These Are the Unmistakable Features of a 1990s House

published Oct 10, 2022
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Look around: From biker shorts to claw clips to cargo jeans, the 1990s are back, baby. And though there are plenty of ‘90s-era homes lurking on the market these days, some of this era’s design and architecture trends haven’t aged quite as well as the fashion trends.

“When buyers today walk through a ‘90s home with original features, they think ‘dated,’” says Brynn Rea, a listing specialist at Redfin. “But mainly, these fixes are just cosmetic. If a buyer wants to find a fixer-upper, this is a great era to look at.”

Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s handy to know some of the hallmarks of ‘90s home design. Below, real estate experts share a few of the key ways you can spot a home built in the ‘90s from a mile away.

All-Beige Everything

Beige was all the rage during the ‘90s (though those who were in the know referred to this color palette by its more sophisticated name, “Tuscan style”).

“You’d typically find shades of light to dark beige on the walls and on the furniture,” says Danielle Fleming, a real estate agent in New Jersey. “It was also popular for kitchen cabinets to take on shades of beige with yellow hues.”

Granite Counters

If your ‘90s kitchen didn’t have granite countertops, guests considered it old and outdated, Fleming says. The most popular color schemes at the time were black or light brown (which again aligns with the prevalence of beige!).

“Nobody at the time dreamed of marble or pure white porcelain,” she says.

Wallpaper

Homeowners in the ‘90s loved to cover every square inch they could reach with wallpaper, preferably also adding a second pattern near the ceiling as a border.

“Wallpaper was a huge statement in the home and it was an opportunity to show the taste and personality of the homeowner,” says Fleming. 

And though wallpaper is starting to make a comeback, the distinct border is still something “we rarely see in today’s interior design looks,” she adds. 

Brass Fixtures

Brushed nickel and matte black hardware may be trendy now, but back in the ‘90s, it was all brass, says Bill Gassett, a real estate agent in Massachusetts. These days, however, buyers “do not care for brass at all,” he says.

“I can tell you from first-hand experience: I sold my home, built in 1998, in January and (the brass fixtures) were the No. 1 objection of buyers walking through the home,” he says.

Credit: Axel Bueckert/Shutterstock.com

Sponge-Painted Walls

Aside from wallpaper, sponge-painted walls were another big trend in the ‘90s. For the uninitiated, sponge-painting meant dipping a sponge in paint, then dabbing it all over the wall to create a natural-looking pattern.

“Faux wall texture was having a moment and many homeowners saw this as a chance to explore the DIY of sponge painting,” says Ryan Hardy, a real estate broker in Chicago. 

TV Nooks

Though it may be hard to believe now, TVs were big and bulky back in the ‘90s — and, frankly, to impress your friends, bigger was better. These behemoth entertainment devices needed somewhere to go, so many home builders added recessed TV nooks.

“People started to say goodbye to their TV consoles,” says Holly McDonald, a real estate agent in California.

Oak Cabinets

Walk into any home built in the ‘90s and you’ll surely find honey-colored oak cabinets in the kitchens and bathrooms. Today’s buyers, meanwhile, go for sleeker options, including open shelving.

“The wood is so overbearing and solid that it really hogs the room,” says Amy Kite, a real estate agent in Chicago.