How to Achieve a Timeless Home Renovation

I read an article recently about a worrisome pattern of newly finished home renovations that are DOA. That is, Dated-On-Arrival. Lately, the trend cycles have been increasing at what feels like warp speed. New build homes and renovation projects sometimes take one to three years to bring to fruition, and in the meantime, prevailing tastes have already moved on. Home buyers are moving into brand new homes, only to rip out and re-do the interiors. What a monumental waste of money, not to mention time and resources! And terrible for the environment. This got me thinking about the idea of timelessness in interior design. Is your freshly renovated interior destined to be dated in a few years? Maybe, but I don’t think it has to be. You can achieve a long-lasting space that isn’t painfully rooted in a particular era. Here is the advice I give my clients who want to create timeless and enduring design in their home:

1. Identify your personal style

2. Create a curated aesthetic

3. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain

4. Commit to a color palette

5. Prioritize durability and ease of maintenance in material selections


What does timelessness mean in interior design?

First, a few thoughts on the very idea of timelessness. Can anything truly be timeless? If by timeless we mean, unable to guess if the space is 10, 20, 50 or 100 years old, I would say no. There will always be features of a space that are unique to the era it was conceived. Even materials that have been around for seemingly forever have evolved. Take classic subway tile, for example. 100 year-old subway tile looks different from its contemporary counterparts. Manufacturing processes change and evolve, glazing technology changes, and standard sizes change too. The goal of creating a “timeless” interior doesn’t mean no one can tell it was built in 2024. Rather, “timeless” refers to longevity of the aesthetic. Will the space still feel beautiful and appealing in 10 or 20 years? Or will it become reviled because the look was so ubiquitous or trite that people tired of it? Avocado appliances (70’s), country kitsch wallpaper borders (80’s), and word signs like “Live Laugh Love” (’00s) come to mind. A timeless interior is one that has room to grow and evolve with you, and that you will continue to love just as much in a decade as you do today.

First, Identify Your Personal Style

If you don’t already have a well-defined personal style aesthetic, I would encourage you explore that first, before starting your renovation. This is often the jumping-off point when I am working with a new client. *Note: for more information on how to develop your Signature Style, download my free guide here. When you make interior design choices that are grounded in your unique style fingerprint, your space will be less bound to current prevailing trends or aesthetics. In fact, you’ll find it easier to identify and say no to choices that are just popular and trendy in the moment. You will also cultivate a space you love for a long time and not tire of, because it’s filled with the colors and details that bring you personal joy and fulfillment. As you evolve and change (as we all do), your space can evolve with you with small updates or new additions. Maybe you re-paint or recover your upholstery, or add wallpaper. These small tweaks can keep your space feeling fresh for a long time without the need for a major overhaul.


Next, Create a Curated Aesthetic (the Art of Mixing & Matching)

Once you are confident in your personal style, this next tip will be easier. A curated space is one that feels like all of the choices are harmonious, without exactly matching. I think the maligned decorating faux pas “matchy matchy” came from the time when it was common to furnish your entire space with a matching set of furniture from Sears. Yes, those spaces dated really quickly! When too much is the same (same wood stain, leg style, hardware, etc), a space begins to look too much like it’s of a particular era. Rooms that employ a carefully considered mix of choices will age much more gracefully. Use your Signature Style as a compass when making selections, and look for things that pick up on different nuances of your aesthetic. Think about pairing high and low end items, and employ a mix of new and vintage furnishings. Shop big-box retailers, boutiques, thrift stores and antique markets. Know your color palette, but within that palette, don’t be afraid to mix different wood tones and metals, and layer your colors and textures. A layered and nuanced mix gives your space interest and dimension, and keeps it from feeling too banal or theme-y.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go Against the Grain

It’s all but impossible not to be influenced by current trends and style preferences. Even when we don’t think we’re being influenced, we probably are. And that’s OK, we’re only human. But I would encourage you to consider selections that are NOT currently popular, so long as they fit within your personal style. I was thinking about this recently, reading various designer’s opinions about white paint. Currently (as of 2024) the most popular whites are pure and bright, with little to no undertone. Pure white has been trending for a while, actually. It took over from the greys of the last decade. Personally, I do not prefer bright white paint. It is the right choice in some applications and for some projects, but in my own home I love a soft white with ivory undertones. I’m not bothered by my unpopular opinion or my off-trend home. I know what I like, and that’s what matters. And I want the same for you! Go against the grain and do it joyfully, because you know what? The trends are going to change anyway. You may as well have what you really like.

Commit to a Color Palette

And while we’re on the subject of color, I want to underscore the importance of developing a color palette for your space. I always create a color palette for each room I work on with a client. A color palette should include a complementary mix of colors that all harmonize with each another. Ideally it should include shades that are light, medium, dark, neutral, muted and bright. A palette that is too one-note, or where there is not sufficient variation, will get tiresome quickly. Layers of color create interest and depth, and give a room much more longevity style-wise. Your color palette serves as the unifying base from which all of your selections are made. Having a color palette is essential to creating that curated (but not matchy) look I talked about earlier. It makes it easier to focus your selections and weed out things that are trendy or a poor fit. Now, you might think I’d advise you to stick with neutrals for a timeless look, but I don’t necessarily agree with that idea. Neutrals can be just as trendy or time-bound as bright colors (remember how overdone grey was in the 20-teens?) It’s really the MIX of colors that matters when it comes to creating timeless style. Use nature as an inspiration for your color palette. Colors found abundantly in nature will always have a more timeless feeling, especially blues, greens, beige and brown shades, and shades of white. But don’t be afraid to mix in some unexpected colors in small doses. Again, this gets back to your personal style. If your color palette is unique to you and the colors YOU love, it will stand a better chance of withstanding the test of time.

Prioritize Durabilty & Ease of Maintenance

Nothing makes a space feel dated sooner than surfaces that are dingy, dirty or falling apart. That’s why choosing finish materials that are long-lasting and relatively easy to maintain is so important in achieving a more timeless look. When choosing materials like flooring, countertops, tile, and carpet, make sure to do your research on how they should be cleaned and cared for. If there is damage, can it be repaired, and what kind of cost and effort would be required? If a material can’t be repaired, and essentially has to be thrown away once it’s damaged, that’s the opposite of timeless! Can the material be cleaned easily, with regular household cleaners, or does it require special care and handling? For example, marble is a popular and beautiful choice for countertops, but it does require special care, so be realistic about your ability to maintain it. Another consideration is the color and texture of the material. Materials that have graining or patterns do a better job of camouflaging minor imperfections and dirt, requiring less frequent and diligent maintenance. Of course, it matters where the surface is being applied. Vertical surfaces or areas less prone to wear-and-tear are more suitable for solid colors and more delicate materials. Be selective, deliberate and informed when making material selections, to ensure a long-lasting result.

Today’s fast-paced trend cycle and abundance of gorgeously photographed of-the-moment interiors make it hard not to feel like your space has to somehow keep up. But I prefer to think of interior design as an epic journey rather than a sprint. Your home is a reflection of who you are, where you’ve been, and where you are going. It is not you in 2024 only; it is you as a child, a teenager, a young adult and every place in between then and where you are today. Take the time to honor that journey, and you will create a timeless space that can evolve with you into your next tomorrow.

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