Totally Overrated Home Design Ideas

I am addicted to the DIY channel. I watch as yards and kitchens, bathrooms and basements are all transformed into works of art within a half hour, while everyone laughs and jokes, displaying countless feats of creativity and endless fountains of energy. The projects all come in under budget with the most enviable short schedules. Nobody ever needs a permit, and designer fees and revisions are all included in the price. I happily remove myself from a warm comfy bed, make myself a coffee, and park my butt in front of the tv before the teenagers roll out of bed on a Saturday morning. Inevitably, I can’t take it anymore, and I drag my ‘team’ to work on yet another weekend reno project.

The DIY channel is my porn.

But while the average homeowner now cavalierly throws around words and phrases like ambiance, accent wall, and wow factor, and we now have spaces instead of rooms, there are a handful of home design ideas that just don’t make a lot of sense. People are paying gobs of money for things that will never give the homeowners the kind of rosy feelings they’re expecting. Let me save you a few bucks.

6 Worst Indoor Home Design Fads

Soaker Tubs. A giant tub can take a bathroom from drab to fab for anywhere from $500 and up. soaker tubAcrylic, cast, steel, jets, lights, and some very cool fixtures, all make for some unique and beautiful designs. But this is one of those things that everyone wants that, like the treadmill and the food processor, ends up collecting dust in a corner of virtually every home it graces. Unless you’re already a tub addict – the rare bather who actually pulls out the bubbles, wine, and candles, so you can soak portions of your achy body in an old 5′ piece o’ crap tub – chances are, you’ll use the new pool-sized bucket once or twice before it becomes a glorified laundry hamper. Consider the cost and time of providing up to 500 litres of steaming hot water, at least once a week, times the number of family members who’ll be begging for it, and you might find the cost outweighs the value.

floor compareHardwood Floors. There a few architectural features more alluring and comforting than an original, well-kept, hardwood floor in a century home that still holds its character and charm. The years of wear and tear give these masterpieces their beauty. They were made of solid wood strips, installed by craftsmen who did nothing but flooring. And if they were lucky, they were babied and refinished, sanded to perfection and waxed to a mirror finish. If you ever have the chance at a home with this feature, it’s worth every penny. But do not confuse today’s hardwoods with these antique beauties. Hardwood flooring today is beautifully engineered, easy to install (for a professional,) and sport finishes to rival some of the best examples of perfection out there. But don’t overlook the laminates! These products are easier to install, made from renewable resources, are incredibly durable, and have features such as bevels, colours, and ‘materials’ that truly rival the new hardwoods – at a fraction of the price. The hardwoods of years gone by are the treasures. The hardwoods of today are, in reality, no better quality than most of the good laminates. You might get your money back at resale, but with a tougher, great-looking alternative, there’s not as much money to worry about in the first place!

High Tech Bathrooms. Really, when did we decide we needed tv’s and control panels, fancy lights and heated towel racks? tv in bathroomSure there are luxuries we all want in our personal service stations – multiple shower heads, double sinks, eco-friendly toilets. But before you go breaking the budget on some really big ticket goodies, ask yourself why. Who are you trying to impress? Radiant floor heating would be a great perk – four or five really cold days in the winter every year. Relaxing in the tub in front of a television is just as effective as relaxing on a couch in front of a television. Spend the money on upgrades to things that you already use – storage, space, function. Beware new gadgets and materials that you think you’ll love – undercounter lighting, climate control panels, floor to ceiling glassed-in shower stalls. The only thing worse than spending a fortune on a renovation, is realizing six months later that you probably could have done it for half.

laundry chuteLaundry Chutes. This is a re-emerging trend. Especially in renovated homes that don’t have the option of upper floor laundry rooms. As kids, we thought these secret tunnels to the nether world were full of mystery and possibilities! Now, they seem like a good idea. But when you stop to think that you’ll have a heck of a sorting job at the bottom – out of sight is indeed out of mind – and that you still have to lug it all back upstairs when it’s done, is it really worth the effort and expense in the first place?

Stainless Steel Appliances. Stainless Steel. S/S. Status Symbol. b:w appliancesSame thing. There is nothing a S/S stove can cook that a white one can’t. Food doesn’t taste any better, doesn’t stay any fresher. Dishes don’t come out cleaner. The difference in price between S/S and white or black can be ridiculous! As much as 20% more for the metallic look. While I do have a personal preference for all white appliances in the kitchen – the big ones and the counter stuff – I have good reason not to jump on the S/S bandwagon. Anything spilled down the front of a white fridge, or baked onto a white cooktop, is a quick wipe away. It never looks dirty because it’s cleaned right away. Crisp white in the kitchen – goes with any colour/material design – and always looks fresh and clean. Stainless steel is a misnomer. The stainless refers to the fact that it is rust resistant. We all have, or grew up with S/S sinks. You know how dull and grubby they can get. And you know what a bother it is to get out the S/S cleaner to give it a good scrub every couple weeks. Sure it looks great for a week or so. But it can be quite high maintenance to keep it that way. Don’t think the appliances are any different. And good luck to you if the kids get goofing off in the kitchen and put a dent in one. One tiny dint at the bottom becomes a focus point in S/S, while the white seems to be more forgiving. In the end, it’s a pretty expensive aesthetic choice. But stay away from black; unless it’s truly pristine clean, it always looks dirty.

And, my favourite waste of money,

chipped graniteGranite Countertops. These are a fashion buzz must have for too many people. Starting at about $100 per linear foot, quality of stone, thickness, design, templating, installation, and finishing can take the price from expensive to treacherous in a heartbeat. The surface needs to be conditioned, can stain and burn badly, and can be very susceptible to cracking. Dollar for dollar, there are a dozen better options. But because the uninformed are willing to pay big time for granite, the resale value makes this worth it. Use it if you’re going to sell. Research better alternatives if you actually intend to use your kitchen.


All in all, you can spend a LOT of hard earned cash on a home renovation. Just make sure you really think through the upgrades before you sign on the dotted line. Let me know what you think are the biggest renovation dollar guzzlers in the comment section. What’s the biggest reno regret you’ve ever suffered?


Stay tuned next week for my

6 Worst Outdoor Home Design Fads…

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