9 Trends from the Past We Hope Stay in the Dustbin of Design

9 Trends from the Past We Hope Stay in the Dustbin of Design

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Nancy Mitchell
Feb 8, 2018
Last year, this bathroom was uncovered in the nuclear bunker found beneath a home for sale in Las Vegas. Check out the rest on Curbed.
(Image credit: Curbed)

Working at a design site can be very confusing. For years, you feel completely confident that any design from the '80s is unequivocally terrible. Then, one day, big, bold colors, black and white grids, and funky abstract shapes a la Memphis suddenly feel hip again. It can be hard to trust yourself. Is anything that you think is bad truly bad? Or is it just biding its time before its inevitable resurgence?

I can't make any guarantees that they won't surge back to popularity like, tomorrow, but here are nine bad old trends from the past that I (and the whole Apartment Therapy team) hope never, ever return.

Carpet in the Bathroom

This is just a bad idea.

Wallpaper borders: always a bad idea. Maggie Overby learned that they're not always so easy to get rid of.
(Image credit: Maggie Overby Studios)

Duck Wallpaper Borders

I can't imagine any wallpaper border being a good idea ever again, but the ones I find particularly egregious are those duck ones from the '80s. The 1980s mania for duck motifs will never not be incredibly puzzling to me.

The bad old wood paneling, c. 1974, in a photo from the US National Archives.
(Image credit: US National Archives)

The Bad Old Wood Paneling

Good wood paneling is experiencing a bit of a resurgence, and I can even see the much-hated knotty pine making a comeback, in the right kind of retro-cool interior. One thing I hope never, ever comes back is that terrible fake wood paneling that darkened living rooms all through the '60s and '70s. Look at this poor family trying to enjoy their life while a forest of fake wood looms around them.

The fringed trim (and the inclusion of a trash can cover) take this one to the next level. Vintage Simplicity pattern, from Selma Lee on Etsy.
(Image credit: Selma Lee)

Those Fuzzy Toilet Lid Covers

Although I'm not old enough to remember when these were de rigueur, I am old enough to remember a time when everyone's grandma had them, and I remember thinking they were pretty cool. Now, of course, I have seen the error of my ways. Some of the older sets even include a cover for the toilet tank, which I think even kid Nancy would've realized was beyond the pale.

Lovely, lovely vertical blinds, in a photo from Elle Decor. The pattern on that sofa has also not aged well.
(Image credit: Elle Decor)

Vertical Blinds

We get it: covering a big sliding glass door or window wall is tricky. And sometimes vertical blinds come with a rental and can't be avoided. But if you can avoid them, do. As bad as they look when new, they look even worse when aged, or yellowed, or after your cat has got to them.

Everything about this living room is bad, but that window treatment might be the worst. Image from The Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch, via Mirror80.
(Image credit: The Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch)

Floral Balloon Valances

Anyone who's ever been in a home with one of these fussy, pompous window coverings can probably recall its exact texture (stiff and a bit shiny) and the inevitable layer of dust that settled upon it. If you want your windows to look like a prissy schoolgirl from the '80s, this is definitely the way to do it.

Giant, Overstuffed Furniture

The '80s saw a preponderance of giant, overstuffed marshmallow couches that were as inescapable as they were ugly: in the '90s and early 2000s, every furniture store was stocked with giant furniture that seemed designed for someone at least 6'5. Now that young people are flocking to urban centers and embracing small space living, you can fortunately find furniture that is scaled for actual humans.

The one thing that can be said for sponge paint is that it's a lot easier to cover up than a wallpaper border. If you insist on doing this, The Family Handyman can show you how.
(Image credit: The Family Handyman)

Sponge Paint

During a Slack chat about terrible decor trends from the past, Taryn reminded us about sponge paint, and everyone was immediately like, nooooo not sponge paint. Look, if you want to sponge-paint a fanny pack ironically, I say go for it. But please don't do that to your walls. (I guess one thing that can be said in favor of sponge painting is that, unlike a wallpaper border, it's easy to undo.)

In the '90s, everything was brown. Photo from Elle Decor.
(Image credit: Elle Decor)

Bad Faux Italian Villa Style

This trend is so recent that I am probably risking alienating some readers who still have it in their homes, but I'll go ahead and say it: I hate this look. I hate the brown-on-brown-on-brown look, I hate the wrought-iron curlicues and the cheese-colored stucco, I hate the highly textured, highly derivative pretension of it all. But the wheel of design is always turning, so if you love your fake Italian kitchen, don't worry too much about me: chances are good that in 20 to 25 years, this will be the "it" look again, and I'll be in the wrong.

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