How to de-'80s your house (© Michael Dunne/Elizabeth Whiting & Associates)


Ditch the Nagel prints, unplug the neon lights and repaint those teal and salmon-colored walls -- it's time to bring your house out of the 1980s.

The '80s comprised a design era best forgotten, with too many flouncy touches, country kitchens and splashy "modern" looks ripped right out of a nightclub. This dated décor can cost you when you put your house up for sale, says Gail Mayhugh, a Las Vegas interior designer and home stager.

"If a prospective buyer views a property as a fixer-upper they're going to make a much lower counteroffer," Mayhugh says. "Or even worse, (they'll) just go down the block to one that has been updated and make them the offer instead."

A few simple updates can help move the focus onto the house's possibilities and away from what needs to be fixed, designers say. Here are some of the biggest red flags and what you can do to bring your home into this decade.

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Color me dated
One of the easiest updates, designers say, is to remove the 1980s color palette from the walls of your house. The big paint color offenders from this era are:

  • hunter green
  • teal
  • peach or salmon (particularly if you live on the East Coast); and
  • that mix of dusty blues, grays and mauves.

"It's a big fat time stamp on your house," says designer Joseph Sacco of JS Interiors Group in Chicago. (See some of his design work in the photos below.)

And, it's distracting to buyers. If they're flashing back to "Miami Vice" and Members Only jackets, they can't really focus on the space itself, experts say.

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Likewise, popcorn ceilings, bad sponge painting and paint-splash wallpaper are red flags that need to be dealt with immediately. And those ubiquitous wallpaper borders? Gag me with a spoon. Their time has come, too, designers say.

Bad mood lighting
Dated lighting is another big tip-off that you haven't paid much attention to your house in the past 20-odd years, designers say. Luckily, it's a relatively inexpensive thing to fix.

  • Take out old brass and etched glass chandeliers from entryways and dining rooms and replace them with simple brushed-nickel fixtures or pendant lighting.
  • Remove that track lighting with the big "eyeball" bulbs nested inside large cans. Replace it with half-dollar sized recessed lighting in several points around each room. In the dining room, you can place these lights slightly to the front of each chair at your dining table. It's a cleaner look than a heavy fixture and it puts the light where you really need it, says Tucson interior designer Diana Lynne Patterson.
  • In the bathroom, experts say, rip out those rows of Hollywood dressing-room-type lights that ring the mirror. Replace with recessed lighting, a simple fixture or some sconces.
  • And please, remove that neon. While it seemed cool and high-tech in the 1980s, it's better left on pool-hall beer signs now.

Discuss:  What's your '80s design pet peeve?

Mirror, mirror
The bathroom atrocities from the 1980s don't end at bad lighting. Vinyl flooring in tiny floral or marble prints might have been sophisticated then, but now it's just tacky, experts say.

  • Replace those dated floors with large ceramic tiles or laminate flooring that's easier on the eyes.
  • Rip out the old wallpaper and put in new paint or natural fiber wall covering such as bamboo or sea grass, Sacco says.
  • Update your medicine cabinet, replacing damaged or dated units with something simple and sleek. Or hang a simple framed mirror and put in a separate cabinet or shelf with space for cosmetics and toiletries, Patterson advises.
  • If your countertop tile is in bad shape, Sacco suggests having it reglazed for a fraction of the cost of replacing it.
  • Brass or Lucite faucets with the "H" and the "C" for hot and cold should also go, Mayhugh says. "It's amazing what a new faucet will do," she adds. And it's a cheap fix, too. A simple faucet can be found at Lowe's or Home Depot for less than $40. A new soap dish and other bathroom accessories will help to complete the makeover, Patterson says.
  • The '80s eyesore that will cost a little more to fix is the wall-to-wall mirror in many older bathrooms. This job requires breaking the mirror, fixing the drywall and repainting. But eliminating this holdover from the disco era is a nice way to update a bathroom, Patterson says.
  • Getting rid of glass-block walls is high on some designers' wish lists, too. But some people, including Patterson still work with them.