1. Harsh lighting
Lighting sets the mood in any room, but severe lighting is notorious for making your living room look outdated.
“Flush-mount dome light fixtures—known colloquially as ‘boob lights’—are super harsh,” says Raquel Kehler, a house flipper and interior design guru at home decor site RoomCrush.com. “Many builders and contractors use these lights because they’re cheap and can be used in most rooms of the house. They create a dated look immediately, and ironically, they look even worse when they’re combined with high-end furniture, because the lighting ends up looking like an afterthought that instantly cheapens the rest of your decor.”
Beware of no overhead lighting at all, though.
“Some older homes don’t have overhead lights in the living rooms and just have lamps on tables,” says Mike Higgins, owner of Blue Badger Home Buyers in Wisconsin. “This really shows the age of the living room, especially if the lamps are old and made of brass.”
According to the designers we spoke with, the best, most contemporary option for your living room is recessed lighting.
2. Fake plants
There are countless studies showing the benefits of having plants in your home. In addition to looking good and boosting levels of happiness, plants clean the air. But they have to be real.
“If you are struggling to keep the houseplants alive, bringing in the fake ones might sound like a good option,” says Matt Ward, founder of Matt Ward Group at Benchmark Realty in Franklin, TN. “Don’t succumb to the temptation. Fake plants look outdated as soon as you buy them, and it’s better to have no plants at all than to have fake ones.”
Remember those bowls of heavily scented dried flowers in your grandmother’s living room? Scent can relay powerful emotions and memories, and there’s a reason (nostalgia, primarily) that many of us still carry on the tradition of displaying a bowl of perfumed wood chips on a mantel or sideboard.
But perhaps it’s time to honor our grandmothers’ traditions in a different way.
“There was a point in history when you couldn’t walk into a home without a waft of perfume and a bowl of dried flowers on display,” says Chris Harvey a property and interior expert at Stelrad. “But potpourri’s glory days are over, and it’s no longer a good look—or smell—in the home.”
4. Vertical blinds
Window treatments are particularly prone to the whims of fashion.
Vertical blinds were all the rage in the 1990s, but these days, there are far better options.
“Swap out those dated blinds for chic curtains or horizontal shutters,” says Robin Anthill, senior partner at Leisure Buildings. “Not only will they look better, but they’re easier to clean, and your pets or young children won’t constantly be knocking into them.”
5. Lace curtains
Lace curtains also turn your living room into a time warp.
“Lace curtains are a blast from the past,” Ward says. “It is best to avoid them today. Instead, you can go for linen or sheer white curtains to incorporate a modern feel. Also, remember that the length of a curtain can change the way a home looks. Incorporate floor-to-ceiling curtains as they make your living room look luxurious.”
6. Chintz and flower patterns
Pattern trends for the home come and go. These days, most furniture designers focus on interesting textures, look to nature for inspiration, or go for full-on maximalist patterns. But no one is going back to the chintz and flowers of yore.
“A colorful floral pattern called ‘chintz’ used to be very popular in the 19th and 20th centuries,” says Stefan Bucur, an interior designer at Rhythm of the Home, which is based in Lewisville, TX. “Today, this pattern is associated with old homes and dated living rooms. While wallpapers using the chintz design are still popular for revamped style approaches such as ‘grandmillennial‘ (aka granny chic), they are very rarely seen as a good design pick for most modern homes.”
7. Word art and flea market art
If you can read anything on your wall from a room away, it’s time to rethink the piece’s place in your decor.
“Word art—with quotes such as ‘home is where the heart is’ and ‘live, laugh, love’—was a classic gift idea back in the day,” says Harvey. “But nowadays, these pieces are often seen as tacky and outdated.”
The same goes for older photos and pieces of art that look more flea market than antiques store.
“Old and faded family photos really date a room,” says Higgins. “So does artwork that is faded from the sun or, worse, from the wear.”
8. Shag and wall-to-wall carpet
The flooring in your living room can really make or break the space.