While a stately Victorian home certainly has more than its fair share of classic charm, there’s a pretty pronounced difference between having a gorgeous older home and one that simply looks like it hasn’t been updated in ages. However, it’s not just the overall architecture of your home that’s keeping it stuck in the past—in many cases, a handful of seemingly minor design details can conspire to make your home look like a relic of a bygone era. With the help of interior designers, we’ve rounded up the dated home décor elements hiding in your house—and what you can do to update them.
If you want help making your home look out of place in today’s world, your tile countertops are more than happy to oblige.
“Everyone dislikes them, but it was a craze in the ’80s,” says Karen Gray-Plaisted, founder of full-service decorating and home staging company Design Solutions KGP. If you want to bring your home in to the modern era, she recommends opting for quartz, natural stone, or concrete counters instead.
Matching furniture sets
While too much mismatched furniture can make your home feel a bit chaotic, going too far in the other direction can make it seem seriously outdated.
Caitie Smithe of the family-owned furniture and design company Walter E. Smithe in Chicago says that the overly-matched trend “feels boring” in addition to looking old-fashioned. Today, “the trend now is to make a space feel curated” with complementary pieces instead of matching ones, she says.
It may have once been considered a necessary component of a complete bedding set, but today, having a bed skirt gives your room a rather antiquated feel.
“Bed skirts are great for hiding everything that you have shoved under your bed, but that is all that is good about them,” says Georgina Horspool, a lighting designer with Alexander Joseph, a British company that specializes in luxury lamps.
Unless you want your home to have a distinctly dated vibe, you’re better off keeping those doilies in the drawer where no one can see them.
“Lace doilies are thankfully no longer seen as a must-have item,” says Horspool, who recommends decorative coasters or placemats as more modern alternatives for preventing damage to your furniture.
The era of the pink bathroom has come and gone, but many homes still have these nods to a time that’s long since passed.
“Pink, green, and blue bathrooms are a sure sign of an outdated home,” says Horspool, who notes that a more neutral palette and fixtures can help bring an older bathroom up to date.
The Memphis design movement may have led folks in the 1980s to believe that when it comes to home décor, you can never have too much color, but the ’80s have long since passed. And by today’s standards, too many competing hues or patterns in your home can make it seem seriously outdated, says Rachael Grochowski, principal and founder of RHG A+D, a multi-disciplinary architecture and interiors firm in New York City.
For a more modern look, Grochowski suggests “unifying with a themed background color” and adding minimal pops of complementary color to stand out against the principal hue.
Unpainted wood moldings
One often forgotten about detail that can make your home seem seriously behind the times? Unpainted trim work.
“Leaving skirting or architrave in bare, untreated wood—particularly pine: the worst!—gives an unfinished aesthetic, adding to a tired, dated finish,” says Annabel Sewry, owner and designer at UK-based Bamble Design. Luckily, all it takes is a little paint to bring them up to speed.
If you want your home to have a decidedly modern feel, it’s time to ditch the wall-to-wall carpet for good, says Colin Haentjens, interior designer with The Knobs Company.
Instead, he suggests using “throw rugs of any size, or even multiple throw rugs that can overlap.”
This design choice creates an aesthetic in your bedroom that gives the impression that “your taste—or your circumstances—haven’t evolved since you hit your prime sometime between the mid ’80s and late ’90s,” says Denise Gianna, owner of Denise Gianna Designs in Beacon, New York. To make your space more modern, opt for “quirky, unmatched color or patterned bedding,” she suggests.
That collection of nautical memorabilia—particularly the basket of seashells in your bathroom—screams, “I’m stuck in the past!” If you just can’t make yourself part ways with the under the sea theme entirely, at least pare it down to “one fabulous seashell as an accent—and not in a bathroom,” Gianna says.
Popping silk flowers into every vase in your home doesn’t make it look like you have a green thumb—it just makes it look like you haven’t redecorated in decades. And if you are still partial to using faux plants, avoid ones that are trying to pass as the real thing, Gianna says. “Fake plants made out of interesting, improbable materials, like felt or stone,” can actually help bring your space into the modern era, she says.
At one point in time, a room wasn’t fully decorated without heavy curtains, valances, and matching tie-backs. But in recent years, those weighty window accents have fallen out of favor. How should you replace them? “Simplify the window coverings with adjustable shades in interesting textures and add clean, linear drapery panels,” interior designer Lori Wiles says. Doing so will provide privacy without shutting out sunlight.
Tuscan design elements
Tuscan décor—especially kitchens with rustic cabinetry, dark wood accents, and arched entryways—had its time in the sun about a decade ago. But by today’s standards, it looks woefully out of touch, says Gianna.
To modernize your kitchen, try going with a lighter color palette and don’t be afraid of a bright accent or two. Lower cabinetry painted in a hue that pops, ceramic doorknobs, or curtains in a fun color can all instantly update the room.
That orange-hued oak cabinetry might just be among the worst offenders when it comes to dating your home, says interior designer and reality TV star Tyler Wisler. “They just reek of acid-washed jeans, big perms, and Sweatin’ to the Oldies.“
Fortunately for the budget-conscious, an upgrade doesn’t mean having to completely remodel your kitchen. “Take a weekend to sand down the cabinets and repaint them” in a peacock blue or deep navy, Wisler says.
White wicker furniture
Furniture with a beachy vibe—linen sofas or blue-and-white-striped curtains, for example—may have their place, but white wicker pieces should have been shown the door a long time ago. According to Gianna, having a white wicker chair “screams ‘aged and staged,’ like bad motel décor or a dinner theater set.”
If for some reason you’re still truly wild for wicker, it’s best to stick with rustic, unpainted pieces, and use them as accents in a room—a single peacock chair, for instance—not as centerpieces.
It may seem like a small detail, but having the wrong doorknobs in your home can instantly reveal how long it’s been since you’ve redecorated. “The sight of gold or brass door hardware screams dated,” says Nicole Gittens, principal designer at New Vision Interiors & Events. “The ways to remedy this are endless,” she adds. If you want to modernize your space in no time, simply swap those knobs out for ones in chrome, ceramic, black metal, or stainless steel instead.
Brass light fixtures
Much like brass doorknobs, brass light fixtures are undeniably out of style, Gittens says. For an easy update, choose fixtures with silver or black hardware instead. Your space will look up-to-date in no time.
While wallpaper in a modern pattern can be a fun way to upgrade a space, a wallpaper border instantly drags it back into the past.
“When I walk into a space that has wallpaper borders that have been there for too many years, I can tell,” Gittens says. Luckily, this can be an easy fix. Just take the border down and repaint the wall in a solid color to transform the space.
There are few things that mar the appearance of an otherwise tastefully-decorated home like a popcorn ceiling. “These ceilings shout, ‘update me!” says Gittens.
Her suggestion? “Have them covered with new drywall layers for a smoother, cleaner, more streamlined look in your home.” However, this is one job you definitely shouldn’t DIY—popcorn ceilings may contain asbestos, so it’s important to call in a professional to make sure the upgrade is done safely.
It’s not just popcorn ceilings that can make a home feel like it’s stuck in the past. “In many older homes, you tend to see texture on the walls or ceiling, which can really contribute to the dated look and feel of a room,” says Jessica Holmes, founder and CEO of Sarasota, Florida-based HSH Designs. If you have walls like that in any room in your home, Holmes recommends covering them with fresh drywall and a coat of paint to bring the space up to date.