and while the backsplash is DEFINITELY indicative of this time, the white cabinets are still kickin’ it…
COLOUR. Again, white is best. While not everyone loves white (as there is NO finish that will make every single person happy), it won’t DATE a home.
As for cream, I can’t even BEGIN to talk about the troubles my clients have with cream cabinets, but because I like to hear myself talk, I will. Cream cabinets are gorgeous, I get it. However, in the ideal world, unless your cabinets are wood or a non-white colour (that is anything but cream), it’s ideal if your trim/cabinets are the same colour. So, if you have off-white/cream cabinets, you’d ideally have cream trim. And THIS is where the timeless bus stops as cream trim will ALWAYS date your home. Again, there are exceptions, such as older homes that suit a softer approach, however, even these homes show up in my inbox on a weekly basis, with homeowners who are FRUSTRATED with how limited their cream cabinets/trim leaves them.
DOOR STYLE. Shaker is often best, however, even a square raised panel has its place, especially in a traditional home.
SEE THE ENTIRE KITCHEN HERE
STYLE. You might be tempted to add fancy details to your cabinets – KEEP IT SIMPLE. That doesn’t mean it needs to be BORING, but the more decorative detail you add, the more you’re going to limit your kitchen’s future ‘style’ potential (crown and skirting are always smart add-ons).
THE ONE BIG THING TO AVOID…
GLAZES, for the love of God, avoid glazes.
If I had a penny for every client who’s hired me to try and update their kitchen cabinets with a glaze on them circa 2005, I’d…have a whack load of pennies. I’m not saying a glaze is a bad idea for every situation, but it’s definitely not timeless.
I INTERRUPT THIS BLOG POST TO REMIND YOU THAT THE PURPOSE OF THIS POST IS TO CREATE A TIMELESS HOME. I can feel some of your blood-pressures rising from here. Don’t worry, if you aren’t concerned with longevity and just want to love where you live RIGHT NOW – you can hit those trends as hard as you want – as you saw earlier, I did!
7. KEEP PATTERNS/BUSYNESS TO A MINIMUM
Whether it’s a quartz countertop or decorative tile, keep the busyness to a minimum. If you’re a lover of pattern and movement, invest in fabrics that satisfy this urge without making an overwhelming decision with long-term repercussions.
Again, are there exceptions? HECK YES – ALWAYS, but this article is about good general advice, not exceptions.
Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray
When looking at a counter or tile sample, you’re usually viewing a very small piece. And while it might seem ‘interesting’ on a small scale, on a large surface it can easily be overwhelming; dominating a space with its personality. Add a few more patterns or busy finishes to the mix and you have a hot mess on your hands. For a look that will last (especially in kitchens and bathrooms), choose one pattern or busy finish and quieter (or solid) patterns for your hard finishes.
8. WHITE TRIM
Sure, gray or greige trim is definitely on-point, but within a few years, it will be on its way out (it’s already on its way). While this look always suits older homes, as well as some authentic farmhouse homes, it’s more of a ‘personal choice’ in a modern home. If you’re staying in your home for the long haul, have at ‘er. However, if resale is on your mind, stick with the classic look of white.
SEE THE BEFORE & AFTER’S HERE
9. BUILT-IN BOOKCASES
If you want to drop some smart money, invest in built-in bookcases. And using the previous advice of ‘simple lines and white cabinets’, you’ll have a feature that definitely stands the test of time.
10. WHITE WINDOWS ON THE INTERIOR
Don’t get me wrong, I’m crushing HARD on black interior windows and have been tempted to do them on our lake build. However, they’re most definitely a trend and as it relates to resale; they definitely DON’T appeal to the masses.
And while you can create a GORGEOUS look by adding black accents to your room, helping the black windows transition/belong, again, they are a LIMITING feature, whereas white leaves the door (or the windows, would be more the point), wide-open.
What about the exterior?
Because exterior finishes tend to be in it for the long haul, as long as the black windows make sense with the rest of the palette and there are other black elements (ie. railing, address numbers, light fixtures), black is less of a ‘trend related issue.
And one bonus piece of advice…
11. IF IT’S PERMANENT & EXPENSIVE TO REPLACE, KEEP IT NEUTRAL
Whether it’s kitchen cabinets, a stone fireplace, or a piece of furniture, you’ll get more longevity out of a neutral or natural product over a colour or pattern.
But for all of my fellow colour-lovers out there who are all of a sudden PANICKING, don’t worry, there are exceptions (always)…
THE COUNTRY OR FARMHOUSE STYLE HOME. When it comes to a home that authentically suits a particular style, colour can speak VOLUMES on cabinets, furniture and so much more. It’s for those with the more average suburban home who are worried about resale or longevity where colour needs to be carefully considered.
SEE THIS GORGEOUS MAKEOVER HERE
If you don’t have a home that’s a particular style, you can embrace colour in so many WILD AND WONDERFUL ways, but I caution you to commit to it on a permanent surface or one that you aren’t willing to change if needed.
YOU LOVE A COLOUR AND YOU’VE LOVED IT FOREVER. Let’s say you want to buy a sofa, and you tend to keep furniture pieces for the LONG term. You love violet and have ALWAYS loved violet and you want a violet sofa. Well then, you go out and GET that violet sofa – chances are you’ll love it for many long years.
Benjamin Moore Classic Gray
However, if you’re kind of a ‘colour of the month‘ gal like myself, you may want to step back from the ledge and keep your colours on decorative items or smaller-scale furniture pieces that can be replaced as needed.
HOW TO EMBRACE TRENDS IN A REASONABLE FASHION
I want you to love what you love – I just don’t want you to love it too hard on the wrong surfaces.
When it comes to pattern and hard finishes, you need to tread carefully. Hexagon, penny tile, trellis pattern, ikat – they’ll all have their time in the sun…and in the shade. Of ALL the patterns out there, hexagon will have MUCH more longevity, but if you’re concerned about timelessness, use it on fabrics – not hard finishes. If you’re hell-bent on using a pattern on hard finishes, keep it to areas with a smaller footprint, ie. powder room floor, kitchen backsplash, etc…
Sherwin Williams High Reflective White
No one will argue that shiplap is a hot feature in today’s modern home, just don’t plaster every room/wall in it, keep it to a minimum so that it’s easy to change out.
THE ALL WHITE HOME
The ‘all-white home’ is definitely on today’s hot list, but what about in five years, ten years – or longer? Again, this blog post isn’t about the trends you love now, it’s about creating a TIMELESS home. With moderation in mind, here are some tips:
WHITE CABINETS. Heck yes, always timeless
WHITE BACKSPLASH. If it’s subway tile, again, always timeless
WHITE COUNTERTOPS. Definitely trendy. And while there are those who will ALWAYS love white on white…on white, there will come a time when we’ll know that a home was built between 2018 and 2022.
Consider a countertop with some variation in it, veining that can accommodate cool AND warm colours, so if white walls are suddenly passe and a new owner (or you) want a change, your countertop doesn’t hold you back.
WHITE WALLS. When it comes to walls, I’m less fussy about trends. Because of EVERYTHING mentioned on this page, paint is the least expensive update you can make to a home. So, should your white walls no longer be your cup of tea, and you’ve allowed some flexibility with the previous finishes, you can freshen things up with a new colour.
As you well know, I could keep on going, but for the sake of brevity and sanity (of which you’ve witnessed neither in the above blog post) I’ll sign off now.
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