HGTV Kills the Personalization of Housing Décor

While some interior design trends are timeless, there are some that are bound to age out quicker than others. While some say that all trends come back into style eventually, do you really want to be stuck with bland and outdated styles until that type maybe comes around? A common theme lately, thanks in part to the popular housing shows on HGTV and the DIY Network, is a “farmhouse” décor. Items like:

Gray laminate floors

Barn doors

Subway tiles

Walls of shiplap

All-white washout

Shaker cabinets

Open storage

While these can all be beautiful updates to a home, they are quite a common sight in rental homes and recent flips across the country. Many of these trends found their origins in different house flipping shows made popular television networks, and often are chosen as an easy way to cut costs with cheap materials and easy cover-ups. These trends then flooded websites like Pinterest and Tik Tok, and the materials become commonplace in hardware and home improvement stores – suddenly everyone was an interior design expert at the level of Chip and Joanna Gaines. But at what cost?

Amanda Mull made a very good point in this podcast (around the 15 minute mark) about the wide availability of materials for these trends among house flippers and landlords, making the cost of materials cheaper and super-saturating the market with these “exclusive details.” As these trends remain a popular choice as quick updates for landlords and house flippers, cheaper options emerge that are even LESS durable. For instance, instead of actual subway tiles in a backsplash, you can now get pre-cut stickers with a faux subway tile print. From far away it looks good, but up close it’s definitely not high quality – it’s not even real tile! Laminate is another example of this trend – while it may be a durable and less expensive option than real wood floors, it’s not likely to last as long or put up with as much wear and tear while still looking nice.

That leads to another argument made by Mull: these updates are being done by individuals who will never have to live with them. While a beautiful (fake) reclaimed wood barn door across the bathroom portal may look good, it is necessary to point out that it does not seal very well to provide privacy. Sound, light, and smell can all escape, and in a household with multiple occupants, that’s less than ideal. Living with these features isn’t always a picnic. 

Also, potential buyers need to recognize that just because a home has these surface updates doesn’t mean the whole home has been updated. There can still be major issues lying underneath that those who aren’t looking carefully can miss when distracted by the trappings of a recent update. Oftentimes we see the beauty of the updates and overlook what hasn’t been renovated. Is the stick-on backsplash covering serious cracking?

If you get stuck moving into a home with these corner-cutting décor trends, there are still ways to personalize them until you are ready to make lasting improvements. Try swapping out the simple hardware on your white drawers and shaker cabinets with unique hardware. If your kitchen lacks cabinets entirely and the previous owners opted for the trendy look of open shelving, try utilizing baskets or wooden boxes to organize and soften the look. Another simple fix would be to find rugs that accent your personality to cover up the drab and cheap-looking flooring.

These options are clearly trendy for a reason: inexpensive updates combined with the clean, popular presentation of these looks creates a very tempting offer. Be sure to pay attention to the entirety of the home you are interested in, not the potential distractions. When you move in and are ready to make your own updates, select projects based on your own tastes and skills; don’t be ashamed to call in the big guns when you are not knowledgeable in an area involving electrical and construction.

Whatever your personal décor style is, part of the excitement of owning your own home is the power to put your own personal touch on it. So get excited, come up with your own ideas, and don’t let a soft-close cabinet distract you from the bigger picture when purchasing a new home.