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The 1980s may be making a comeback in apparel, but forget about it ever coming back for your house. Find out what you should nix in favor of these great replacement ideas.
Ditch the Nagel prints, unplug the neon lights and repaint those teal and salmon-colored walls — it’s time to bring your house out of the 1980s.
The ’80s comprised a design era best forgotten, with too many flouncy touches, country kitchens and splashy “modern” looks ripped right out of a nightclub. This dated décor can cost you when you put your house up for sale, says Gail Mayhugh, a Las Vegas interior designer and home stager.
If a prospective buyer views a property as a fixer-upper they’re going to make a much lower counteroffer,” Mayhugh says. “Or even worse, (they’ll) just go down the block to one that has been updated and make them the offer instead.”
A few simple updates can help move the focus onto the house’s possibilities and away from what needs to be fixed, designers say. Here are some of the biggest red flags and what you can do to bring your home into this decade.
Color me dated
One of the easiest updates, designers say, is to remove the 1980s color palette from the walls of your house. The big paint color offenders from this era are:
- hunter green
- peach or salmon (particularly if you live on the East Coast); and
- that mix of dusty blues, grays and mauves.
“It’s a big fat time stamp on your house,” says designer Joseph Sacco of JS Interiors Group in Chicago. (See some of his design work in the photos below.)
And, it’s distracting to buyers. If they’re flashing back to “Miami Vice” and Members Only jackets, they can’t really focus on the space itself, experts say.
Likewise, popcorn ceilings, bad sponge painting and paint-splash wallpaper are red flags that need to be dealt with immediately. (Read “Rid your home of ‘popcorn’ ceilings.”) And those ubiquitous wallpaper borders? Gag me with a spoon. Their time has come, too, designers say.
Bad mood lighting
Dated lighting is another big tip-off that you haven’t paid much attention to your house in the past 20-odd years, designers say. Luckily, it’s a relatively inexpensive thing to fix.
- Take out old brass and etched glass chandeliers from entryways and dining rooms and replace them with simple brushed-nickel fixtures or pendant lighting.
- Remove that track lighting with the big “eyeball” bulbs nested inside large cans. Replace it with half-dollar sized recessed lighting in several points around each room. In the dining room, you can place these lights slightly to the front of each chair at your dining table. It’s a cleaner look than a heavy fixture and it puts the light where you really need it, says Tucson interior designer Diana Lynne Patterson.
- In the bathroom, experts say, rip out those rows of Hollywood dressing-room-type lights that ring the mirror. Replace with recessed lighting, a simple fixture or some sconces.
And please, remove that neon. While it seemed cool and high-tech in the 1980s, it’s better left on pool-hall beer signs now.
The bathroom atrocities from the 1980s don’t end at bad lighting. Vinyl flooring in tiny floral or marble prints might have been sophisticated then, but now it’s just tacky, experts say.
- Replace those dated floors with large ceramic tiles or laminate flooring that’s easier on the eyes.
- Rip out the old wallpaper and put in new paint or natural fiber wall covering such as bamboo or sea grass, Sacco says.
- Update your medicine cabinet, replacing damaged or dated units with something simple and sleek. Or hang a simple framed mirror and put in a separate cabinet or shelf with space for cosmetics and toiletries, Patterson advises.
- If your countertop tile is in bad shape, Sacco suggests having it reglazed for a fraction of the cost of replacing it.
- Brass or Lucite faucets with the “H” and the “C” for hot and cold should also go, Mayhugh says. “It’s amazing what a new faucet will do,” she adds. And it’s a cheap fix, too. A simple faucet can be found at Lowe’s or Home Depot for less than $40. A new soap dish and other bathroom accessories will help to complete the makeover, Patterson says.
The ’80s eyesore that will cost a little more to fix is the wall-to-wall mirror in many older bathrooms. This job requires breaking the mirror, fixing the drywall and repainting. But eliminating this holdover from the disco era is a nice way to update a bathroom, Patterson says.
Getting rid of glass-block walls is high on some designers’ wish lists, too. But some people, including Patterson still work with them.
The kitchen is the most important room to update, say designers and remodelers. There were far fewer materials to choose from 20 to 25 years ago. So, if you haven’t remodeled your kitchen in that span, you’re probably looking at laminate countertops, or on the higher end, small ceramic tiles with a distinct grout line.
- Replace laminate countertops with more polished granite or Silestone quartz or even easy-care Corian, designers say. Or, for a fraction of the cost you can use larger 12-inch ceramic tiles with a minuscule grout line, Patterson says.
- Glass block may be passé in some people’s books, but glass tile on backsplashes and countertops is hot.
- Older solid-wood cabinets and drawers can be refaced with more modern raised panel surfaces at half the cost of replacing them. If forking over that kind of money still isn’t a possibility, merely replacing dated-looking knobs with some simple brushed-nickel pulls is a nice touch.
- Beige or black cook tops and stoves that were popular in the 1980s have given way to stainless appliances. It’s a nice change, if you have the money.
What lies beneath
One of the best ways to update your kitchen is to get rid of ugly vinyl flooring and small hard-to-clean ceramic tiles. If you don’t like the idea of wood or slate-look laminate floors, consider 12-by-12 ceramic tiles. “I think the last time I put down linoleum was as a vapor barrier. That was the closest I had come to it in 20 years,” says Sacramento remodeling contractor William Carter.
In the rest of the house, kiss that wall-to-wall carpet goodbye. The plush Saxony carpet considered so posh in the ’80s is a turnoff now. Buyers these days are often concerned about what all of those old carpets are housing, including allergens such as mold and dust mites.
Carpet isn’t taboo. A lot of people like it for bedrooms and hallways. But it should definitely be in the minority in your house. Sleek floors and area rugs are more timeless and practical.
Isn’t that special?
The last thing to consider inside your house is furniture and finishing touches. While classic wood furniture will look good in any decade, there are some signs of the times that need to be banished forever.
- If you have upholstered chairs and couches in a dated, splashy print you might consider recovering them in something a little less distracting such as stain-resistant microfiber, Patterson says. Some bold patterns are making a comeback, however. So thumb through current magazines and catalogs to help you decide whether you’re truly passé or incredibly ahead of the design curve.
- Glass coffee tables with a very ornate iron base can be updated with a simple wood or stone pedestal.
Art is subjective, but here are some things to think about:
- Is it time to ditch the statue with the dancing figures?
- Do you really need that statue of fertility deity Kokopelli from your Southwest period?
- When was the last time you saw a Nagel-type print outside of a hair or nail salon?
Also, consider the scale of your accessories on fireplace mantels and shelves, Patterson says. Candles and vases sold at home stores today are wider and taller and look better in groupings rather than alone, Patterson says.
And a word about windows: In the 1980s, window treatments were full of flowers and frills, and drapes sported ornate valances. “We are moving away from all those ruffles,” Mayhugh says.
Ditch any vertical blinds you have because they look cheap and invariably become mangled and dirty. Replace them with plantation-style shutters, flat-paneled drapes or curtains with a subtle inverted pleat.
Bad design isn’t limited to the inside of the house. Experts say it also pays to review your landscaping.
- That classic 1980s kidney-shaped island of mulched flowers and a tree in the middle of your front lawn is no longer en vogue, says Cynthia Bee, owner of Utah-based Solscapes Landscape Design.
- Also out is yard art and knickknacks, agree the landscaping buffs on http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums, including gnomes, deer, painted-wood Americana and gazing balls.
- Precast round steppingstones and sheared-off hedges also no longer make the grade.
“The more you depart from what looks natural, the more dated it gets,” says Bee.
Ultimately, that holds true for the whole house, experts say. There was a lot of design in the 1980s that was more about making a statement than practicality. A lot of interiors were overdone, formulaic and, in some cases, too theatrical, Sacco says. And there weren’t the quality options for decorating that there are today.
“I realize the ’80s has come back in fashion for clothes,” Sacco says. “But it will never be back (in style) for your house.”