Trends are not your friend, Mid Mod lover.

22 min read Why avoid trends in remodeling? Because your taste and your home’s history matter more than what is current.

When it comes to updating and upgrading a mid-century home … trends are not your friend. You know this already. But the pressure to make the same choice as everyone else is SO STRONG. “What about the re-sale value?,” your well meaning advisors will anxiously wonder. But in reality, a timeless choice will always work better than a trendy one!

Here’s the most basic truth: Trendy =/= Timeless. And you don’t want to put all your energy, money and time into a remodel with an expiration date!

Trendy choices lead to Remodelers Remorse

This is SO SO common! I’d say that on a weekly basis I have folks in my DMs expressing remodelers remorse over trendy choices they made quickly upon move in or on the advice of a contractor before they found their ReMod Squad.

The good news is that even if you or someone else has bowed to trends in a past remodel … there are lots of ways to tune your home forward and backward in time.

You may not be able to unpaint that brick, but lots of choices can be adjusted when you have the time and money. 

It’s better to make timeless choices in the first place

So, how are you supposed to stand strong in the face of Modern Farmhouse to future proof your remodel? 

First, leave high quality original elements (mostly) alone. Absolutely replace broken, warped or damaged materials. Don’t limit your layout changes to save an original element that you think is just meh. But where you can, keep wood flooring, cabinets and trim, siding or paneling.  

Next, think timeless for the big elements that you’ll replace. The list is similar. Choose simple trim profiles or minimal trim. Select natural materials and materials true to your home’s era (terrazzo, cork, wood). Keep tile patterns and cabinet faces simple.   

But it’s OK to play the Trend game … the right way

You don’t need a permission slip. If you love a trend go for it!

BUT … Find ways to incorporate trendy looks in less permanent places.

Go all in on the matte brass hardware or hang that boho basket light fixture over your dining table. Paint the color of the moment on easily re-paintable surfaces like walls or doors or furniture.

You might even go trendy with appliances since (sadly) they tend to have shorter lifespans than their mid-century counterparts.      

Learn how to plan a Trends Free Remodel

Save your seat right now for the Free Remodel Planning Masterclass on Feb 24th! Show up live or get the replay when you sign up right here!

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • Why trendy remodels mean more waste and less joy. 
  • How to stand strong in the face of before and after photos. 
  • Where to embrace trends you love for a remodel that will stand the test of time.   

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

Are you trying to plan a remodel with a built-in expiration date, I’m willing to bet you aren’t. Whether the home improvement you have in mind as a family project for this weekend, or a Major General contract renovation later this year, you’re probably hoping that the changes you will make to your home are going to last as long as you live in the house, and perhaps decades beyond. 

So that depends on choosing sturdy, durable materials planning well, so they’ll need minimal maintenance and replacement over the years. And it also depends on making timeless layout and finished choices that are going to feel well suited to the house now, next year, five years from now, and for years to come. 

So when you’re deciding how to improve on your mid-century home, you already know that trends are not your friend. Timeless choices are not trendy ones and trendy choices are very rarely timeless. 

So today, let’s talk about how to push back on the built-in tendency towards trendiness in the remodeling process, and how you can invest your energy and your money in timeless choices for your home. 

Hey there. Welcome back to mid mod remodel. This is a show about updating MCM homes helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host della Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast, you’re listening to Episode 1606. 

Before we get started, I have some big news. One week from Saturday, I am giving a free live masterclass. I have updated the planning of mid-century remodel to fit my life and budget class. And I’m going to teach you exactly how to plan a remodel that can enhance your home’s mid-century charm and make timeless choices. Not trendy ones, all while you tune it to perfectly suit the life you live in the house with your family. 

If you ever wondered, all I’m seeing is shaker kitchens. Is that my only option? I think that’s not right. Or would it be better just to let the contractor tell me what the house needs? I mean, they are the expert Right? Or do I have a choice between leaving my slightly worn-out peach bathroom that I don’t love or just completely HGTV that space? Then this workshop is for you. 

And if you’ve got questions for an architect about your home specifically, you can ask them to me live on the call at the Q&A session at the end. I will stick around until every single question has been answered. And I often go into quite a lot of detail. 

Look, I only teach the mid-century masterplan framework live a few times a year. The last time I did this was summer 2023. Am I going to see you there a week from Saturday? I know that finding the right path to a mid-century house update can be alarming. We’re going to talk today about how expensive it can be and how tied in with your identity it is and how scary it can be. 

But you are not alone. So on February 24, I’m going to show you exactly the steps you need to follow to make your MidCentury home updates come true at the free masterclass, go save your seat right now at mid mod dash midwest.com/masterclass. Or the link will also be in the show notes for this episode, which is of course, mid mod dash midwest.com/ 1606. Will I see you there? I really want you to come please come let’s talk about how to make your best choices very mid-century home together. 

Now I have two distinct but interconnected reasons why I want you to avoid what’s trendy more than just trends age like milk. And they have that built in expiration date factor which means that you’re applying them to your house a relatively permanent thing. And they are anything but trends and clothes can be obnoxious when you need to replace two years ago jeans with new jeans, but we also wear out jeans over a period of years. 

So that doesn’t necessarily feel like the most frustrating thing in the world. When the new jeans you buy need to be a different lifestyle shape etc than the ones you had last. Although refitting is always so obnoxious. And I for one, and the person who doesn’t like change. Hi, I love mid-century homes and everything vintage. So I tend to lag a little bit on the skinny versus hip versus bootcut trends. But when we’re talking about houses, houses are a relatively permanent thing not in say geologic time, but certainly in our lifetimes. 

A house can be a very permanent thing. And a trend is impermanent. So there’s that. But I want to also emphasize to you that your taste, what you enjoy what you value. And because you’re here listening to me right now, I’m assuming that is mid-century, in some way, shape, or form is more important to you than what is currently trendy. Your tastes, your values, your choices are the most important thing that grounds how you’re going to feel about the changes you make to your house. 

And so I never want you to allow your feeling of what you should do or what someone external to you says you should do in your house matter more to you than what you feel you want to do. Now there’s also the question of how to determine it. The things that you like, based on you know, we’re all seeing ideas on the internet floating on Instagram and magazines and books. 

Some of those things are, if you’re looking in the right places, gorgeous mid-century ideas, and some of them are trends. How do you tailor how do you tally the points up, choose the pros and cons list of liking something that is a little trendy versus liking something that’s more timeless? 

We’ll talk about that later in the episode. But I just want you to always come back to the idea that your taste matters more than what is current. Also, your home’s history and point of origin matter more than what is current. And this gets into the expiration date on trendy ideas. You can live in a world that is absolutely all about farmhouse right now we all do. We all live in farmhouse’s world. But that is a temporary thing. 

Right now the prevalence of the farmhouse the painted white, the vertical cupboard, siding, the black shutters, the black detailing the modern farmhouse ethos is everywhere. And it’s being applied to houses that have no style new builds that are being done in the style houses from the 80s and 90s that are being sort of taken from beige vinyl siding to farmhouse, honestly, I don’t even mind that it’s giving them something to stand up to. It’s also being applied to Victorian houses that have their own distinct history that I’m not an expert in might not be your cup of tea, but is unique. 

And it’s being applied to mid-century ranch houses mid-century modest houses mid-century modern houses everywhere, in a way that truly frustrates and breaks my heart. So that’s not going to last. That’s an idea that’s current right now, that is completely unrelated to the houses it’s being applied to. And therefore as the idea the trend ages out again, we’re going to be left with a sort of high tide line of detritus of farmhouse nonsense attached to houses that it doesn’t belong to as well as houses that it does. 

So when you’re coming back to how to make a choice for your house. When in doubt, choose something that you like rather than something that is trendy, and choose something that suits the era of your house, rather than something is trendy. I have my own feelings about this. I generally don’t feel like I need to go looking for outside experts to tell me that I’m right or wrong. But I did come across a really interesting piece in The Washington Post earlier this year actually was last year now I’ve had this in my tickler file for podcast episodes for a bit. 

But basically, they have done a small study of a couple of professors of marketing and innovation and design, who looked at how home renovation media HGTV affects the choices of homeowners and basically decided that this idea that that we look to experts, we look to the people on television who we read as experts HGTV and see them saying this is what you should do. That’s the should it also comes from the expertise of contractors. 

By the way, that’s not what this article is about a link to it in the show notes. By the way, spoiler alert, the title is HGTV is making our homes boring and sad. I agree. And their evidence is basically just that this sense of how to remodel your home, without knowing what your home is based on this external should makes people worried about their own preferences and decisions. And when they feel insecure and fearful of getting it wrong, then they default to trying to make an investment-friendly choice trying to make a resale-friendly choice. Thinking of your house as having multiple benefits to you. 

It’s the container of the way place you live your daily life. But it’s also this expensive, maybe the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy in your life, wealth-building apparatus, at least in theory. And when you worry about your own taste. You take in a lot of information about HGTV, you can tip right over into the sense of well, I guess I just better make a good investment. That’s frustrating to me because that impulse to look at HGTV and use the advice it’s giving you as your quote-unquote investment in your home can lead you to make absolutely the wrong choice for your home can lead you to invest poorly in the ultimate longevity worth and value of your home when you make choices for it that are trendy rather than timeless. 

Because the trends change. Although the uniformity does not. You know a few years ago, everything on HGTV in the earliest era of HGTV everything was the same and it was all granite countertops and oak kitchens and that sort of weird horizontal cliff wall made out of glass block backsplash tile just absolutely everywhere and white painted cabinets. These days. It’s much more quartz and farmhouse and light and bright chic, but it’s still absolutely uniform and it’s still absolutely not related to either the taste of the homeowner or the original builder of the house.

So why do we fix it? on this question of following the trend, and I think that a lot of people do worry, they don’t feel enough competence in their own taste. They want to turn outwards and find out what they should do that people are liable to make certain choices for their home because of that question of is your home more a shelter that contains your daily life. Or is it that large investment that Americans make? 

The sense that you don’t want to damage the resale value of your home or you want to improve the resale value of your home can trigger a lot of fear and push a lot of poor decision-making, especially if you’re making your decisions, very close to the remodel and that kind of crisis mentality of it’s an emergency, we’re in a rush, we’ve got to go really quickly. So this ties back in with what we were talking about on the podcast last week. The best way to avoid fights in your home improvement project with your partner is to make your decisions as far in advance of the actual moment of final action as possible. 

And the best way to make your decisions as calmly and rationally and considering the big picture your own taste long term is to make your decisions and set your priorities as far in advance of being in conversation with the contractor or hearing somebody say to you well, you know, everybody else in the block has done this, or my last six clients chose to make a bigger owner suite, or the thing people are so often afraid to do to pull out a tub and replace it with a shower you’ve been dreaming of because you don’t have room for both. 

And what if the next family has kids and wants it or people being advised to push for a palatial owner suite to add the space to have both even if you yourself prefer to just sleep in your bedroom and come on out and your morning ablutions are relatively constricted now. I’m not a realtor. So I can’t speak to you from the position of the value of real estate more than hypothetically, but I can point you back to amazing chats I’ve had in the past with mid-century specializing realtors, TJ Pierce Adrian Kenny, Adam Stevens, these fellows are all people who spend day and night thinking about mid-century homes just as I do. 

And these are people who talk to mid-century homeowners and people looking to own mid-century homes, they all emphasize exactly what I always believe, which is that when you make house with really specific choices for the way you want to live in it. 

And when you make a home that emphasizes its mid-century character, you’re going to draw in the people that love the mid-century character and the people who are looking for that specificity that you had a family who wants to put their kids in bunk beds or a family that wants a room for every child in the house. The person who does not want a bath in their bathroom, or the person who really values that spa-like soaking tub experience. There’s someone else like you out there who wants to make those choices and have them made for them, and they will find your house as their particular dream house for which they will bid and pay top dollar. 

Now I don’t want to tell you that the money choices don’t matter in your remodel. But I do think that we tend to focus on things like what is the future resale value, the purchase price, the sale price of your house, which we can only know what the price is that you bought the house for, you can’t know the sale price of your house until you sell it. We don’t know what the economy will doing then we don’t know who will find the house what the serendipity of that process will be. We can also assign value more easily based on the dollar cost of the items we choose. 

Rather than how you’re going to feel about being in your house. There is no easily quantifiable number to attach to how many times you’ll smile when you see that your kitchen is finished in your favorite color. How much it helps you to have a really smooth, peaceful morning routine that John’s launches you into the day gently and ready to deal with anything. But when all is said and done, those are the things that will really stick with you.

The best equivalent I can think of comes from my own life. Some of the most valuable things I’ve done for my home are the least expensive. And some of the most expensive things like the kitchen remodel that I watched my parents go through before I even went to architecture school. I watched them and my sister camped out in the basement living in the house while it was being contract constructed, cooking in a microwave and washing out their dishes in the utility sink. 

And then I watched them live into their new home in a way I had never seen them before. I watched them host dinner parties twice a week when they had been total introverts in our previous home In our previous place. And they opened up their social circle engaging in the intellectual community of Madison making friends they had had decades before making new friends. And they still know all of those people even though they now live in the country. 

Now I don’t know that every dollar they spent in their kitchen remodel contributed directly to that happy new extrovert social life that they constructed. But I do know that before they remodeled the kitchen, and particularly before they changed the layout so that you could work on food prep in the kitchen and still socialize with people elsewhere in the house. They couldn’t have had that experience so smoothly, and they weren’t inclined to have people over to the house. So they did end up investing in their home and they took it from kind of the weird creepy fixer-upper house in the neighborhood to one that a lovely young couple about to start a family was overjoyed to take as turnkey ready. 

But they didn’t do it for resale value. They did it so they could live the life they wanted to and a house they already loved. This is the bottom line is that the bottom line does matter. But what matters most is if it’s taking you in the direction you want to go. If you do want to make trendy choices for your house, feel free. I like trends as much as the next girl I painted my house millennial gray when I moved in. I never want to tell you that you can’t enjoy something trendy if it tickles you go for it. 

But choose your spots to apply the latest trends advisedly. Put trendy choices into impermanent parts of your house. It’s a good idea to choose a trendy paint color on an easily repeatable surface. Please don’t want to paint a previously unpainted brick or wood surface with a trendy paint color. Please, please please, please don’t do that. I’ll have links in the show notes to some specifics on why but if you need me to tell you not to paint your mid-century brick. 

Yeah, I need to give you an entirely separate podcast episode on that. I don’t have it on the top of my mind. But if you Google mid mod Midwest, mid-century brick, it’ll come to you. 

But there are so many easy ways to apply trends, you can think about putting trends into paint colors, painting on already painted surfaces, walls. Art, you can also think about trends in furniture. In fabric surfaces, curtains in hardware in light fixtures, go ahead and be trendy with light fixtures, they can be replaced, it’s fairly easy to replace a light fixture one-to-one. So that’s a place where you can make a choice where you want. 

Even kitchen appliances, unfortunately, are relatively short-lived these days. So maybe don’t build them in. And think about choosing a bold colors, something you’re not even sure you will want in two decades. Unfortunately, your refrigerator is probably not going to last you two decades. So do something a little wild with it. 

But do avoid trendy choices in your woodstain and builtins. Whether in the kitchen or elsewhere in floors, because then we put things on top of them in their hard to change in tile or materials that are affixed to the walls, and certainly in modifying any existing original features. For the sake of a current trend. You will probably regret it. And the next person certainly will. 

Here’s one more thing I want you to be Kenny have aware of in the world of getting home improvement advice. As you look through magazines, as you watch a little bit of HGTV even just for the recreational value. As you look at Instagram, you’re going to see that there is a tendency to format the description of a remodel in terms of before-after photos. 

It’s impossible to avoid the before-after photo, it’s necessary to show what was there before and what has come after. And it’s related to something I find incredibly useful, which is a progress photo sometimes people on Instagram will give you an Instagram story of here’s what we started with. Here is you know the weekend one project weekend two project weekend three project. Here’s this week’s you know my favorites are when we’re removing poor choices of the past the process of stripping the paint from a painted wood panel wall. 

And you get to see when the first white came off, and all the little speckles, and then the sanding, and then the refinishing and the detail job in the stain and how beautiful it is in perfect light afterward. That’s great. I’m not denying that. But the idea of a before and after is inherently a risky one because it emphasizes not just the improvement, but the drama. The emphasis is on change, not on how it actually made things better. 

And so the thing to be aware of is that sometimes we end up designing towards the before-after photo and it leads us into bigger changes that are perhaps necessary, paying for more than we needed, moving further away from the original.

Trying to overwrite previous design choices more than is necessary. And it all comes from a place of putting your priorities in the wrong place. Thinking about oh my gosh, what an amazing person this DIY er is what a genius this designer is. And who does that serve, it’s not really benefit benefiting the way you’re going to live into the house in its after incarnation. It’s more about how big of a transformation there is. 

So I think this particularly obviously comes from when we want to take a mid-century house which often has a feature of some wood paneling. People will walk into a space with wood paneling, particularly if they walk in on a cloudy day in the daytime, if it’s empty of furniture if it doesn’t have any task lighting in it because a cozy den in a mid-century house was meant to be lit by table lamps and pendant lights and usually no built-in lights. You can walk into a space like that. I think I see a problem with this from a first walkthrough point of view. 

And the obvious answer is if it feels dark, make it brighter. Put in big Windows, I’m never averse to bigger windows, tear out that paneling and replace it with drywall or just painted white. A nice thick nap roller can fix this problem. But that’s focusing on a transition rather than a tweak. And it’s also not really thinking about the why of the space. Now a baby that the people who lived in the house before, we’re looking for a quiet, introverted cozy space in the evenings. And you always spend every evening out of the house and you’re only interested in being in the house during the daytime you only want to light bright space to run around and drink coffee and play toddler games. 

But that sense I think that I feel this comes up the most whenever I see whenever I see a before or after photo and just like at a glance, I see a darker wood-colored room and then it goes to white. Sometimes I do like the details that when I look closer but my my first reaction is a flinch because I think we are giving up on something that was good quality and house and not asking like what was the value of that room in the context of that house, in service of a before after photo. 

Rather than thinking about how space really needs to change. I think I might I might have to do a whole episode on before after photos and their risks. But I really want to talk to you about the value of tweaking, or transformation. Now I use the two words tweak and transformation a lot when I’m talking about remodeling. And that’s because I like alliteration. Hi I’m della Have we met the five D method dream discover distill draft and develop is how I frame all remodels ever because I like alliteration, but I also use the words tweak and transform very intentionally because I don’t believe that every remodel needs to be a transformation, some parts of it probably will. 

And certainly the right choices for your house, even if they are subtle can transform the way you experience your life on that in on a daily basis in the house. But the work itself doesn’t necessarily need to be big to effect a big change. The changes themselves do not have to be transformations to transform your life. So I want you to just think about pushing back from the idea of the before after photo that high drama visible to everyone without knowing anything about the people who live in the house, before or after just that there’s a big difference between before and after. 

And instead to think about how to tune your home to suit your life. Because often a tweak is much less expensive than a transformative remodel. So that might be a value to think about. Before I let you go, we’ll do our favorite End of Episode wrap up segments. The first one is a little pep talk. So here’s a few words of encouragement before we go. 

Today I’m going to talk about something that came up for me in a slightly cheesy Instagram quote recently, but I believe this is news we can all use and is very referential to today’s topic. The cheesy Instagram quote is instead of telling yourself I should have known better, tell yourself I know better now. That is yeah, that’s definitely Instagram quote worthy. But here’s what it means for us mid mod remodelers sometimes more often than you might think, especially if you’re allowing yourself to wallow in regret. I hear from clients who aren’t telling me about the things previous homeowners have done to erase mid-century original features in the house. But things that they themselves have done. 

Those things include, oh, I moved in and the first thing I did was paint the brick. I can’t believe it. Or 10 years ago, when I remodeled the kitchen, I did the whole thing in granite countertops and white painted cabinets and I threw the baby out with the bathwater on the original material guides to the house. 

I’ve had people in my DMs literally in tears, about the choices they themselves made for their own homes and how they wish they could take those choices back. And I know that feeling I’ve made a few choices in my own home that I now look on. Even just a few, I think seven years on and think well, that was a pretty cottage first move I made in the basement there. I’m gonna have to fix that at some point. But I don’t want you to wallow in regret. I think that that feeling of regret can be too demotivating take a breath. I mean, literally, let’s take a breath.

Some choices are hard to rollback, but we can always turn the dial forwards or backwards in time in our models. So as you move forward with your own home, just tell yourself, yes, you can make new choices that are more in line with the era of the house. Don’t let regret over choices that someone else or you made in your house hold you back from taking action now to tune your house to tweak your house to be the best house that can be the best house that works for you the house you wish you lived in. 

And I know how incredibly paralyzing it can be to feel like you yourself made the bad choice in the past but believe me, you did not make them in a vacuum but in an environment where all the advice you were getting was to do exactly what you did. And now you have changed your environment. 

You sought out a group of people you to think differently, you’re listening to the mid mod remodel podcast. So you know, I think that’s a good idea. You’re following other people on Instagram, on Pinterest on Facebook, who are making mid-century oriented choices for their homes, and you’re building a remodel squad of people around you who share your remodeling values, you’re going to make better choices now. 

And I encourage you to get started right away on doing just that. To that end, today’s Quick Fix suggestion is something for you, or for anyone who’s living in a house that was primarily modified in an era that was not focused on mid-century, you know, in the 90s, and the seven years in the 2000s, just before you bought the house, and that is to Coco Chanel the previous change to your house right away. Do it this weekend. 

And this Coco Chanel advice is to look at yourself in the mirror before you leave the house and remove one thing. Now Coco Chanel, great designer, not the most spotless personal and political history, but in this case, she was absolutely right. And one of the most common things that happens in a remuddle, and update that was not grounded in mid-century era, is to add a bunch of unnecessary extra ornamentation and detail that can look like fussy. 

Ornate light fixtures, fans from Home Depot that are somehow trying to look as they were as if they were handcrafted by Victorians in a woodshop excessive wood molding details. This often shows up as crown molding that was never part of your mid-century house, or really ornate baseboard, molding around doors, additions, replacements that are overtop for a mid-century house, or cabinet doors and drawer fronts that are highly over the top in terms of extra curlicues, and fluid and details. 

So what you can do right now, today, this weekend is take off any unnecessary crown molding that was added to your house. Take off crown molding that was added around the top of your cabinets, whether they meet the ceiling, or even if they don’t, there’s often a little extra detail put up at the top, completely useless to the top of the cabinet. Get yourself a mini pry bar, a stepladder and take it right back off. Now you might reveal a few holes that need filling, or some gaps that need cutting and painting might be hiding some sort of inconsistency. And if so, you can deal with that later. 

You can start right now by making your house a little more minimalist, a little more mid-century modern and taking off some unnecessary detail. That is not passing the Coco Chanel test. What are you going to take off this weekend, I’m really excited to find out. Hopefully, you’re feeling a little more grounded in pushing back on trends and trendy choices for your home. 

Now, you already know you want to make investments in your house that are going to last and you don’t need to feel burdened by what is current what you see on HGTV what comes up when you Google kitchen remodel, you’re going to make choices that are specific to you and to your home. And if you want help to make that happen, I will show you more of the nitty gritty the step by step the exactly where to focus, your time, your energy, your attention, and eventually your money to plan that perfect tailored remodel for you. 

And I’m going to do it all at a live planning a mid-century remodel to fit your life and budget workshop that’s happening a week from Saturday. That’s Saturday, February 24 at 11 am Central. It’s a free live class, come bring your spouse or partner, bring your notepad feel free to take screenshots. The whole thing is meant to get you as excited and as confident about planning a remodel as you can possibly be. So I hope to see you there. 

Go ahead and make sure you’ve saved your seat already at midmod -midwest.com/masterclass. That’s all for now I’m going to leave you to think about whether you already own a mini pry bar that is suitable for removing unnecessary crown molding from your house. 

Or if you don’t have any crown molding in your house, congratulations. You’re already a step ahead. Good for you.