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Fall House Hunt: Some hot home designs leave buyers cold

Ask the Expert Fall House Hunt
Barn doors should be specific to the period and design of the home, interior designer Harry Koffman of Decorist in Andover advised. The one photographed above lifts the home’s industrial chic aesthetic.
Barn doors should be specific to the period and design of the home, interior designer Harry Koffman of Decorist in Andover advised. The one photographed above lifts the home’s industrial chic aesthetic. photos by adobe stock

Just like fashion, interior design trends go in and out of style. Sometimes what was in style a year ago already seems out-of-date or overdone. For home sellers, the goal is to make their homes universally appealing to buyers, which could mean eliminating home features that were once on-trend.

Design trends that could turn off buyers

Some recent interior design styles, such as white-on-white kitchens, shiplap, and barn doors may appeal to some buyers, but for many they lack appeal.

“Shiplap, by which I mean the manufactured wood you buy at big-box stores, is fading in popularity,’’ said Harry Koffman, an interior designer with Decorist in Andover. “But shiplap or boards that you uncover in an older home you’ve renovated make for a gorgeous period-appropriate statement.’’

Similarly, barn doors should be specific to the period and design of the home, Koffman said.

Wallpaper has made a comeback in recent years, and more homeowners have turned away from all-white, all-matte walls — but sellers need to be careful with color.

“Having different paint colors or wallpaper in every room has always been a turnoff to potential buyers,’’ said Kara Solito, an interior designer with Decorist in Boston. “Wallpaper and wall color are incredibly personal choices, and potential buyers will see this as extra work for them to update or remove.’’

One of the biggest issues that can turn off buyers, said Lisa Tharp, principal of Lisa Tharp Design in Boston, is color gone wrong.

“It’s important to employ a color palette that’s cohesive and flows beautifully throughout the home,’’ Tharp said.

That doesn’t mean you must stick to white walls, though.

“I think people are realizing that a relaxing space doesn’t necessarily mean all white everything,’’ Koffman said. “Our spaces can exude more than calmness to be appreciated and can be fun and energizing without being jarring and while maintaining sophistication.’’

Koffman recommended painting walls in a matte finish and the trim in a satin finish in the same color or slightly lighter or darker.

Faux-wood paneling can be another negative feature for buyers, but Koffman suggested this can be overcome with paint, accessories, and art.

Tharp also points to overly rustic and distressed finishes as a trend that’s past its prime and could leave buyers cold.

While all-white kitchens offer a classic look, Solito said, colorful kitchens have staying power.

“Blue and green cabinetry has become very popular for kitchens,’’ Solito said. “This seems to be intriguing to buyers as the all-white kitchen is fading out of style. Painting your kitchen cabinets is a relatively painless upgrade that can add resale value. Blue and green can essentially be considered neutrals at this point.’’

Adobe-Stock-Blue-Kitchen
. —Adobe Stock

Other formerly trendy items that Koffman suggests eliminating from a home before listing it for sale include oversized bathroom vanities and overdone window treatments.

“Don’t shrink your potentially already small bathroom with a vanity that barely fits just so you can have maximum storage,’’ said Koffman. “Go with a larger medicine cabinet or open shelving but be careful to display the items thoughtfully to showcase how the shelves can be used.’’

Choose the right scale, color, and texture for window treatments when you’re selling, Koffman suggested.

“Don’t barricade yourself inside your home, let the light shine in,’’ he said. “This will make your space feel like it can breathe.’’

Timeless — yet timely — design trends

Interior designers think some design trends can make your home more appealing to buyers, including adapting formal rooms such as a dining room to use for work, school, or play.

“Flexible floor plans that can open up or close down at will reflect our society’s current needs,’’ Tharp said. “For example, pocket doors can connect adjoining rooms or separate them for acoustical and visual privacy, providing the ability to work at home or to isolate spaces when friends and family visit.’’

A trend that Koffman believes will have lasting appeal is the use of natural materials.

“It feels good to have solid materials in the house that were sustainably sourced and lack synthetic additives,’’ Koffman said. “Natural materials provide something unique to look at that feels like a thoughtful investment. As time goes on, some natural materials will change color and wear beautifully.’’

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