Design is a tricky enterprise. If you are someone who feels some pressure — or good old-fashioned desire — to be up to the moment in home design, you may find yourself at the mercy of trends that aren’t the best choices for you and your family. If you step back and ask yourself if there are other more interesting or appropriate options than all the current crazes, the answers may lead somewhere far more appealing and authentic.
Open floor plans
Take for instance “open floor plans.” If you watch home design shows or even skim home design magazines, you know that open floor plans are synonymous with a stylish remodel. You may feel there is something wrong with you if you don’t want to take a sledge hammer to a wall. And sometimes there is good reason to open things up — for example, to avoid obstructing a view or, say, to keep an eye on the kids in the family room while you are in the kitchen.
But sometimes not. You can bet that once the pendulum has swung in one direction, it is eventually going to swing back the opposite way. Reasons to close up spaces might be a desire for more privacy, intimacy or coziness, or, as in one client’s case, the need to restrict canine family members to certain areas through the installation of custom gates in doorways.
Stainless steel appliances
Stainless steel appliances can be terrific. They reflect light, complement both warm and cool color palettes and are rugged (though they do scratch, dent and can even rust), while lending an air of culinary sophistication . But, along with granite countertops (see below), they have almost become a cliché. So, if neutrals are your preference, why not matte black, brown, slate, “truffle“ or warm metallics, like bronze or copper? If you feel a bit more daring, go for maximum impact with a bright pop of modern color, like red or even a retro color like mint green.
Granite countertops — yawn — have their place. And all materials have their drawbacks. For instance, you have to be careful about butcher block due to staining and burning, stainless steel due to scratches, and tile due to the creation of an uneven surface in addition to grout’s susceptibility to staining. Marble, too, will stain if not sealed; plus it is on the softer side and can be etched or gouged. But there are still more options. Consider quartz, soapstone, concrete and terrazzo, perhaps one of the most exciting, for aesthetics, functionality and ease of maintenance.
Barn doors and the farmhouse aesthetic
Barn doors are great … on a barn. But, seriously, they have their place in homes. However, the rolling style door with exposed hardware need not sport barn styling and should, instead, complement the style of your home. Plus, just because you have the wall space for this style of door doesn’t mean you should fill it with one. Well, maybe one as a focal point. But avoid going overboard. Instead of creating a cohesive look, you are liable to give the impression that you got a good deal on barn doors. Similarly, the farmhouse aesthetic, popularized by Chip and Joanna Gaines, is appealing to many, no question about it. But, too much shiplap and too many Mason jars can look contrived.
Midcentury modern, minimalism and shabby-chic
Perhaps as a function of the “Mad Men” craze, any brand that wants to appear instantly hip incorporates midcentury modern furnishings and accessories into their print and television advertisements. If you love midcentury design, by all means purchase some nice pieces. It is a sleek style that plays nicely with others. Similarly, minimalism suggests sophistication — this style can never be accused of being folksy or “cute” — but while it may create a beautiful magazine spread, it may not be practical or functional for a home in which real people reside. Fortunately, there are other ways to be hip and sophisticated, with authenticity and being true to oneself among them.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is shabby-chic, which is, at times, more shabby than chic. As with so many trends, what started out as one thing morphed into something else. The appeal of furniture and decorative objects with character and history gave way to pieces slapped together, painted or upholstered with poor craftsmanship. For a while it seemed that anyone with a piece of thrift store furniture, a staple gun and a can of chalk paint was cranking out “artisanal” home goods. With nothing against the DIY movement, there is a difference between shoddy and chic.
Beware the overused pattern, like Ikat a year or so ago and chevron more recently. If those prints legitimately appeal to your sensibilities, embrace them. But, often, familiarity may breed contempt if you overload your home with what can be found in abundance in discount department stores, craft stores and on populist websites. The same applies to other style statements like oversized letters and word art in stencil or decal form on walls or panels, framed or unframed. How much of a style statement is it if everyone is making it? If a look is all over Pinterest, it is not likely to be a true reflection of your individuality.
Chris Ettel is founding partner of VB Homes. He serves on the Tidewater Builders Association board of directors, served as past chairman of the TBA Remodelers Council and is a longtime board member of the Virginia Beach Public Schools Education Foundation. For more information, contact Chris@vbhomesliving.com or go to www.vbhomesliving.com.