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Are America’s ‘Overexposed Décor Trends’ Stereotyping Our Homes?

The lazy days of summer are the best time to sit on the deck, sip cocktails and gossip about the bizarre home-decorating choices of your neighbors, friends and relatives.

Why does Uncle Charlie insist on hanging moose antlers on his family room wall, place a sprawling cowhide rug on his floor and toss a sheepskin throw over his favorite Lazy Boy chair?

Why is my 30-something neighbor having a love affair with Mid-Century Modern architecture and furnishings. The whole house looks like the set of “Mad Men,” the TV show the about 1960s advertising game.

Mid-Century Modern may be the interior design trend du jour. Picture a sleek, low white-laminate credenza and coffee table, a Danish modern white-vinyl couch matched with an Eames lounge chair or white leather Barcelona chair sitting on bent chrome legs. It reminds this writer of his older brother’s bachelor pad in Old Town in 1959.

Off-the-wall decorating choices can cost home and condominium sellers a bundle, so beware of trends gone wild, said veteran Chicago Realtor Sara E. Benson, president of Benson Stanley Realty.

“Professional real estate brokers know that staging is key in getting top-dollar price,” Benson said. “Staging is the process of depersonalizing living areas and preparing the home or condo to appeal to the widest possible array of buyers,” she explained. “It involves repairing, decorating, and generally improving the appearance of the property, and it often has as much to do with creativity and common sense as money,” Benson said.

Today, like lemmings leaping off a cliff into the sea, people are endlessly trying to keep up with innovative home-design and décor trends they’ve seen online and in fancy decorating magazines. Could it be that trend-seeking Americans have stereotyped their humble abodes from coast to coast?

“Overexposed Décor Trends,” a new poll by Curbed, the real estate web publication, gathered responses from more than 3,100 readers and amateur home-decorating critics.

What’s the most popular décor trends Curb readers want to see fading from U.S. home interiors? Here are a few of the décor sins critics are hoping to remove from the American home and memory:

• Flat-screen TVs. The greatest American décor status symbol is a giant flat-screen TV perched on top of the fireplace mantel like a huge Dagwood sandwich.

According to Google research, the TV-over-fireplace idea emerged more than a decade ago and ascended to the trend stage in 2007. Now the decorating staple is steadily growing in demand and is forecast to continue in the future, Google said. More and more Americans simply say: “There’s no other place to put the TV.”

Interior decorating magazine often showcase beautifully appointed million-dollar homes with a 50-inch flat-screen TV mounted on the wall above a massive stone fireplace as if it were an antique mirror or an expensive oil painting.

The widely accepted décor flat-screen TV décor choice says: “The center of my universe is my TV. I do not read books,” one reader sniffed. However, you usually will not see a TV in a living room in a stylish Manhattan apartment or in a European home. The box usually is tucked away behind doors in an armoire.

Another reader proclaimed that flat-screen TVs mounted on the wall above the fireplace are a pain in the neck. “They are not ergonomically correct. Watching TV looking up with your head tilted back in not health,” she said. Then there’s the argument that heat and smoke from the fireplace eventually will cause damage to the electrical devices above the mantel.

Others note that many Americans also look at the fancy living room fireplace as a status symbol, and many homeowners never bother to light the logs. One wonders why they just don’t install a flat-screen TV over the hearth opening and wire-up a constant video of phony fireplace flames.

• Kitchens American-style. Even though the look of today’s kitchen may have evolved from the industrial urban-loft movement two decades ago, the standard American-style kitchen has become an overexposed stereotype.

Virtually every upper middle-class American family has the same kitchen. It’s in vogue, like American-style potato salad. Start with speckled granite counter tops and busy glass-tile backsplashes, and then add stainless-steel appliances, dark wood cabinets and manufactured wood floors.

Apparently, one classical exception is Subway Tile, installed on kitchen backsplashes and in bathroom shower and tub walls. “This turn-of-the-century Victorian kitchen and bath tile in white and grey is timeless,” said Benson. One Curbed critic suggests the pendulum should swing back to the simple open-shelf style kitchen storage system used by our grandmothers. “Let’s lose the microwave over the stove, and put it on a shelf or built-in lower counter,” suggested the reader.

What’s next? How about a mix of black and white appliances? Or, perhaps just stylish grey?

Just don’t bring back that ugly, avocado green and harvest gold appliances from the Mid-Century Modern era.

• Is track lighting out? Some Curbed readers hissed at the long life of industrial-style lighting fixtures and the loft-inspired track lights that came to us from the 1960s and 1970s. Others complained about too many recessed lights, speakers and smoke detectors are imbedded in today’s home ceilings.

• All-white interiors. Curbed readers say home walls and ceilings painted all white is an overexposed décor trend that is boring, and is gradually being replaced with 50 shades of grey.

According to Benjamin Moore’s creative director, the paint company studied “the latest looks in couture, home fashion, textiles, the arts and culture” to develop its latest “Color Trends” catalogs. In its “Gentle Whites” brochure, there are dozens of subtle pale white, grey and beige color choices—from “Tundra” and “Gray Cloud” to “A La Mode” and “Pale Oak.”

One notable fact: the paint company’s slick catalogs and brochures do not show a photo of a single flat-screen TV.

Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. For more information, visit

“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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