Then and Now: Design Trends We Can All Get Behind

Design fads and trends may sound mysterious and arbitrary, but are rooted in realities. Both signal our innate desire for change, for something new. Trends-usually identified by higher costs and a longer and more gradual arc of popularity-are driven by very real circumstances in our world.

Channeling my inner design anthropologist, 5 design trends that have faded, what’s replacing them, and why.


White…on white…on white  Nothing more untouchable, more un-maintainable than all-white rooms. Luxury then, now yawn-city and nuisance.


White…with wood….greenery…and ceramics  Use white in a major element or two (walls, floors, tiles, or upholstery), but use organic accents like wood (shelves, art, tables, light fixtures), greenery (real or faux) or ceramics to soften, add life and dimension.



Manufacturers We’ll always need carefully engineered, mass-produced things made to certain standards…like heights of DR tables, measurements of dishwashers, and electrical fittings. Just not everything.


Artists  People whose purpose is to figuratively color outside the lines (in any form or material) add indescribable presence to a room. And it needn’t be conventional, cost a fortune, or even be so rarefied.

Etsy is a great source for the reasonable, unexpected and personable. Just go for something that makes you feel ‘ohhhh’ and makes you smile.  A hand-thrown pot for your basil, sleek wood and metal coat rack, or a one-of-a-kind tabletop top (at typical height of course) will all add personality to your space.



Hiring…or DIY I started in this business in the 80s. Design was part sport, part entertainment. If you had money you spent it: acquiring pedigreed things and giving pros lots of latitude to create and implement their visions. Then came the HGTV generation where anyone could anything.


Collaborating  Middle ground: there’ll **ALWAYS** be a need for pros to implement. But because design-type projects don’t happen that often for most of us, many vacillate between the 2 “known” models above.

More and more a finding a collaborative model works better. Trust, input, and ongoing communication are required from both parties. Consumers gain knowledge, confidence, and usually more satisfaction.

TRH has always worked collaboratively. Our counsel to clients is that estimates are also interviews. Also a good back and forth of ideas and methodology should count, perhaps as much as the price, depending of course on their own skillset and the nature of the job.


Polished  Again, sleek, gleaming, and usually impervious on major surfaces held great allure for many years. Perhaps for the luxury of its near-impossibility to maintain (think pet hair on dark wood, hard water stains on white marble shower surrounds)?



Textured Wood floors in a medium color and satin finishes, stone countertops in a hammered (aka leather) finish, slate look-alike textured ceramic floor tiles are more forgiving, more interesting if not safer, and usually at the same (or less) cost.


Walls Long before the pandemic hit, the love affair with open floor plans was fading.

COVID certainly made us appreciate defined or private spaces But many who renovated extensively, or purchased an open concept property had regrets almost immediately after the moving trucks or contractors left. Wall-less, many wondered: where to put the furniture, where to plug in lighting, place electronics, or hang art?


Below is before of formal DR, looking to entry of $1.5M+ house. You literally fell into the DR



Boundaries  Walls are back! Buying, selling, or staying and improving? Take a look at how space flows, how it ‘feels’ first. Every floor plan is different, but bad wall size and position is a fatal flaw of so many floor plans.

Adding a knee wall adds privacy in a palatial bathroom; or in the case below, taking part of a full wall down to a half wall opens up a space and adds light.

Placement of lighting, furniture and furnishings will define separate areas within one set of 4 walls. This previous owner didn’t see that and instead chose to install a floating wall which cut light, impeded traffic flow and just made for weird furniture placement in both rooms.

This house had been listed on and off for years. It was nice enough, but both underwhelming and cavernous. Because there was no separation, every room on this floor was painted the same color. Adding an 8″ bump-out wall


narrowing a too-wide opening helps buyers define and see more value in an ning) added value for this seller by better defining this modern cavernous space into “entry” and “dining room”. Subtle, but walls/narrower openings also makes where to stop and start different paint colors a whole lot easier!


Every room, every set of circumstances is different; but placement of furniture, lighting and furnishings can also add value by defining spaces within a set of walls.

The Refreshed Home is a design and listing prep consultancy, specializing in occupied homes in Westchester County NY. Voted Westchester’s Best Home Stager 2019 and 2020, Marie Graham has personally helped get over $600M worth of WC properties noticed, and SOLD.