10 Worst Home Trends of the Decade

by Linda Merrill, Networx

10.  McMansions

Clearly, one of the worst design trends of the last decade was the explosion of the McMansion. These bloated and larger than necessary homes cost more than anyone could ever imagine (mortgage crisis, anyone?). These monster homes use enormous amounts of energy to light, heat and cool.  Some of these homes were of course designed to be as energy efficient as possible, but the energy footprint of a 5,000 sq. ft. home is always going to be larger than that of a 2,500 sq. ft. home all other things being equal. And does a family of four need so much space?

9.  Stadium Kitchens in Which No One Cooks

Hard on the heels of the McMansion is the “stadium” kitchen that looks like it should be on a television show with an audience or in a fine restaurant preparing gourmet meals. Professional grade appliances, side-by-side six-foot wide refrigerator/freezers and every other electric appliance one can imagine became status symbols. And likely, most of their owners were not gourmet cooks or big entertainers. These over-the-top kitchens were not only found in McMansions, but in kitchen renovations of more modest homes. While the kitchen may be the heart of the home, the heart should be a warm and breathing thing, not a cold, stainless steel appliance.

8.  DIY Design Television

There are many wonderful television programs that encourage homeowners to work on their homes. The granddaddy of them all is “This Old House” – the long running PBS series. While TOH encouraged good work and the importance of building trade professionals, many shows on other channels focus on the “do it on a dime and in a weekend” type makeovers that obscure the true cost and time it takes to do a good job. When half the construction team is off-camera, you know there is something missing in the equation. These programs have left many homeowners with an unrealistic view of costs and the value of quality.

7. The Loss of the Formal Dining Room

There was a time nearly every home over a certain size had a formal dining room. These spaces were generally reserved for “Sunday Best” entertaining and holidays. Over time, our lives have become less formal and most parties end up in the kitchen. (Which naturally gave rise to the kitchen stadium concept mentioned above.) However, there is a value to maintaining certain more formal traditions. Respect for conversation, table manners and the ability to be comfortable in a more formal, adult atmosphere, is a great lesson for children. Besides, who wants to eat a nice dinner with dirty dishes sitting over your shoulder?

6. Faux Green Trend

This may seem to be a controversial opinion. But the “marketization” of the green movement has meant as much about sales of new products (more and more to fill the landfill) as it has meant about real conservation. The best green products are antiques. We’ve been overwhelmed by the marketing of the products and forget about other factors like transportation. Wrapping products in the “green flag” can sometimes be like putting lipstick on a pig. You can dress it up, but it may still be an unnecessary product in the long run.

5. Cheap Furniture

There was a time when those setting out to start their first homes would make do with lots of hand-me-downs and carefully considered first time purchases. A dining room set or bedroom suite was purchased for life, not for right now. Furniture was expensive and the decision around what to purchase was about value and lifetime use. Because of this, most young people ended up with better quality, even if it was considered moderate at the time, and they respected it enough to take care of it. Once furniture prices started to drop due to mechanization of production and cheap imports, furniture buyers stopped thinking about longevity or even had any expectation of quality.  Furniture became “temporary” and “throw away.”  This is bad for the landfill and ultimately bad for the pocketbook, as this furniture requires replacement more often than that of higher quality.

4. Faux Tuscan or “Olde World”

The faux Tuscan or Olde Wold look has been very much overdone in the last decade. Rather than spending time studying what makes Tuscan or European style so unique and beautiful, we’ve reduced it to a few elements and done bad reproductions of those elements. When we’re enamored of a certain place or style, we can sometimes fixate on the most obvious elements, but it’s the subtleties that give those originals life.

3.  Mix ‘n Match Architectural Styles

Little is worse than the random mixing of architectural styles both inside and outside a home. Small ranch homes are remodeled and suddenly feature Palladium windows. Columned front porches are slapped on modest Cape Cod style homes. All traditional architectural styles have a beauty of their own — their details are scaled to work with their innate size. Loss of proportion and scale makes many newer homes seem neither here nor there.

2.  Laminate Wood Floors

Wood floors are long lasting, warm and comfortable to walk on. I lament the plastic flooring trend.

1.  Refinancing to Purchase Any of the Above

Finally, the absolute worst trend — even worse than building a McMansion — has been the economic environment that allowed us to take money out of our homes to purchase all of the above.  Bad financial planning coupled with bad purchasing spelled disaster.

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David O.
David O.12 months ago

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Mary B.
Mary B.3 years ago

The McMansion style house should be required to provide it's own electrical source, water well and septic system before people are ever given a permit to build. If people want to be so wasteful they should not be allowed to connect to the grid and slurp up so much that it raises prices for the rest of us.
There was a time when haveing lots of people on the line brought prices down, but those days are long gone.And if people had to monitor their own energy use and do upkeep on their own water, waste treatment and energy generation, they might get a better sense of what 'careing about the health of their personal environment involved.For instance, it's not a good idea to use a lot of chemicals on your lawn to make it look like a golf course, because those chemicals will end up in your well water, and you don't dump harsh things down your drains because that will destroy the microbial life that keep your waste treatment systom working properly.

Bonnie M.
Bonnie M.3 years ago

It's tough being a writer- no matter how much work is put into an article, there would always be nay-sayers. For what it's worth, there are some very interesting issues in this article. Indeed, who needs to ramble in a big mansion , with the latest gadgets and gizmos and for what? So many only use their homes to sleep and for personal care.Out all day, no interest to cook , why bother cooking when there is such a variety of food out there! But- a home is one's sanctuary, whatever is in that house/home is a personal expression of the home owner. It may be a fulfillment of childhood dreams of living in a nice house- out of a magazine look. The house/home may not exude warmth or a welcoming atmosphere to visitors- but to the owner, it is a dream come true,perhaps with the nightmare that is spelled maintenance cost.

Hillary M.
Hillary M.3 years ago

You have really nailed it here! (pardon the pun).

I've worked as both an interior design professional and a writer/producer of those quickie DIY home projects that present a warped view of how things really work in the design and build industry.

What homeowners on those shows really get is more of a stagecraft set, built with spit and glue. The kitchens don't even have running water. What's more, the major furnishings are donated by sponsors and design and contracting fees are never included in the ridiculous prices quoted. In the real world, good designers help clients save money.

Thanks for this important article that expresses the views of so many of us in the business!

Marion W.
Marion W.3 years ago

The thing that I have noticed most about new homes is, as you mentioned, the mixing of styles and also the lack of proportion. The first makes me think that the poor house just doesn't know what it is. The contemporary Colonial is so disproportionate that it doesn't look Colonial, it just looks like a box. The roof's pitch is too low, the windows are too short and many if not most are missing the large center chimney. The same holds true for the Cape style. The old homes had steep pitched roofs to clear the snow and ice and were 'hunkered down' to keep out the cold winds and gales. Those characteristics made the old Cape look warm and cozy. Don't even get me started on the modern "victorian'. I live in New England, and one of the things that realtors here are lacking is a knowledge of architectural styles. Generally, if it's a two story home they call it a Colonial, and a one story that has equal windows on both sides of a center door, is a Cape. If your job is selling houses, one would think you would want know something about them.

Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago


Carol Cowbrough
Carol Cowbrough4 years ago

Noted. Thank you.

Amy Hughes
Amy Hughes4 years ago

For a very long time I lived in a 5600 square foot house and while it was lovely, it was a huge drain on all of us! The kitchen was gigantic and even though I cooked three meals a day for a family 6 it was no fun at all; the house absorbed all my creative efforts and was just an albatross. We sold it, and the people who bought it added another 1000 square feet, removed the small orange and tangerine grove, put in a tennis court and gutted the interior. Every time I drive by it now I whisper a little prayer of gratitude that this monster is out of my life!

Rose Balcom
Rose Balcom4 years ago

Building McMansions leaves me shaking my head at the waste of energy and resources. How do the owners ever pay for it, heat it, cool it, maintain it? You'd think they could afford a solar, wind or geothermal heating/cooling system when building these huge houses but no. Just about all of them are on the 'grid'. I just don't get it.

Jailene Santana
Jailene Santana4 years ago

I agree! We have turned to ugly consumers. And thanks so much for putting light on the "faux green trend." People need to know the truth about what it is to truly be green, and how these hyper marketed trends are no much more than crap, as though they really wanted to fill up the landfills even more!