Warning: This Mistake Could Instantly Date your House

Okanagan Valley

Okanagan Valley, photo taken from Silver Sage Winery

Pink Roses

My Sister Elizabeth and her husband rent a trailer to camp at Christina Lake each summer with their two boys.

When I walked into the one they had this year I asked "Is this trailer 15 years old?"

Elizabeth looked a little startled as she replied "No these are new, I'm sure not older than 2-3 years, they don't rent old trailers".

As I looked around, it was obvious that it wasn't old but I thought it was interesting to note that the wallpaper, border, window coverings and upholstery were all in shades of sage greens and mustard yellows. Colours I was specifying over and over again prior to 2002 when the brown trend arrived in the West coast.

Sage Green Window Treatments

Before everyone bought a brown sofa (now it's charcoal), sage green was the trendy neutral of the moment 15 years ago.

The only finish I liked in the trailer were the faux wood floors (below), way better than a fake looking tile linoleum floor.

Of course the countertop was pink beige and black (even though it was not repeated anywhere else) since so many people automatically assume it's neutral when of course, as you know, it's far from it. 

Pink Beige Countertops

Above photos by Maria Killam

Either the designer in charge of finishes has no idea where colour trends are or all of this was available at a greatly reduced price because it is dated and no one is interested in sage green in any shape or form these days.

 I recently received this question:

"Just curious for opinions…we plan to sell in two years or maybe three and our realtor said not to do a white kitchen because it is a trend that will pass and high-end purchasers don't look for trendy.  We have custom cherry cabinets and a high end granite that scream expensive (we didn't put them in) and he strongly advises leaving it as is given that we will definitely have to move.  Also, our area is very international, so an Americana look won't necessarily play well.  Thoughts?  Want to update to my own taste while keeping in mind that we will sell…"

First, here is the scoop on high end. Most high end clients prefer white kitchens, it doesn't really matter where the trend stands on the colour of a wood stained cabinet.

I worked in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Vancouver for 3 years and I can count on one hand how many wood stained kitchens I saw and that was during a period where I conducted an average of five consultations every week. Almost every house had a white kitchen installed.

This Mistake Could Instantly Date your House

Via Pinterest

A high-end buyer is usually more well travelled and therefore more up-to-date on trends. They know that a white kitchen is the most timeless look and that's why its installed over a wood kitchen many times over a wood stained one.

And, it doesn't matter how high-end your granite looks, there's nothing timeless or neutral about it. Expensive does not equal classic and timeless. If that were true, then a client of mine who inherited a $200,000 mosaic wall-to-ceiling fireplace in his living room should have been madly in love with it.

He wasn't. And he immediately had it drywalled.

So before you get cranky about this advice if you don't have a white kitchen please understand that this is my opinion, based on thousands upon thousands of consultations over the years. There are many reasons why a buyer will fall in love with your house, and I believe it's because you've created a look and feel more than anything else, unless you live in a house that is truly falling apart.

Bottom line, before you spend too much money on updates, decorate the main living areas of your house instead. You'll technically be staging your house at the same time which creates a look and a feel that a potential buyer will love and you'll actually get to enjoy it way before you sell. It's a win, win all around!

Christina Lake, British Columbia

Christina Lake Via Sunset Magazine

Here's where I was camping this week! I'm not a BIG camper as I much prefer room service but I will happily endure it to be around my family. Here's my mom reading a bedtime story to Markus (below).

Bedtime Story at Christina Lake

Happy Monday everyone!

Related posts:

Are Granite Countertops Timeless? Yay or Nay

Two Questions to Ask before you Decorate vs. Renovate

Danger: How you Know You've Fallen for a Trend

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51 Responses to Warning: This Mistake Could Instantly Date your House

  1. Bang on! We got married 15 years ago, and I listed our sage green sofa & chair (oversized & overstuffed, of course) on Craigslist last week! But at least I installed a white kitchen three years ago! It's easier to buy new furniture than to redo a kitchen! Hope you've had a good weekend my dear!

  2. I'm curious as to what is on trend for kitchen countertops … I hear from a few people that they don't like polishing the granite, plus there is the cost factor. Cement and limestone also seem to be high maintenance, stainless I've seen in Europe but not too much here, so what counters are most used in new builds at the moment?

  3. I'm not a camper either … and fortunately for me, neither is my family!! In my region, granite is still going strong. Many families are reticent to do marble because of the maintenance required, and quartz products still don't seem to be readily accepted. But it's coming!

  4. I was watching an episode of "Million Dollar Decorators" about a year ago and I remember Martyn Lawrence Bullard bad-mouthing granite. It was one of those "egads, we need to replace this immediately upon the start of this reno" moments. I laughed, because in the Midwest US where I live, people seem to be all about the granite. To Martyn, who obviously has those high-end clients you referenced, granite is cheap. Around here, granite usually equals quality and high end in most home buyers minds. Blech.

    I love my white kitchen with marble and walnut counters. Very timeless!

  5. Beth says:

    I couldn't agree more. White kitchens are timeless and classic and are not trendy. My grandparents built their house in the early 1930s. They had a white kitchen and a stainless steel range. They updated over the years but the kitchen remained white. I was born in 1960 and to this day my parents have a white kitchen. All of my kitchens have been white. you can change the paint and accessories ….even the countertop and have a different look. But white kitchens are not new and are here to stay. I also agree the vast majority of high end homeowners have white kitchens. You can't beat a classic.

  6. mimi says:

    Hello Maria!

    I can concur that white kitchens retain their popularity- I work in kitchen design and they are a consistent seller.

    You are spot on about colors dating a room- so true!!
    And I am with you all the way- give me a hotel and room service any day- my idea of camping out and roughing it would be a fully outfitted 40 foot motor home-ha! Not that I don't like the idea in theory of camping out- just not so crazy about the reality!!

    xo
    Mimi

  7. Becky says:

    Yes, I agree with you. White kitchens are more timeless and granite is outdated. Carrera marble is the way to go.

    Thanks for the post!

    ~Becky

  8. Linda says:

    Hooray Maria, glad you have Dulux colours, that will make life so much easier for your Aussie fans.

  9. Our entire main floor the the house we bought two years ago was sage green. Needless to say, it's gone!!

    • Jen says:

      I bought my house 7 years ago, it is early 90's vintage. And yes, the entire house was sage green with one exception – an orange brown living room! It's all gone now – what a relief! Replaced by calming greys and whites.

  10. Beth says:

    I agree white kitchen cabinets are a huge trend, more than a trend, that will last for years and can be timeless. Working on a design showroom recently that was 3/4 done (by the people who worked there), I begged for more kitchen vignettes with white cabinets and unbusy counters (both which they sell). Most of what they had was rich, stained wood.

    But *some* wood to be there. Geography has an influence (not just in cabinets – in color and more). And in the area where I live, stained wood cabinets will always have a big chunk of the market. (Architecture also informs selections.) Just my take.

  11. Kimba Haas says:

    So I installed a white kitchen with Shaker doors and a neutral Corian countertop because I loved the look and the versatility. Then, a year later I put the townhouse on the market and had buyer after buyer turn up their noses at my kitchen because "it doesn't have granite".
    I can agree with you about the timelessness, classic beauty and versatility of the white kitchen but if realtors tell every client that the kitchen MUST have granite or the house isn't worth the asking price, then you're stuck.
    The house eventually sold but it took far longer than it should have despite numerous upgrades. I might have saved myself a lot of money and grief by just plopping some stupid piece of cheap ugly granite on top of inexpensive cherry cabinets. Whether buyers actually like it or not is apparently not the point. The point is that people are essentially herd animals and they will chase trends until they burn themselves out.

    • Stacy says:

      That's a good point otherwise there wouldn't be trends to begin with if the masses didn't follow! It's especially hard when you have the "experts" (realtors in this case) advising their clients about what they should expect. Plain and simple, some people lack an eye for design or don't have taste and there's nothing wrong with that. For them, a house may be turn key if there's new cherry cabinets and granite regardless of color. When we redid our guest bathroom, we got countless advise from our contractor (not a designer) and tile sales people about the trendy tile (tan/mosaics/etc.) They were against my choice of white subway tile with white grout; thought it was too boring. Yet every photo I loved with a white bathroom had white subway tile so needless to say I love it!

    • Maria Killam says:

      I think people look for stone in general and I'm saying granite is a very personal choice because there's nothing neutral about it. I would choose quartz over granite. I guess it's not sexy to say Corion in a real estate listing (not sure why it's a great product too). Maria

      • Kimba Haas says:

        Nope, it had to be granite. I don't think my buyers would have known quartz if it hit them in the face. They all wanted dark, splotchy granite.
        The Corian was beautiful, warm to the touch and light. As far as surfaces go, it was perfect for any color the new owners decided to slap on the walls. AND it was expensive as all get out. So, clearly it's not money that is driving this trend. And it's not appearance. It's all status and the desire to be just like the neighbors.

  12. Christine says:

    There is so much to love about a white kitchen! For me it conjers up really great memories of my Meme's kitchen and all the great food produced in that kitchen along with her percolated coffee and the transistor radio with CBC playing in the background! As a decorator I personally would always live with a white kitchen!! However…..I so appreciate a well done "Wood Kitchen" and have seen many examples of well thought out timeless choices. The world would be pretty boring if everyone chose "White Cabinets" and quartz tops!
    There is a place for everything in the right context!
    Even the forgiving finishes in the trailer!!

  13. Linda Leyble says:

    Hi Maria love your posts. I couldn't agree with you more. Here on Long Isabd, you would not believe the looks on some of my clients' faces when I suggest that they paint their cabinetry white or install new. I did a consultation last year – for a $2 million contemporary home on the market that had – get this – mauve cabinets with gray tiled countertops. The whole home needed a "do-over" but the kitchen especially. After a few months, with no offers, they finally caved in and had the cabinetry painted a pale gray. It finally sold!

    Thanks for all your knowledge that you offer up!

    Linda

  14. Linda Leyble says:

    Oops – that's "Long Island."

  15. Monique says:

    Hi Maria, I have to agree strongly with what you just said. When I did the Cottage Country Show the man in the next booth asked me to have a look at their brand new trailer they were showing in the parking lot. Well, I was shocked at how dated it was!! It was exactly as you just described and it was $110,000! I had to break his heart and tell him the decorating was dated and he said "I thought so too! He said they don't use a designer so I told him to give the powers that be my card lol! About the white cabinets, I actually had a realtor tell the builder I work with not to put in a white kitchen that they don't sell as well. Well, he listened to me HA!

  16. Agree on all. And Traci, I live in the deep south on the Gulf Coast. No one had ever heard of quartz! But once I started specifying it and other non granite options, even people who did not use my services whispered about it that "that designer gal" likes this product. We look at it this way. We lead the trends not follow them. Granite was huge and still is here amongst diy folks. But not with us. And not once has anyone argued once I go through our song and dance on it. And we are pretty well known for blowing through the status quo. BTW, hate camping. Even with family:) In fact maybe more so! Ha. But i have teens. Not little people!

  17. BillP says:

    I think that the realtor gave good advice to your questioner, Maria. Regarding high end buyers looking for white kitchens, I take exception. In the most expensive new construction in Boston we continue to see walnut cabinets (condos up to $5 million). In Florida, I saw $3 million new construction yesterday with cherry and a contrasting white island with marble. The largest kitchens still tend to have two different finishes, with center islands contrasting the other cabinets. From my experience, the single item that dates kitchens is appliances, next granite. I encourage everyone to make a trip to a high end appliance store to see the latest. The commercial look is in, also integrated dishwashers and refrigerators (counter depth if not fully integrated). Quartz or marble rule for countertops, stick with subway tiles or a solid surface for backsplash.

  18. barbara says:

    ..so agree on the white!! i had mine painted white 12 years ago. We need new now but they will be white.. i am also over stainless and i have never had it. Our floors are solid teak haddon hall parquet that I did not select but not going anywhere so playing WITH it rather than against it. White walls and strong color ( painted coffee table BM jade garden and stained top) dark blue makes a great compliment to the orange undertone in the floor…then depending on season i am using accents in chartreuse or orange or…. BOLD strong works well with the wood and all the white… may do a navy wall behind the white leather sofa since it does not float well..

  19. Adrienne says:

    I will be selling my house in two years. I have all black appliances that are less than 3 years old. If I paint my cabinets white what should I replace my very beat up counter tops with? I plan to put in subway tiles in whatever color coordinates with the countertops. My flooring is a high end linolium that has yellow beigh undertones. My husband says not to replace it since we aren't replacing the cabinets. Comments please, Of course painting the walls is the easy part.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Your countertop should relate to the floors, lay the samples out on your floor until you find one that looks good, preferably with some black in it to pick up your countertops. Maria

  20. Hi Maria,
    I believe a blanket statement that white cabinets are the only way to go can really stifle many kitchen projects. Perhaps on the west coast where you are they dominate, but not at all on the east coast. Bright white is rarely used in high end kitchens. I believe that regions of the country have different perceptions of what is desirable or trending. A lot depends on the regions weather and light. I work with many clients that have gorgeous wood cabinets that are every bit as relevant today as when they were installed. Same with some of the granites used. After about ten years most folks are often thinking about upgrades or refreshing anyway,especially with fresh wall paint, so I advocate showing your personality with some color if that fits your personality. Not everyone likes white just as not everyone likes stained or colored cabinets. A major trend right now in cabinetry is less detail, often a slab cabinet door. This does not often work with an all white color choice as there is no dimension in the room. JMHO.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Charisse, I agree that regionally trends differ for sure. My advice is mostly for the reader who is not using a designer and are choosing everything themselves. (the designers the kitchen companies use are not colour experts and are interested in selling the cabinets no matter how they are ordered in my experience) I have seen one high end stunning kitchen in walnut that I thought was beautiful and something even I would install, however that's not what most people can afford. Somehow a white kitchen even if not particularly well done seems to still look better than a cookie cutter wood stained kitchen.
      Just my opinion, I get that there are lots of others.
      Thanks for your comment,
      Maria

  21. SandyCGC says:

    I think the realtor’s advice to your questioner “not to do a white kitchen because it is a trend that will pass and high-end purchasers don't look for trendy” was kinda dumb and obviously not true, as you pointed out, Maria. The realtor should have only made the comment “you have custom cherry cabinets and a high- end granite that ‘scream expensive’ and you KNOW you’re moving in a couple of years – don’t do a single BIG thing in this kitchen”.

    Wish the words “trend” and “trendy” could be banished from the design world but I know it will never happen. Just the “lemming” nature of the beast, I guess. We could have some fun and a learning experience though with another “37 Days of ….”. this time “timeless” versus “trendy” with, maybe, an occasional “can you guess when this room was done – why or why not?” component.

    By the way, thanks tons for that very inspirational dreamy creamy kitchen Via Pinterest. My little kitchen is not nearly so grand, but almost everything in that picture is a great take-away for what I want kitchen to be in the future.

  22. Franki says:

    Love quartz…just did my entire kitchen with "Rushmore" quartz…it's MINE!! franki

  23. david says:

    Due to the herd mentality of the blogosphere I think it's important not to redo a house until the day before you put it on the market.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Actually if more people read blogs there wouldn't be as many bad kitchens out there. Consumers who read blogs and follow good advice when they identify it end up with kitchens that they love, I get emails every day from readers who followed my advice and love their house! Just sayin'. Maria

      • Ann says:

        I read a years worth of blogs before I decided on my white kitchen. The cabinets were custom made and installed by an Amish family. My kitchen does not look like everyone else's. I followed your advice Maria and OMG its gorgeous! Even bought your e-book. So, thank you!

  24. Nicola Dodd says:

    What if your kitchen cabinets are so dated tand rather dinged up that painting them white would just make the imperfections and age stand out? I have a white/pale gray marbling with countertop (formica unfortunately…in Portico Marble) with white oak floors (yellow undertone) and stainless steel appliances…so the countertop and floor do not relate very well. White walls (BM seapearl)

    Right now the cabinets are painted a dark blue, but I hate it as it does not relate to anything in my home. The darker cabinets however do ground the lower cabinets, but on the wall the dark blue just looks like a streak of blue paint across some very stubby looking upper cabinets! Maybe a darker color for lowers and a white for the uppers? Sigh, unfortunatley I am alos bossed around by a orangey brick fireplace in the adjacent room, which is open concept to the kitchen area.

    Is a dark charcoal or black for lower cabinets a bad idea?

    thanks for bloggin Maria…look forward to your posts always.

    Nicola

  25. Arlene says:

    Back to trailers there decor has been outrageously distasteful for over 20 years. I can't visualize who does the decor but hopefully their is better in their mouth. Better yet why do people pay money for poor out of date decor???

  26. Liz says:

    I hardly ever read this blog, maybe once every 6 months, but every time I do, I know I can count on the old "white kitchens are timeless" blog. I think it's so limiting and tiresome.

    Signed,
    someone who changed out a white kitchen after 10 years. I guess I was ahead of my time.

  27. Brenda says:

    Enjoy your blog–always informative. Wondering what "greens" you would specify?

  28. Adrienne says:

    I just bought a fifth wheeler and the choices in interior are limited unless you want to buy high end custom. So you can see that the consumers needs to speak up. When you go to the big RV Fifth wheel trailer conventions all the brands are the same in terms of interior design. It would be nice to have more choices.

  29. Wyn says:

    I like a wide variety of kitchens, but I know what I'd do with the one I've got. I'm renting but the owner will consult me on renovations, because I'm an interior designer. The existing kitchen is white but dated and a bit cheap-looking. Because the ground floor is open concept and there is honey oak woodwork and peach-toned laminate floors (supposedly cherry-look), I can't recommend a woodstained kitchen. I don't want to match either existing wood or add a third. My long-term plan is to re-stain the honey oak and replace the flooring, but who knows when that will happen? So I'm going to recommend warm white cabinets, because I'll like them and they'll go with what's there now and my intended future finishes. I can have wood elsewhere.

  30. Cary says:

    Staging is the key. The folks who bought my mom's bungalow outside of Orlando, FL, were gushing about how well the house showed. It felt sophisticated, yet homey. Of course, they are going to change a ton of things – but staging sold the house.

  31. Amen to every single one of your comments Maria. I am sorry…busy granite is a no no in my book and wood cabinetry ditto….great post!!

  32. JoyceB in Atlanta says:

    The last picture of your Mom reading to Markus was just priceless. Love his miner's light :) As to kitchen colors and finishes, my opinion is that the entire house should flow and that sometimes, white cabinets are a bit jarring in a traditional house. We've owned 7 houses and have had it all from colored steel to white to oak to cherry. Right now, it is custom medium cherry with biscuit quartz counters, back splashes and biscuit appliances and sink. Very serene, very beautiful, very ME! I love looking at your white kitchens, but my kitchen will stay cherry – at least in this house!! Someone said that staging sells houses. When a house 'hangs together', it sells itself. We've sold 2 houses before listing them, and one house within a week of listing. The only one that took 6 months to sell was the one we'd lived in only 6 months. It isn't just the color of cabinets and carpets that appeals to buyers, it is that everything works together like a single painting. Most people imagine themselves in a house without remembering that the furniture and accessories go with the old owners. Love your blog, and I do understand your reasoning in choosing white kitchens in most cases. It is your look and I respect that.

  33. Kathy says:

    Hello Maria,
    We are getting our home ready for sale and hired a designer to suggest updates for the kitchen/great room area (includes a dining area and family room with a red brick fireplace. The brick has splotches of white/black.)

    She suggested Cloud White for the cabinets (originally the orangey/yellowy oak of the 1990's), grant beige for the walls, Tobacco Pental quartz countertops and bronze cabinet pulls and dining area light fixture.

    The previous wall color was Abbey Brown by BM, so in response we had replaced the family room carpet with a pink/beige undertone several years ago (if I had only known then what I know now from your website). The hardwoods are the the yellowy/orangey oak colored ones and the trim is all bright white, as the trim color was picked to match the original white vinyl windows.

    Now that we have the cabinets and walls painted (no countertops yet), if "feels" wrong to me. I feel like the brick and carpet don't belong. Is this all going to work out, or do we need to change the wall color or ? We have already payed a lot for the cabinets to be painted cloud white, but the walls could be repainted for $450.

    Someone asked you on Facebook about whether cabinet color should match white trim and you said yes it should, so we missed that opportunity already. Please help…

    • Kathy says:

      oops, forgot to add, she picked a biscuit colored subway tile backsplash, and we have not ordered countertops or backsplash yet, so could still change those….

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you Maria, for teaching me about undertones. The designer came over today due to our concerns and could also see that the pinky-beige undertoned carpet did not go with the green undertoned Grant Beige, so we are changing it to Bradstreet Beige. If I had not been reading your website, I would never have known "why" it felt wrong and would probably not have questioned the designer….

  34. Barbara Shaw says:

    When everyone gets there it goes out of style. I am speaking of granite counter tops! Its call marketing. If everyone already has it what will they sell? I liken it to a little black dress. If it is right for you now it will be right for you 20 years from now. I like change, but there is a difference in changing something because it has gone out of style and changing it for a new look.

  35. veronica says:

    Maria, what paint color is best to paint my kitchen cabinets white with a maple floor and stainless steel appliances? The counter tops are verde butterfly.(like black granite with specks of white and green). please give me correct white paint color

  36. Judy says:

    Hi Maria, could you please tell me if I have a problem with bursa beige marble floor, hog bristle quarter painted room and a red lounge suite?
    I guess why I'm asking is I think I may have a huge problem! Beige, beige and red.

  37. gwen says:

    After giving it some thought on the colors in RVs
    and just "starring" at the sage green valance and
    "listening" to all the comments about the colors …..
    Sage green and anything close to it including browns, beiges does remind me of nature. Which has everything to do with the outdoors….They are not trying bring out the current trend in colors but rather focusing on blended the interior with the exterior (outdoors)! And if that is true then this has always been the case and always will be…..The exception of course is the person who has one customized and chooses the color of their choice :)

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