Interior designers share the design mistakes that date your home and how to avoid them

Want your home decor to look contemporary and fresh? Avoid these instantly dating faux pas

Living room decor by Jonathan Adler
(Image credit: Jonathan Adler)

Everyone wants their home to look timeless and chic – even if your style leans towards retro. But these interior design mistakes can instantly date your home, interior designers warn. While not many of us will opt for an avocado bathroom or a pebble finish to our walls, there are other, more insidious ways our style choices can unintentionally 'age' our homes. Avoid them if you're looking for modern living room ideas – or want to give your whole house a more contemporary feel.

1. Playing it safe with your lighting

Parker curved sofa, Jonathan Adler

Parker curved sofa, Jonathan Adler

(Image credit: Jonathan Adler)

According to interior designer Jonathan Adler, nothing quite dates a room as much as a conservative lighting scheme. Lighting that is too neutral, too symmetrical (especially in bedrooms), or too small instantly makes a room look less contemporary and interesting. 

Where it comes to ceiling lighting, avoid anything too plain or too small. To bring a room up to date, Jonathan recommends going for a statement chandelier: 'always buy a chandelier that is bigger than you think you need.' 

Our stylish living room lighting ideas will help you choose the right style and size of lighting for your space.

2. Shying away from dark colors

A black room by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Although dark and dramatic color schemes have been trending in interior design for quite a few years now, some people still shy away from them, choosing warm neutrals that by now look quite dated. 

Color and paint expert Annie Sloan advises ripping off the bandaid and really going for a very dark black, or nearly black color. 'I think people have realised that we’re past the Victorian era - where black was associated with funerals and strict schoolmistresses and so on. Black has shed that association and we can enjoy it now for what it is – mysterious, rich, deep - and rather sophisticated.'

She does caution against painting everything black, however, to prevent a room looking flat. 'Black adapts depending on how you dress the rest of the room; for this to look truly stylish you need contrast and some color.'

Our dark bedroom ideas are a good place to start embracing a more dramatic palette. 

3. Going overboard on kitchen design

modern country kitchen with built in bench seating

(Image credit: Tom Howley)

Want a kitchen that won't date? Resist the urge to add too much detail, says Tom Howley, Design Director at Tom Howley Kitchens. 'There is a lot to be said for bearing simplicity in mind when designing a kitchen. It’s important not to overcomplicate designs with extra pillars or unnecessary details. Tempering the urge to add lots of details is an essential part of the design process.'

Clean lines and minimal detailing, with an emphasis on craftsmanship and high-end materials will give you a much better result in the longer term. Tom also cautions against installing 'gimmicky' tech in your kitchen. 

'Technology innovations won’t be the driving force for the evolution of the kitchen, so designing your kitchen to suit fleeting trends will date it quickly. People who invest in a kitchen to last a lifetime will be far more satisfied than people who spend lots of money on fast-moving tech trends.'

 Explore modern kitchen ideas to inspire you in our gallery.

4. Garish furniture upcycling

Bedroom furniture decorated in Pearlescent Glaze, Annie Sloan

Bedroom furniture decorated in Pearlescent Glaze, Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Upcycling vintage furniture is very popular – it's good for the environment and allows you to achieve a bespoke look with paint. However, there is such a thing as overdoing it when upcycling, says Annie Sloan. 

'Trying to do too much on one piece is an easy mistake to make, planning your upcycling beforehand limits this. One of my favourite tips is to paint something neutral on the outside and then add a flash of vibrant color on the inside; it’ll make you smile every time you open a drawer or a wardrobe.'

If painting on a pattern, try to keep to no more than two colors, and if you are painting multiple pieces, be aware of the possibility of clashing designs. You may wish to match them instead. 

Anna K. Cottrell
Freelance writer

Anna is a professional writer with many years' experience. She has special interests in architecture, photography, and high-end interior design. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Gardeningetc, and many other publications.