How do I know if something is timeless or trendy?
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Butterfly clips. Low rise jeans. Inflatable furniture. BODY GLITTER. We’ve all been caught in the trend trap before. We all thought we were oh so stylish in the late 90’s/early 00’s. I remember laughing at the photos of teenagers from the 80’s with their big crimped hair and oversized puffy sleeves and thinking “HA! Thank GOD I won’t look back at my high school photos and cringe like they do.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, the innocence of youth.
It’s the age-old question: how do you know if something you’re digging right now is going to be something you love for years to come, or whether it will just be the latest trend that dates your home?
As Designers, we have to be on the cutting edge of the design world, keeping on a pulse on how design is evolving. With Pinterest and Instagram, it feels like there’s a new “it” look about every other week.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you suss out what is timeless vs. trendy. Be sure to scroll to the end for some of our favorite timeless staples.
TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON
Timeless pieces have stood the test of time by definition. But here’s the thing. Almost, without exception, timeless things will become unpopular from time to time because they don’t fit today’s definition of stylish. Some examples:
Black and white checkered floors. For some people, it evokes hundred-year-old Parisian cafes and feel European and timeless. For others, they feel like a bad 1950’s suburban kitchen.
Remember the show Frasier? He had a replica of Coco Chanel’s warm earthy brown mohair sofa. Coco Chanel is a pretty classic brand that seems pretty timeless, but that roll arm brown sofa was patently cringe-worthy around 2010 when the only neutral that the Design World allowed was gray. Now that brown tones are back on the rise, it’s popular again.
Marble has been all the rage for years now, but in the early 2000’s it was abhorred and replaced with granite because it was seen as a dated 80’s trend.
Brass has been going strong for 7-ish years now and I had clients and builders SWEAR to me that it wouldn’t last, but it has and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It was here in the 70’s, and again in the 90’s. It is going to keep coming back around and around.
It’s important to understand that everything has a season. That’s what design does; trends crescendo up, reach a fever pitch, and fall back down. Timing a trend is like trying to time the stock market – nobody can successful do it, and you shouldn’t trust anyone that says they can.
All of that said – some things are very clearly trends and are not going to stick around. Gray and yellow chevron fabric. Neon lucite furniture. The aforementioned inflatable chairs. Steampunk light fixtures. Anything that is SO STYLE SPECIFIC that it couldn’t feel at home in most any room of your house is a dead ringer for a trend. If something is new and all the rage, that’s your first clue to be suspicious.
You might be thinking that tip 1 was an interesting point but not remotely helpful. Fair point. But now you’ve hopefully shifted your mindset on timeless and trendy and recognized that there are no hard and fast rules. Great! Now you’re free to make your own decisions and not worried about being a slave to what everyone else likes right now!
Because here’s the thing – if you were to fill your home completely with “timeless” pieces, that means that every choice you’ve made is safe, and that is going to feel BORING. You have to be willing to take a few risks now and again or your space is going to feel so vanilla that it puts you to sleep (and you’ll be itching to constantly change it).
So how do you start selecting things that feel like YOU? How do you know whether you’ll love it or whether it’ll end up in your donate bin next year?
The very best thing you can do is to look at what you’ve been drawn to over time. A great way to do this is to look at your Pinterest boards / screenshots / Instagram saves and scroll back YEARS. Look at the things you were saving 3, 5, 10 years ago. What are the common threads? You’re undoubtedly going to see quite a few things that filled your feed for a while that you’re no longer into. AWESOME. Note that. This is helpful intel.
If you’re consistently saving modern pieces, or colorful walls, or gold accents, chances are, those are timeless for you. Note that in your “timeless” short-list.
Prime example - I have a wall of blush pink tile in my bathroom which some people probably roll their eyes out since blush has been a trending color for the last few years. In fact, it was Pantone’s Color of the year back in 2016 – 7 years ago! But here’s the thing – I have LOVED this color, with the entirety of my soul, since childhood. My bedroom was painted this color as a kid. Even when the trendy colors change (and they will) I’ve chosen something that I love in my core, which means for me, it’s timeless. That doesn’t mean that I have to live with it for the next 50 years, but for me it will have more staying power than for someone who fell in love with it 5 minutes ago because it was on every endcap at Target.
It all comes down to this. Our Key Advice – only go for timeless on big investment pieces. Sofas and dining tables and beds aren’t things you want to change out year after year. Go for silhouettes that have been popular (to varying degrees, of course) for decades. A classic roll arm sofa, a leather Chesterfield chair, a straight arm without much detailing – they’ll serve you for years to come. The same holds for renovation items like your wood floors, countertops, and large areas of wall tile. Anything that would be expensive (or a pain in the rear) to change, lean towards timeless.
The flipside of that coin – go for it on smaller items. Have fun with pillows, art prints, décor items. Some of these will turn out to be timeless for you, but it is perfectly fine (and actually encouraged) to try out some trends in smaller more affordable items. Picture frames are notorious for going in and out of style, but they’re pretty easy to swap out. Painting walls is easier than painting cabinets. Swapping a pillow cover is easier than reupholstering a sofa. Replacing a kitchen backsplash is simpler than re-tiling an entire bathroom. Choose your battles.
All of that said, you don’t have to listen to me. If you like to be cutting edge and try new things, by all means, you do you! But my guess is that if you’ve read this far into this post, throwing money at trends feel like a recipe for regret. Help to ease your fear of spending on your home by investing in silhouettes, colors, and styles that you’ve loved for the long hall.
This is going to sound catty, but I’m saying it anyway: by the time you see a décor style hit Hobby Lobby, it’s a trend. And it’s a trend that is on its way OUT. Skip it.
GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE
Finally, give yourself some grace. You’re going to swing and miss, and that’s fine.
About 12-ish years ago, I notoriously painted a bathroom a truly God-awful shade of salmon in our first house. Guys, it was bad. So bad that there is no photographic evidence of its existence. Though I love the color in theory, throwing that much of it on the wall felt like swimming in calamine lotion. I learned from that and dialed the saturation down to my now tried-and-true blush color. Salmon needs to stay off my walls and on smaller accent pieces. YIKES.
Design is an iterative process that involves learning what you love and what you don’t over time, and you’re going to make some mistakes along the way. Goodness knows I have (and every designer I know). Recognize what didn’t work, try to figure out why it didn’t work, note the lesson, and move on.
For a deeper dive into avoiding trend traps and uncovering what styles are truly timeless for you, I want to invite you to jump into our free Discover Your Signature Style Mini-Course. It’s a 30-minute video jam packed with our tried and true method to unlock your Signature Style, including your timeless foundational pieces, and how to start to apply that inside your home. It’s a great resource to jumpstart your home transformation.
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