5 Signs Your Home is Stuck in the 90s

And How to Update It

Wondering if you have a 90s-era home? Or think your 1920s tudor got a completely unnecessary “update” circa 1995? Do you have endless carpet and honey oak on every surface? You are not alone. We can’t tell you how many of our clients have faced the exact same problems. But the best part about it is that these things are totally fixable. You just need a little creativity and determination to get the refresh you truly deserve. Read on for our top tips on updating your 90s home. Even one change from the list will make a world of difference.

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#1 – Popcorn Ceilings

It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s…another popcorn ceiling. If every ceiling in your house has the quintessential texture of a gravel path, then you know exactly what we mean. Now, you can absolutely DIY your ceilings. But don’t immediately rent a sander and go to town. First make sure to consult with a pro. Depending on when your ceiling was installed, it may have asbestos (which you absolutely want to handle safely). Plus, sanding down a popcorn ceiling creates a ton of dust. Regardless of the method or person doing the work, though, we can guarantee that replacing these will make a huge impact in your space.

The before shot of our Nevada Avenue project shows an outdated oak kitchen with major popcorn ceilings.
The before shot of our Nevada Avenue project shows an outdated oak kitchen with major popcorn ceilings.
After remodeling, not only did this kitchen get all new beautiful dark-stained cabinets and a spacious kitchen island, but the ugly popcorn ceilings were no more. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
After remodeling, not only did this kitchen get all new beautiful dark-stained cabinets and a spacious kitchen island, but the ugly popcorn ceilings were no more. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

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#2 – Wall to Wall Carpet

Carpet is hands down the mascot of the 90s. Of course, carpet is called for in certain situations (think finished basement spaces or home theaters). But other than intentional use, we recommend sticking to hard floor surfaces with cozy rugs to define specific spaces. If you’re lucky enough to have existing hardwood floors underneath a layer of mauve carpet, then refinish those babies and let them shine! If not? Well, you can always install new wood flooring or opt for an LVP or tiled floor for extra hardiness and waterproofing.

Before: Wall-to-wall carpeting gives this outdated basement a sense of being closed in and far too 90s in style.
Before: Wall-to-wall carpeting gives this outdated basement a sense of being closed in and far too 90s in style.
After: By installing a hardwood floor in this corner kitchen area, it not only made it much easier to keep clean, but it also helped to visually separate it from the rest of the finished basement. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
After: By installing a hardwood floor in this corner kitchen area, it not only made it much easier to keep clean, but it also helped to visually separate it from the rest of the finished basement. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

#3 – Soffits in the Kitchen and Bath

Does your bathroom or kitchen have all kinds of strange ceiling angles and soffits? Wonder if they may or may not house a host of elves via a secret door? Then you’ve entered into a 90s realm. But while it may be tempting to rip them out immediately, make sure you check that they aren’t hiding mechanicals or an HVAC vent. Depending if it was installed purely for visual effect or for a functional purpose, you may need to hire a pro to reroute a few essential components. 

Before: Unnecessary soffits sectioned off the bathtub in this master bath, making it feel cramped and outdated.
Before: Unnecessary soffits sectioned off the bathtub in this master bath, making it feel cramped and outdated.
After: By opening up the soffits in this master bath, the room instantly felt more spacious and open, and paired with a free-standing soaking tub, it became the ultimate space for relaxation. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
After: By opening up the soffits in this master bath, the room instantly felt more spacious and open, and paired with a free-standing soaking tub, it became the ultimate space for relaxation. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

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#4 – Oak Overload & Orange Wood Tones

You know we love to talk about dealing with honey oak here. And there’s a reason for it. It’s one of the most common features of a 90s home and we come across it all the time. If you’ve got a built-in media cabinet, kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, and trim everywhere (all in outdated oak or orangey tones), then this is right up your alley. Of course, there are ways to work with your existing wood to make it shine. You can ditch it, sure. But sometimes all it takes is a bit of rethinking. A fresh coat of paint on the walls, a contrasting floor update, refreshed hardware and fixtures, or plenty of cooler tones pulled into the space via your furniture and decor can make it feel manageable and beautiful once again. 

Before: Floor-to-ceiling orangey wood tones gave this kitchen an over-the-top nod to 90s style.
Before: Floor-to-ceiling orangey wood tones gave this kitchen an over-the-top nod to 90s style.
After: Thanks to a spacious kitchen island, bright whites and greys, and updated appliances, this kitchen was fit for a busy family’s everyday needs. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
After: Thanks to a spacious kitchen island, bright whites and greys, and updated appliances, this kitchen was fit for a busy family’s everyday needs. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

RELATED: Are White Kitchens Timeless or Trendy?

#5 – Clunky Cabinets

Do your kitchen cabinets feel too big for the space? Do they somehow manage to make the room feel small and cramped while offering not-quite-enough storage space? You’ve got a 90s-style clunky cabinet situation on your hands. And while it’s a bit more expensive to deal with these, the best solution is to rip them out and start fresh. If you try to work with them as-is, a coat of paint will update the color of your space. But ultimately, you’ll still be left with a cramped room that isn’t comfortable in the long run. 

Before: Clunky kitchen cabinets made this 90s-era kitchen feel much smaller than it actually was.
Before: Clunky kitchen cabinets made this 90s-era kitchen feel much smaller than it actually was.
After: By creating an island as opposed to a peninsula, and removing unnecessary cabinets, this kitchen felt instantly spacious and enjoyable to spend time in. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
After: By creating an island as opposed to a peninsula, and removing unnecessary cabinets, this kitchen felt instantly spacious and enjoyable to spend time in. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

RELATED: How Create an Open Concept Kitchen

90s home styles can sometimes work when balanced against complementary, but contrasting, styles. But most of the time, this decade’s decor was not what we’d call timeless. So, no matter which part of your home is stuck in another decade, know that a modern revamp is absolutely attainable. And we’re always here to help.

By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Carla Bast Design

8 Responses

  1. Wow. Great post, Carla! My home suffers from soffits in the kitchen & wall to wall carpet, but since it’s an apartment, I can’t do too much about those issues.

    However, if I could, I would, because I could not agree with you more..especially about the soffits…and they are so easy to tear out.

  2. Those popcorn ceilings GAH…personal pet peeve, and the gratuitous soffits. Also weird angles and “creatively shaped” islands. Great solutions here, Carla, and VERY familiar before pictures! The 90’s rivals the 70’s (and everything in between) for being a desert for design!

  3. Great post. You had me at popcorn ceilings. It’s unbelievable that many high priced homes are still being built with that very “special” feature.

  4. Great tips! I was lucky and had no popcorn ceilings or soffits, and have already ripped out the wall to wall carpet and painted my honey oak cabinets. Still working on the old lighting…another sign of the 90’s.

  5. I chuckled on everyone of your points Carla because they are all so Yesterday!
    It is like I want to send your post to those that are stuck in the past but I better mind my P’s and Q’s.

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I’m glad you’re here! You are in the right place if you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of embarking on a remodeling or interior design project. Living with an outdated home and don’t know where to start? I’ve helped families like yours update their home and create spaces that reflect what’s important to them for over 25 years.

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