Warning: Rant Alert on The Tackiest Advice Ever


I recently came across some advice by an interior designer. She said outright that we won’t regret giving into our creative impulses when designing our homes. That we should choose tile and fixtures that are as trendy as our toss cushions, and that we shouldn’t worry about our fixtures being forever.

This is the fluffiest, dumbest advice I think I’ve ever read.

I talk to clients every single day who are upset either because they got carried away with too-creative finishes, or because they got the wrong advice from a professional and it’s way too late because everything is installed.

Other times, my clients can’t wait to rip out a previous homeowner’s burst of creativity in the house they’ve just moved into.

I don’t normally get this cranky, but this kind of advice — written for the novice who is already confused by all the unrealistic, ugly, and EXPENSIVE finishes they are seeing out there-is unnecessary and misleading.

The definition of fluffy advice? Frivolous words that fill up a page and help no one.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t love well done, trendy spaces. It’s just that I recognize a trend for what it is: something with a short life.

How do I know this?

All you have to do is look at the house you just moved into (unless it’s brand new and filled with trendy finishes that you might find acceptable), and ask yourself: Do I love the previous homeowner’s trendy choices that are now so, so dated?


That’s the first clue that although you love it now, you might regret it later.

So here are some images that you’ll never find on this blog in a regular blog post unless I’m warning you to avoid them.

So enjoy. . . and then keep it timeless, and break out the subway tile.

Just sayin’.

You’ll get tired of this backsplash in 10 minutes Via Pinterest

blackkitchenBlack, ONLY if your kitchen looks like this. via Pinterest

charcoalkitchenEspresso floors and cabinets. . . screams the brown trend via Pinterest

kitchengeometricYou’ll also get tired of this floor in 10 minutes. via House Beautiful

housebeautifulSame with this backsplash, look for wallpaper instead if you must have this look. via House Beautiful

bathroomgreyJUST SAY NO TO THIS ONE via Pinterest

bluegeometricPretty floor but NEVER FOREVER. Get a carpet that looks like this instead Via Pinterest

greyfloorsToo much grey in this one. via Pinterest

One of my amazing True Colour Experts™ just shared a story recently of a consultation she had with a couple who were building their forever house. They kept showing her one grey hardwood floor sample after another, and finally she said:

“You are building your forever house. You can’t have any grey in your floor, period.”

It’s hard to stick to this when you’re loving it right now, but trust me. I’ve been there. Just like most of us are not buying brown sofas or painting our houses brown right now, we were doing exactly that just a short five years ago.

So enjoy the trendy images, but keep the trendy purchases to removable items in your home.

And remember, this is advice for those who have not made these mistakes yet. If you already have, just style the room.

So many decor-related mistakes can be saved with some creative styling.

Check out my Styling Interiors board for inspiration.

I love my readers, and I want you to feel inspired, not depressed, after you’ve read one of my ‘warning’ posts. Seriously, though, with that kind of advice floating around, it had to be said.

Have a wonderful week everyone! xoxo Maria

Related posts:

Ask Maria: What’s Next After Subway Tile?

The New Timeless Hardwood Floor

Grey is OUT! (Maybe) The Colour Trends is In




leave aREPLY

  1. To me timeless means simple, classic and neutral. I made the mistake of being trendy in my last house thinking it would be my retirement home. Well life happened and we had to move. What buyers objected to the most were all the brass bathroom faucets and brass everything, after 15 years the bronze finish was trending.
    As I build my 5th home I will have soft neutrals – with 6 bathrooms and 2 powder rooms I won’t have all white bathrooms as I’m afraid it will have an institutional look. Best advice I got from Maria – watch the accent tile, it will date a bathroom or kitchen, don’t I know it! Got tired of one bathroom 5 years after install. But my simple cream travertine tile master bathroom was timeless and liked by potential buyers.

  2. Oh my gosh, my Sister, you got it right!
    The two times I consulted a designer, they had the philosophy ascribed in your email. I look back to their suggestions and I cringe. I cannot believe I fell for it.
    I love timeless design which is why I was drawn to you. Thank you for standing up and showing up with great advice.

  3. Maria, Always love your posts and this one sure stirred up a lot of response. It shows that everyone has their own ideas about trendy. Some of the nicest homes that I have been in are “traditional” and timeless. A lot of the top designers have combined the traditional look with a little whimsy and have made it look beautiful!
    That is where a knowledgeable designer can combine trends to make it look timeless.

    Great discussion.

  4. Ever think how much STUFF goes into a landfill from our careless redecorating? Do we really NEED to trash our world because we think we must chase every trend? Thank you for your words, Maria!

  5. LOL I’ve never understood “trendy.” Why would I care what everyone else is doing? Why would I want my home to look like my neighbor’s or the latest magazine? I think of the neutral hard surfaces in my home as a blank canvas for furniture and accessories. I have a lot of color in my home, and it is what *I* love, not what I am told I “should” love by manufacturers who want my money. If I ever decide it’s time for a change, it’s easy and relatively inexpensive.

    I love your blog, Maria. It has helped me to tweak my neutrals and be brave about color, but I’m afraid you’ll never get me to like subway tile. 🙁 I understand why it works, but trendy or timeless, it leaves me cold, literally. White paint makes me happy. 🙂

  6. Another one of those reaction-provoking posts, Maria, and funny that even though you specify who the post is geared to, so many readers and other designers get so snippy.

    I think the issue of the “grey floors” illustrates how much we get caught up in trends whether we think we are or not. I don’t remember that much focus on grey floors when the grey trend started, but now, especially with all the wood-look porcelain tile out there, some lovely and some not weathered grey floors are everywhere. But they are just not right for every home. A la Irene Hill’s wonderful post on “Your House Is the Boss of Your Project”, when I briefly thought about greyish brown wood-look tile, my little sorta Spanish-bungalow home with it’s large dark-framed sliders and mullioned windows shaded always by eaves, it’s yellow beige walls, it’s vaulted ceiling and it’s one arch screamed at me “no, No, NO!!!!” Much as I love the floors in the pictures, I listened. Thank goodness I’ve had you to learn from, Maria. I couldn’t pay you enough for that education.

  7. My story is not about fixed elements like tile and granite, but over the years I have learned that trends do indeed affect us all, often unknowingly. When I bought 2 rooms full of cherry Queen Anne furniture (expensive and good quality) in 1993 I thought I was set for life. After all, the style had been around since the mid 1700’s, wasn’t that a good sign of safe, classic and timeless? And, it was on trend at that time, everyone I knew was buying it and all our homes looked like the early 1990’s Ethan Allen catalog. But then alas, came Pottery Barn and like companies, and our cherry Queen Anne furniture started to look dark, dated, way too formal, and something more like our mothers or grandmothers would have. Just this month I sold the dining room furniture. After learning it was a hard sell, no one wanted it, consignment stores weren’t even that interested because it is too common and takes up too much space in their shops. On Craigslist there are many similar sets. Finally I ended up selling it outright (for a song) to a used furniture store. I felt a bit sad because the quality was so good, but I wasn’t sad it was gone from my home. It no longer felt like the rest of my home, because I too, was affected by current trends and went lighter, brighter and way more casual, and wish I’d done it sooner. But guess what I told my kids (who really disliked the furniture): I said, 20-30 years from now you’ll be saying to each other, “remember that beautiful cherry Queen Anne furniture mom and dad used to have? We sooo wish we had it now!” That’s the way the decorating world works, for better or worse.

    • I think you’re right..it takes about forty or fifty years for something that was loved, to come back. Now I feel I’ve made a circle in my tastes and came back to my Grandma’s style, that shaped home of my childhood-mid century modern furniture, clean lines, but nothing too futuristic.. I didn’t know the name of the style back then, or many years after..)) I found it out several years ago, when looking for the furniture and not liking this, not liking that…Now my late Grandma would’ve liked my house. I also love flowers like she did, and art, and pottery. It definitely shaped my tastes, not right away, first you explore, you take some distance..and then it hits you, you’re ready to inherit some of the things back again. Here’s a bit sad quote that I’ve stumbled upon recently: “The largest trends in home design are driven by the dead: that’s right, generations pass away and their possessions go into estate sales which feed the antique markets which feed the high-end design trade which feed the reproduction market and trickle down from there.”
      PS I just wanted to join everybody in saying that’s a thought provoking post, and one great discussion here.

      • That is an interesting perspective! It sounds like you are confident in your style and your grandma would be proud. I do like antiques and vintage, and have a fair amount of “junk” like that to throw in the mix. I think a mix is the way to go!

  8. I have lived in boring beige or white apartments most of my life, with brown or beige tile in the bathrooms that strive to please everyone, and really please no one.

    I think there are a couple of things one ought to consider before installing difficult-to-change finishes:

    1) Does it fit the style of my home? I do think it is OK to mix styles, but it has to be done with care to work, or be in an isolated space, like a powder room or basement rec. room/man cave.

    2) How long do I plan or hope to live here?

    3) Is the current material good quality and perhaps just needs a good scrub and some tweaking to work?

    As a lover of old houses, one thing I admire is the chutzpa they had to just go for it–stained glass? Sure the more ornate the better! Colorful mid-century bathrooms? Hey, you only see it for a half hour or less at a time, so why not? Ornate molding? Gingerbread? Over-the-top light fixtures? Bring it on.

    Did it always work? Maybe not, but now we look at them and say, “Look at that craftsmanship, look at that detail–why would anyone tear that out?”

    They tore it out because it went out of style 20 or more years after it was built, just about the time it was starting to weather, and slathered it in white paint to make it look cleaner and more modern. That has been going on since the 1930s.

    It takes 40-50 years to appreciate a past age’s aesthetic, and no matter how hard we try, it is almost impossible to not escape influence from what is in at the moment.

    Just witness all those “authentic” restorations from the 70s and 80s–one can almost always tell because they are a little “off” from the original. It is almost like those old movies that are set a hundred years ago, but have the women in contemporary makeup and sort of old fashioned hairstyles. Add 20 or more years, and it stands out like a sore thumb.

    So I say, celebrate what is unique in your old house! Don’t blandize it in an attempt to make it more sellable. Consult an expert in the period of the house’s construction and subsequent remodels for a tasteful update. That pink bathroom may just grow on you, and is becoming retro cool again.

    Carefully consider expensive changes. Make the most of what your house is with the décor before wiping the slate clean.

  9. Maria, I found your website AFTER I picked all the finishes in our home! I remember three years ago being tempted to buy grey washed wood floors! They were so new, so different! I hadn’t seen anything like them. My husband usually lets me pick everything out without a fuss, but he made a fuss about those floors! Luckily I listened to him! We have beautiful medium wood floors that look aged. I know I will love them for years to come! My neighbor picked the grey washed wood floors. Every time I go over to her house I’m reminded to thank my husband for talking me out of them. It’s not that they look bad, they are just really trendy! Maria, I just had my brown leather couch delivered to my house a week ago! So yes, people are still buying brown couches! I can’t think of anything more timeless than the couch I picked out by shape and color! I LOVE it! The things I have around it make it current too. By the way, I painted my walls the shoji white you have in your kitchen. Is that color part of the grey trend? The seem more creamy and warm than the current grey trend wall color.

  10. A brave article showing these images, as a design blogger myself, I talk about what you should and shouldn’t do but not always brave enough to illustrate the point as you have done. I think for those that want to create a home that is timeless, showing images such as this is important to be clear about how something might look trendy today but how are you going to feel about it 10 years down the track like those Avocado bathroom suites that were so popular in the 80’s.

    I see lots of makeover programs on TV, especially where some of the contestants are using highly patterned tiles which might look great on the day but I am sure that whoever purchases the property at the end will tire of them after a few years. The same goes with colour trends.

    I say, if you want pattern and colour, use cushions, they are a decorators secret tool.

  11. We so often hear the mantra, “If it feels right to you, then go ahead and do it”. You’ve perfectly pointed out as to why this is not logical thinking. In fact, if we find ourselves questioning potential mistakes in any area of life, we should seek wiser (emphasis on wiser) counsel or at least delay until we’ve thought long and hard about a decision.

  12. Can I just tell you that I appreciate your advice and use it whenever I can in my home. Recently we had to choose a floor. I know what you say about wood being the most timeless. I let that be my guide even though there were other floor options I was really drawn to. Since we live in Tucson AZ, wood is not practical because it’s just too dry here and wood doesn’t do well. We installed a very realistic looking wood tile. Not cheap but very beautiful. We get so many compliments. Thank you for steering me the right way and helping me love my house and my choices. I truly appreciate you sharing your talents.

  13. Interesting and passionate comments. I have enjoyed them all.

    Additionally, will add:
    Kudos to you, Maria, for your posts, and also for you always classy, helpful, and spot-on replies!

  14. I think timelessness is much more about the quality of material than the colour. I like clean contemporary lines but also appreciate old grandeur though I wouldn’t choose to have it in my own home as a rule. A beautiful floor is a beautiful floor regardless of whether it’s beige, brown or grey. I’ve seen stunning kitchens in white, maple, brown – I’ve also seen terrible kitchens in the same colours. The vanity with the vessel sink you’ve shown above may be a bit dark and the floor isn’t quite right with the tile, but the design is simple and timeless. It IS trendy, but I think we have to be careful not to dismiss good designs because of that that. Something may be trendy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not evolutionary.

    Personally, I will never have subway tile in my house, as I hate it. It is timeless but it’s also reminiscent of public bathrooms and dingy public places and that’s not something I want in my house. All those grout lines aren’t terribly practical either. I will never have another white kitchen either, as it just felt functional, and not particularly welcoming.

    • Yes..I thought along the same lines..timeless is beautiful. Now what is perceived as beautiful changes a bit between times and cultures of course, but I feel that certain inner meaning stays the same. And I guess it IS quality, or should I put it this way-the soul and the skill somebody put in his creation. It is probably what we admire, even if we can’t/don’t feel the need reproduce it in our everyday lives anymore. The skill and the soul of another person peeking at us.
      Personal connotations also play a huge role, of course, in what we tend to like or not. My husband abhors subway tile, precisely of how it reminds him of public restrooms. That’s how public restrooms looked like in Europe. (I’m also from Europe, but I’m somehow OK with subway tiles:) But I have hard time with slate, because in my mind it represents mausoleums and graveyards. Or: I know that black and yellow can be really chick together, but I got very frightened in a black and yellow space one time when I was a kid-I try not to pair them until this very day.

      Overall, it’s very interesting subject, and I feel that hundreds of essays wouldn’t be enough to cover it. But I do love this discussion.

  15. Maria, on the subject of Subway Tile and for those who find it ‘boring’ … ☺ … they may find the following of interest as it proves, not only is it timeless but it is very versa..TILE to work with. Web search: Ann McCulloch How Do You Like Your Subway Tile. -Brenda-
    P.S: I have also seen it for use in a shower stall where it has been stacked in rows that I would describe as an upside down, mirror image L and it looked amazing.

    • I’d take the second and the third…))
      I remember that second kitchen from a magazine(can’t recall the name of that magazine right now)..it’s a part of a really beautiful house. AS far as I remember the article in question, the homeowners love to build/remodel houses They build a house, they live there for several years, and move to a next one. This is their third house that ends up being featured in the press. Obviously, the bones of the houses are so great, and the amount of light is amazing, so you can do things you wouldn’t be able to do in space with less advantages. Also, these people obviously have style(I remember other rooms too), and lots and lots of money, which, I imagine, kinda helps)) I’m in the middle of remodel right now, and you would think our strict budget would boost my creativity..but no, it does not))

    • I don’t think Maria’s saying that kitchen is tacky – I think she’s saying it’s not timeless. In 4 years, will you look at that kitchen and say “ugh, I’m so over black.”

      I like it too – – but I would never do that because I don’t have endless funds to undo it. Sounds like that homeowner might – so go for it!

      We just repainted our kitchen cabinets white (original 50s cabinets) from a dingy yellow/white. We debated doing them gray – same color as the walls – but then I realized I really don’t LIKE gray cabinets in photos and I’d never get sick of white. We also tore out corian blue speckle counters from the 90s and replaced them with carrerra marble. Best decision we could have made.

  16. Hey Maria,

    YES! We bought the 1984 house that “has never been updated”, complete with solid brass HUGE swan fixtures in all the bathrooms. We have plans to “de-trend” the entire home, but for now we are coping and laughing/cringing when we see them.

    “living with swans” in Texas 🙂

  17. I don’t think any elements are truly timeless. If you don’t update your permanent finishes they start to look dated after a decade. Also if you love mosaic tile go ahead and use it. I’ve seen the most gorgeous tile floors in old Italian homes. They were installed a hundred + years ago and are still spectacular today. If you want gray wood floors don’t install brown floors just because you think they are timeless. When I remodeled my first kitchen 25 years ago, everyone warned me about diminishing the potential resale value of my home by installing a white kitchen. A couple years later the first white kitchen trend started, which was quickly replaced by cherry cabinets and then again white kitchens. Trends come and go. Choose what you love and you’ll be happier in the long run.

    • I actually can’t leave this comment as one of the last comments on this post because “Choose what you love” advice, is just as misleading as the advice the designer in this post wrote.

      I talk to people every day who did CHOOSE WHAT THEY LOVE as a matter of fact and now HATE THEIR HOUSE. Or they bought someone else’s CHOSE-WHAT-THEY-LOVE-house and it’s just ugly.

      Yes there are all kinds of exceptions to my ‘classic and timeless’ guidelines but those exceptions are best made by someone who is either being guided by a good designer or is someone who has the design ‘gene’ to begin with.

      Doing what you love is also advice that will get you nowhere in the decision making department. Hitting a blog post where a decorator or designer is saying “Buy what you love’, will definitely keep you clicking until you do find a designer with an opinion that resonates with you.

      If someone who knows nothing about design or who does not have a creative eye buys ‘everything they love’ that will most of the time end up being a pile of expensive mistakes because nothing works together.

      If someone doesn’t like my advice, they can keep clicking, no harm done. But I receive many emails daily by grateful readers who followed my advice in the face of disagreement from their contractor or husband but stuck to their guns because they had someplace to stand:

      Classic and Timeless.

      And no matter what anyone says there are fundamental principles that define a classic and timeless house that are mentioned many times in this blog.

      Big name designers in magazines often say things like “BUY WHAT YOU LOVE AND I’LL FIND A PLACE FOR IT:”, but how many guest rooms does any given house have?

      Because that’s where it ends up.

  18. There are some good points here, Maria. So mant people tend to forget about the long term. It’s always best to stick to trendy throw pillows and small decor items that can easily and affordably be replaced!

  19. Ask why you respond to the trend or the image at hand. Over time the answers will tell you which elements of what are a crush, and which are a marriage.

    I have a crush on the black kitchen shots. I respond to them because of the visible structure, the height, and the drama of contrast. Painting my kitchen black will not magically give it those bones, and I don’t like black that much for its own sake. That’s a crush.

    I could happily buy that curlicued bathroom tile. It’s white and blue, and has curling, twining patterns. I own and enjoy many possessions that feature one or both of those, bought over many years. That tile doesn’t have any disliked-by-me elements either. I love that tile for itself, not for its temporary popularity. That’s a marriage.

  20. Beth B., with respect, I think the problem with your rooms full of cherry Queen Anne-style furniture was not that it was dated, but that there was too much of the exact same thing in one place.

    Too much of *any* single style and/or color will look boring and quickly dated, no matter how good the quality, and no matter how classic (or modern) the style is.

    The eye needs some variety, which means mixing things up more, both styles and finishes, with things that *coordinate* well, but aren’t all matchy-matchy.

    To do that well, of course, does take some good design sense, but if you keep in mind things like finish undertones, furniture scale, and the general lines (curved vs angular, for example), that will take you a long way.



  21. The thing is, what most people think is “timeless” is often just a trend too. Like white subway tile kitchens. Ten years ago, almost no one had them outside of Europe; now they’re everywhere. In five years they’re going to look really dated.

    I’m old enough to remember that back in the 80s, everyone thought the Laura Ashley/English country look was timeless.

  22. I read all of your posts and follow many other decorating blogs. I know grey is on trend. I see it everywhere myself. That being said I love the way my home FEELS with Powell buff on the walls. The yellow makes it seem so warm and cheerful and I need that in northwest Ohio. I read your post about beige and shrugged my shoulders. I have grey in other ways but not on my walls. Thank you for all you do but this is one trend I will sit out.