Fads from the 1980s & 1990s to Remove Before Selling

The carpeted bathroom and the dense floral wallpaper need to go. (Photo: rick/Flickr creative commons)There is no question that decorative fashion and trends come and go. Today's hottest trends will start to fade in a year or so ... and by 2030 and beyond, most will be looking tired and out of date. If you're selling your house, “old” and “out of date” are not good messages to be sending. While intellectually we all understand that the furnishings are not staying and most decorating such as paint or wall coverings can be changed fairly easily, our emotions take over when evaluating a property. When we see things we don’t like because they seem old, dingy or outdated, we start wondering more about the things we can’t see and how old they might be as well.

Today’s empty-nesters were in their “up and coming years” during the 80s and 90s, when careers were revving up, families were growing and homes were purchased and decorated. In the intervening decades, those freshly decorated spaces have aged, and frankly, they haven’t aged very well.  Here’s a list of the 7 biggest offenders of 1980s and 1990s home decorating that sellers should consider removing or replacing when preparing the house for market:

1) Dense floral wallpapers and fabrics: For a long time, wallpapers were actually quite taboo in home decor, specifically stemming from papers used in the 1960s to the 1980s. One of the biggest design trends in the 1980s were dense floral wallpapers with the pattern carrying over to the draperies and furnishings. Nothing says "80s!" faster than a riot of roses coming at you from all sides. Slipcovering the furniture or replacing the wallpaper will relieve the overwhelming feeling of age.

2) Wallpaper borders: Paired with floral wallpapers was the heavy use of decorative wallpaper borders, applied at the ceiling, as a chair rail or on top of the baseboard -- sometimes all three at the same time. As homes grew larger during the period, we were seeing less fine detail such as crown moldings or paneling. Paper borders were used as a cheap and cheerful alternative but aren’t very popular today. Best to remove all the borders and simply paint the walls.

3) Overwhelming pattern and texture: In the 1980s and 1990s, we saw a lot of mixed patterns and colors in our interiors, including lots of different fabrics in a single room, mixed decorative tiles in kitchens and bathrooms and even the ubiquitous sponge painted walls. Too much pattern is so overly stimulating that we don’t know where to look when faced with it. Buyers may be less likely to spend time in a room that is too visually cluttered. Today’s style tends to be simpler, with fewer colorful and textural elements. Replace most of the older materials with solid colors, or simpler patterns to bring things up to date.

4) Brass hardware: Unless it’s of exceptionally high quality, brass fittings such as doorknobs, drawer pulls, hinges, electrical back plates and faucets do not stand the test of time. Most become discolored and even pitted or rusty, depending on the location. While we have seen a recent spike in the use of brass or gold-toned metallics in the home, the safest choices remain matte or shiny stainless steel, nickel or chrome fixtures and knobs, simple ceramic pulls and electrical plates that match the wall coverings. Most of these are easy to switch out and will make a world of difference.

For an example of how much of a difference replacing outdated brass fixtures makes, check out this Hometalk.com post detailing the overhaul of a 1980s kitchen. Note the brass chandelier; then pay attention to how much more modern and attractive the new light fixture is.

5) Overstuffed furniture: In the category of "bigger-is-better" was the overabundance of sofas, love seats and chairs-and-a-half with the really fat rounded arms. Not only are these now out of fashion, they simply take up too much room, reducing the feeling of spaciousness in even the most generous rooms. Again, not the impression you want to project to a home buyer. It’s rarely possible even to purchase slipcovers for these gargantuan pieces. If you're selling, toss or donate and either purchase new (to be used in your future home) or rent some suitably subdued replacements.

6) Wall-to-wall mirrors: Mirrors are a fantastic way to create a feeling of spaciousness and light in a room (when used well). However, the days of floor-to-ceiling mirrored closet sliders are pretty much over. You're better off removing the mirrors and repainting the doors underneath, or replacing the doors altogether.

7) Carpet in the bathroom: You really wonder how this was ever trendy, but for a while carpeted bathrooms were the "in" thing. The first rule of home staging is "Cleanliness sells" and there is no way that twenty-year old wall-to-wall in a bathroom will ever look or feel clean. Today’s bathrooms are spa-like in their Spartan cleanliness with little use of fabric at all. Rip out the carpet; new linoleum is a better choice if wood or tile isn’t in the budget. 

Consult an experienced contractor and figure out how to update your home so it will sell.

Linda Merrill is an interior designer who writes for networx.com.

Updated March 1, 2018.

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