Is HGTV Responsible for Home Design Obsolescence?

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Over the past several years we have seen new home buyers make many of the same or similar decisions when selecting colors and options for their home. It is almost uncanny how, when watching the DIY channel or HGTV’s new home and remodeling shows that, you can almost tell what the coming year’s choices will be. What makes it different now than it was 20 years ago is that buyers made selections for areas like kitchens and bathrooms that were very similar over long periods of time, or multiple years. Now we have added Pinterest and Instagram and Houzz to the mix. Every year there is a new color, an option, or a product that just has to be in a home. Are we creating homes today that are design obsolete just a year after they are built?

Style vs. Fashion vs. Fad

When it comes to comparing style, fashion, and fad in selection of colors and options for your home, it basically comes down to how saleable your home will be when you decide to move without having to make substantial changes. Let’s define these three terms:

Style – A style lasts the longest of the three terms. A style is a basic and distinctive mode of expression. It lasts over a longer period of time and will experience several periods of renewed interest.

Fashion – A fashion is a currently accepted or popular style in a given area (i.e. kitchens, baths, flooring, etc.). It tends to grow slowly, will remain popular for a while, and then decline slowly as the next fashion on the horizon replaces it.

Fad – A fad is very temporary. A product, color, or option may experience a very high level of adoption in homes driven by home buyer enthusiasm. It becomes very popular but demand for it is like a mountain peak. You see its selection in homes for one year and then you don’t see it being popular in the next year.

The Chip and Joanna Gaines Effect

Fixer Upper is an HGTV phenomena that illustrates several other aspects of the style-fashion-fad debate. The series is based on a couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines that help home buyers in Waco, TX to select an existing home that needs work. The Gaines’ then take that home and completely redesign and remodel it. Each episode results in a reveal that regularly ends with tears of joy and gasps as the home owners walk through their new home. Two things that you can count on with each episode; it will appear that a complete remodel took place over a couple of weeks and there will be shiplap siding on the interior of many of the rooms in the home!

So, what that means today is that many of the homes being built are getting shiplap siding requested in bedrooms and dining rooms. In many cases, it is created with tile and installed in bathrooms. This brings up two points. Many style/fashions are regional. Shiplap siding may have been a popular item to accent with or build with in Waco, TX but it wasn’t really used anywhere else to such an extent in the U.S. Secondly, the popularity of the show made shiplap siding a popular design item in homes around the country.

Recently, the Gaines’ have decided to focus on family and their other businesses. They have retired from Fixer Upper. While it will run on for many years in syndication, what will happen to the shiplap siding that Joanna introduced to many home buyers? Is it a fad that will evaporate? Is it a fashion that will hang around for a while but fade over the next several years? Or, did she (re)introduce a new style to the country outside of Waco, TX that will be popular for a decade or more?

The Length of Past Styles

Many of us can still remember growing up with Harvest Gold refrigerators or Avocado stoves. Kitchen cabinets were wood if they were high quality or painted if you were trying to save some money. Those were styles but without the constant video and picture feedback, fashions stayed around longer. There was no pressure to change quickly.

When you selected that Harvest Gold refrigerator that went bad in 10 years, there was a good chance you were replacing it with another Harvest Gold refrigerator that was still in style. Not today!

Kitchens – Popular items in kitchens today include:

  • Painted Cabinets (Gray or Blue)
  • Wood Flooring
  • Solid Surface Counter Tops

When it comes to fad, fashion, or style let’s think about just cabinets. Years ago cabinets were only quality if they were wood, and preferably oak. Today our customers almost only select painted cabinets. However, four years ago it was white exterior wall cabinets and black islands. The next year was white cabinets throughout. The next years popular color was gray cabinets. This past year we saw linen was a more popular color.

Bathrooms – Today, bathrooms are changing just as much as kitchens. Tile colors and styles — Sinks and vanities — Shower heads and drainage systems — Toilets and fixtures… and you have to select finishes for many of these. Every year, manufacturers are coming out with the next new best thing. Many of the materials and devices are driven by the fast moving pace of technology in addition to consumer design demand. How many choices are too many choices?

Remodel Before Every Future Home Sale

Has a constant bombardment by the likes of HGTV, Houzz, and Pinterest create a situation where fad, fashion, and style are blending together? The extent to which color selections, materials, and products change every year is happening at a dizzying pace. The options presented to home buyers can be overwhelming.

In today’s world, the average home buyers is spending more time in a home. By most accounts the national average is 10 years in a home. Depending on your selections today, will your home be timeless… or will you have to do a total gut and remodel just to sell it because of the fad, fashion, styles that will be in place in a short 10 years?

Modular – The Timeless Way to Build

When it comes to building a new custom homes, modular construction gives you many options. What you can count on is that your home will be strong and built better than the typical home built onsite. When you do decide to remodel, changing exterior finishes means you won’t find cardboard under your current siding. You won’t be ripping out the paper covered particle board trim that is used by many production builders today.

Modular construction means your home was built solid to protect you and your family for many years. When it does come time to remodel, you will have a solid structure to enhance for the next family to enjoy for many years to come!

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Comments 2

  1. My answer to your title question is essentially the same as yours in the first paragraph. No, HGTV doesn’t bear the blame, as witness the proliferation of all those other highly addictive and obsessive and contagious websites and shows you reference—but yes, they all clearly feed our natural human inclination to constantly want more, better, faster, newer, and whatever-the-other-guy-has. (Oh, and all of it for free!)

    I enjoy your blog immensely, not least of all because you do one of the things I have dreamt of doing for decades on end. Also because you put into clear and cogent terms what I’ve been trying to evangelize for just as long (not least of all to my family of many superb but old school builders!!): the advantages of modular building. The entire concept/methodology of modular builds strikes me as being more adaptable and therefore, more style- and fashion-friendly than most other forms of building, whether for private or commercial use. There’s little I enjoy more than adapting a single prototype floor plan to see how many iterations I can get it to offer, and how many styles of architecture and finish—not to mention how many budget- and/or eco-friendly adaptations I can get it to accommodate.

    Thanks for so many good reads, ideas, and inspirations.

  2. While the content curated by HGTV and the likes, creators need to take a step back and address their roles in pushing trends and fads.

    Additionally, they need to showcase careful deconstruction, reuse and recycling of materials they remove. The sledgehammer festivals are another irresponsible feature.

    Where are the eco friendly content providers?

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