These outdated bathroom trends are hardly spring chickens.
Let’s set one thing straight: Old doesn’t mean bad. We love antique, vintage, and second hand home goods and in our opinion, our favorite timeless heirlooms have aged like fine wine. However, where you get into tricky territory, is with outdated trends. When a home decorating trend booms into popularity, it can crumble into obscurity just as quickly. If you buy into the wrong trend, in just a few years time, it can serve as an unfortunate, outdated remnant of styles past.
“In a charming historic home from the turn of the 20th century or a mid century home, there may be beautiful original tile that if it's in good condition, it's worth keeping,” explains interior designer Whitney Romanoff. “Those things we love to keep, but it's when people do something that's too trendy that makes you think ‘Oh, this was definitely from 2016.’”
Meet The Experts
Whitney Romanoff is the lead designer for Meet West Studio in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Zoe Feldman is the founder and principal designer of Zoe Feldman Design in Georgetown, Washington D.C.
Missy Steffens is the principal designer of M. Steffens Interiors in Memphis, Tennessee.
In fact, Romanoff says that the “most heartbreaking” perpetrators of adversely aging a bathroom aren't styles from Grandma’s house. Instead, she says that the “biggest offenders” are the generic builder-grade styles from the 90s and early 2000s—especially when they’re out of place, like in a historic 1920s home with a distinctly 2005 bathroom.
To prevent your bathroom from prematurely aging, designers recommend using materials that can withstand the test of time and relying on timeless styles. While trends often cycle back into fashion, some bathroom decorating fads haven’t aged so favorably since they hit their peak. Having these dated trends in your bathroom may send it reeling tragically back to the 80s, 90s, early 2000s, or even just a few years ago. And not in a good way.
All Gray And White
When Romanoff thinks of a dated bathroom, monochrome white and gray washrooms are what come to mind. These were all the rage from 2015 to 2018 especially among builders and house-flippers, she says. These days however, an all-white or all-gray bathroom can act as an unpleasant symbol of an outdated trend, and may seem seriously lacking in pizazz. Romanoff recommends sprinkling in color and texture to make your bathroom more unique, interesting, and modern.
Glass Block Windows
When working on a client’s home, if the bathroom has a glass block window or wall, interior designer Zoe Feldman knows that those have to go immediately. These barriers of thick, distorted glass are not only dead ringers for the 80s and 90s, but are also prone to cracking. Both their style and wear and tear may render glass blocks into fossils.
Another element that may date a bathroom due to wear and tear, is the grout between tiles. Rather than being indicative of times past, dirty grout can age a bathroom by making it seem older than it is.
“Anytime the grout starts to look kind of sad and dirty, it makes the space feel pretty dated,” says Feldman. “You're gonna want to either redo the grout or freshen it up.”
A laminate countertop on the vanity can catapult your bathroom all the way back to the 1940s-60s. In fact, Romanoff says that aside from your porcelain and metal, any “too glossy” material may date the room. These days, when Feldman encounters a laminate countertop, she goes ahead and replaces it with marble.
A Tuscan Theme
According to Romanoff, a Tuscan themed bathroom is so 2001-2002. If your bathroom is bustling with beige paint, faux limestone and marble, and green-ish tiles with metallic stripes, then yours may fall into this category.
Romanoff’s eagle eyes can’t help but zero-in disapprovingly on matte black finishings and accents—especially in a stark white bathroom. She will then immediately get to work on removing that matte black to prevent it from further dating the room.
“That's the first thing that we like to remove,” Romanoff says. “Let's replace that matte black with a classic finish like unlacquered brass or a polished nickel that's just going to be beautiful and timeless no matter your style.”
“Vanity height always catches my eye,” says interior designer Missy Steffens. “They used to be lower and now, the norm is higher. Now the standard is the same height as a kitchen counter—about 34.5- to 36-inches.”
Built-in tubs, especially jacuzzis, have fallen in popularity over the years, and free-standing tubs have come out on top. In fact, Steffens says that she hasn’t installed a jacuzzi in over 10 years and is now being tasked with removing them. If you’re working with a built-in and want to bring it into this decade, Feldman recommends updating the alcove around it. A modern wooden or tile frame can drastically change the appearance of an outdated tub.
You’ll be hard pressed to find chrome in many new bathrooms. Instead, interior designers like Feldman, Steffens, and Romanoff are partial these days to living metals like polished nickel and unlacquered brass. Not only is chrome out of fashion, but it also scratches and wears easily, making chrome finishings appear older than they are.
“Cherry or honey oak tone wood is something that can feel dated but that doesn't mean you have to rip it out,” says Romanoff, “Orange-honey colors are something that we can typically update easily. You could refinish that cherry or honey oak with a warmer walnut tone. Paint is always an easy change to make, too.”
Frosted Glass Shower Doors
Sliding glass shower doors with heavy hardware all show their age, but Steffens reveals that frosted glass shower doors are especially geriatric. Now, she prefers a frameless glass shower door, which she says feels more clean and modern.
While some tiles prove timeless, others have faded into outdated trends. Glass tiles fall firmly into the dated category, according to Feldman. For future reference, she recommends upgrading to ceramic tiles which are easier to paint and refresh with the times.
“I'm not knocking granite,” Romanoff clarifies. “There are some beautiful granites out there that are very durable and at a great price point.”
That’s not the type of granite that really grates this designer and can leave your bathroom countertops looking dated. The kind worth avoiding going forward is the speckled granite that was often used by builders to sport every countertop in every bathroom across the home. It’s this variety that Romanoff finds generic and unpleasantly old-school.
Acrylic doesn’t have many defense mechanisms against wear and tear. For this reason, it can make your tub look dated faster than other materials, says Feldman. She prefers natural materials which are more durable.
The lights and camera may still be on, but this style is out of action. Feldman reports that the over-the-top drama of big bulbs framing a mirror has made way in modern design for pleasant and timeless sconces that won’t fade out of fashion so quickly.
Overhead Mirror Lights
Another mirror lighting fad that may date your bathroom is overhead lighting. Rather than one fixture on top of the mirror, designers are now installing twin sconces on either side of the mirror. Not only is this a stylish choice, but it’s also a trend that’s here to stay because of its functionality.
“Sconces that flank the mirror provide the best light for your face,” says Feldman. “It's better looking and it’s also the best light for putting on makeup.”
Carpet in the bathroom is something you don’t see too often these days, but it sure was a hit in Southern mamas’ and grandmas’ bathrooms way back when. Steffens says that this is one retro style that may not be worth repeating.
When she enters a bathroom, tile baseboards are red flags for Steffens that a bathroom is in need of an update. The only exception, she says, is if you’re doing tile wainscoting. Rather than tile, Steffens prefers that a more modern approach is a crown molding with a wood baseboard in the bathroom.
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