Did I ever tell you about that time I visited three open houses in a well-heeled neighborhood? I saw three homes that helped illustrate the idea between the design concepts of style, trends, and fads. The first home for sale was brand new and had many of today’s top of the line home features. The second home was about thirty years old but still felt very comfortable and contemporary. The third home had been built around the same time as the second, but it had a completely different vibe as it was very much stuck in the early 1990’s. These three homes explained perfectly the difference between style, trends, and fads.
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Style, Trends, and Fads
Style is timeless. A particular style may not be your preferred taste, but always looks well-done. Style is comfortable, inviting, coordinated. Ideally, it allows for updating with just minor changes…timeless. You may prefer a modern style setting, but a well-done traditional setting will be just as comfortable for most people, and vice versa. Enduring style can be neutral or colorful, but often has a decent amount of color built on a tasteful neutral base. True style will allow for both new and older pieces, flowing together in a look that reflects the homeowner instead of one particular store, brand, or decade.
A house can be decades old and still be stylish, but it doesn’t happen by accident. Smart homeowners maintain their home’s value by hiring contractors for regular maintenance and designers for regular updates. They often follow advice to budget approximately one percent of the home’s market value each year for maintenance and updates. If the median home price in 2023 is $416,000, then a homeowner can expect to invest about $4,100 each year on regular maintenance (like furnace cleanings, bathroom caulk repair, and interior painting) and larger projects (like bathroom renovations and roof replacement), along with decor updates like that new couch you have your eye on.
Trends typically last about ten years. They are adopted by the masses and hard to escape in the media. We like to have our homes “on trend” but not necessarily trendy. Colors, furniture styles, and finishes all fall into this ten-ish year cycle. You can probably name some memorable trends from your past like mauve carpet, avocado appliances, and flocked wallpaper.
More recently, we’ve been seeing trends of farmhouse style, pendant lighting, seagrass carpets, stainless steel, and light-toned granite and marble counters. Fireplace mantels, kitchens, bathrooms and overall color schemes are usually where you’ll see the telltale signs of aging trends in homes. Updating your home in these key areas will serve you well, both to get maximum enjoyment from your home, and to have it in good condition when you are ready to sell. The homeowner updated this bathroom (below) for their own enjoyment and sold the house shortly after. The painted, farmhouse-style vanity, mirror, and updated lighting appealed to their target buyers in 2023.
Photo courtesy of Brett Furman Realty
Fads have a lightning-quick lifespan, usually under three years, and sometimes much shorter. These fads are the bread and butter of fashion magazines and retailers, including home fashions. Every year, I see an article stating that wallpaper is “back.” (Please, no.) Pantone picks a color of the year; recently it was emerald. The year before that, tangerine. Honeysuckle the year before. One of my designer friends mentioned that everything is horizontal stripes in New York this year. I’m not sure what that craze was about for chevrons, but I can do without those kinds of fads (and drains on my wallet).
That third house that we toured in that upscale neighborhood sported so many dated fads, they were inescapable. Pickled wood floors, tile and grout counter tops, pink (faded and stained) carpets, floor-to-ceiling mirrors in the bathrooms (eewww), small pass-through spaces in the kitchen walls, a massive curved leather sectional, black lacquer dining room table, I could go on and on. I couldn’t even bear to take a picture because it was so depressing, dated, and unloved. The 1990’s was screaming out from every corner of this house!
Do you recognize some of these trends? Would you pay $800K for a dated home, knowing you had to address or remove each of these little “time stamps?” Fads are especially noticeable when the house is located in a neighborhood where other homes are well-kept. Fads aren’t necessarily unattractive, but they can definitely be pegged to a particular time. Remember when every window had to have a valence, often pointy like this one below? See how we updated this area to appeal to buyers in 2019. Click the link to see if that update would still hold up today, just four years later.
The Good and the Bad: Trends and Fads
Are trends or fads bad? Not necessarily. Your home should be your haven, so the most important things is that is feels good, safe, and comforting for you while you live there. If that means indulging in the “it color” of the moment and the hottest fads that make you happy, then go for it!
A homeowner should expect to invest about one percent of their home’s market value each year in maintenance and upgrades. If your budget is more generous, you might be able to decorate more frequently and make changes that are more personalized for you and your family. Bring on the must-have fads!
If your budget isn’t as generous, you’d be wise to spend your funds on classic and timeless foundational projects (like wood flooring, quality windows and window treatments, and classic exterior house color finishes) and keep the personalized touches focused on things that are easier and less expensive to swap if and when the time comes.
Once you put your home on the market, your house becomes a product competing against neighboring homes for sale. To maximize your home’s value, you’ll want your home to be at least as attractive as nearby properties, and you’ll want to cater to today’s buyers…even if their taste isn’t your taste. Making affordable, high-impact changes like flooring and appliance changes can yield high returns when selling your home, like we demonstrated in this kitchen update that was NOT a kitchen renovation.
What style choices have you made that you would consider timeless?
Is there a fad that lives in your house?
Do you think your favorite trends will stand the test of time?