Year End Round Up: Worst Home Trends of the Decade

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Nov 24, 2010 | Linda Merrill

This McMansion is large and in charge.  (iStock)10.  McMansions

Clearly, one of the worst design trend of the last decade was the explosion of the McMansion. These bloated and larger than necessary homes cost more than anyone could ever imagine (mortgage crisis, anyone?). These monster homes use enormous amounts of energy to light, heat and cool.  Some of these homes were of course designed to be as energy efficient as possible, but the energy footprint of a 5,000 sq. ft. home is always going to be larger than that of a 2,500 sq. ft. home all other things being equal. And does a family of four need so much space?

9.  Stadium Kitchens in Which No One Cooks

Hard on the heels of the McMansion is the “stadium” kitchen that looks like it should be on a television show with an audience or in a fine restaurant preparing gourmet meals. Professional grade appliances, side-by-side six-foot wide refrigerator/freezers and every other electric appliance one can imagine became status symbols. And likely, most of their owners were not gourmet cooks or big entertainers. These over-the-top kitchens were not only found in McMansions, but in kitchen renovations of more modest homes. While the kitchen may be the heart of the home, the heart should be a warm and breathing thing, not a cold, stainless steel appliance.

8.  DIY Design Television

There are many wonderful television programs that encourage homeowners to work on their homes. The granddaddy of them all is “This Old House” – the long running PBS series. While TOH encouraged good work and the importance of building trade professionals, many shows on other channels focus on the “do it on a dime and in a weekend” type makeovers that obscure the true cost and time it takes to do a good job. When half the construction team is off-camera, you know there is something missing in the equation. These programs have left many homeowners with an unrealistic view of costs and the value of quality.

7. The Loss of the Formal Dining Room

There was a time nearly every home over a certain size had a formal dining room. These spaces were generally reserved for “Sunday Best” entertaining and holidays. Over time, our lives have become less formal and most parties end up in the kitchen. (Which naturally gave rise to the kitchen stadium concept mentioned above.) However, there is a value to maintaining certain more formal traditions. Respect for conversation, table manners and the ability to be comfortable in a more formal, adult atmosphere, is a great lesson for children. Besides, who wants to eat a nice dinner with dirty dishes sitting over your shoulder? 

6. Faux Green Trend

This may seem to be a controversial opinion. But the “marketization” of the green movement has meant as much about sales of new products (more and more to fill the landfill) as it has meant about real conservation. The best green products are antiques. We’ve been overwhelmed by the marketing of the products and forget about other factors like transportation. Wrapping products in the “green flag” can sometimes be like putting lipstick on a pig. You can dress it up, but it may still be an unnecessary product in the long run.

5. Cheap Furniture

There was a time when those setting out to start their first homes would make do with lots of hand-me-downs and carefully considered first time purchases. A dining room set or bedroom suite was purchased for life, not for right now. Furniture was expensive and the decision around what to purchase was about value and lifetime use. Because of this, most young people ended up with better quality, even if it was considered moderate at the time, and they respected it enough to take care of it. Once furniture prices started to drop due to mechanization of production and cheap imports, furniture buyers stopped thinking about longevity or even had any expectation of quality.  Furniture became “temporary” and “throw away.”  This is bad for the landfill and ultimately bad for the pocketbook, as this furniture requires replacement more often than that of higher quality.

4. Faux Tuscan or “Olde World”

The faux Tuscan or Olde Wold look has been very much overdone in the last decade. Rather than spending time studying what makes Tuscan or European style so unique and beautiful, we’ve reduced it to a few elements and done bad reproductions of those elements. When we’re enamored of a certain place or style, we can sometimes fixate on the most obvious elements, but it’s the subtleties that give those originals life.

3.  Mix ‘n Match Architectural Styles

Little is worse than the random mixing of architectural styles both inside and outside a home. Small ranch homes are remodeled and suddenly feature Palladium windows. Columned front porches are slapped on modest Cape Cod style homes. All traditional architectural styles have a beauty of their own -- they’re details are scaled to work with their innate size. Loss of proportion and scale makes many newer homes seem neither here nor there.

2.  Laminate Wood Floors

Wood floors are long lasting, warm and comfortable to walk on. I lament the plastic flooring trend.

1.  Refinancing to Purchase Any of the Above

Finally, the absolute worst trend -- even worse than building a McMansion -- has been the economic environment that allowed us to take money out of our homes to purchase all of the above.  Bad financial planning coupled with bad purchasing spelled disaster.

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