Home trends through the decades

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | August 27, 2014

The one constant in house design and décor might be that homeowner tastes constantly change. Everything from paint color to the size of our homes come in and out of fashion. Just take a look below at what was once the height of style. We've gone from brightly colored appliances to stainless steel ones (a trend holding so strong there's no end in sight), from desirable linoleum to wall-to-wall wood. We may feel like the modern, streamlined, clean style many current homeowners have embraced is the epitome of timeless and classic, but give it a few years and suddenly our stylish choices may seem cringe-worthy.

How many of these trends do you remember? Whether you secretly wish they would come back or are glad to have them in the past, we bet some of these design choices ring a bell.

The 1950s: the post-war years

vintage kitchen

If you were doing some interior painting in the 50s, pastels were all the rage. Pink, turquoise, mint green, pale yellow, and blue were at the top of many homeowners' lists. If you found your floors lacking once the paint was on the walls, linoleum was the flooring of choice in many kitchens and baths. This was in part due to the bright color choices and patterns that Armstrong introduced.

Kitchens in general were far more colorful – right down to the appliances. Stratford Yellow, Turquoise, Cadet Blue, Woodstone Brown, Canary Yellow, and Sherwood Green were the most stylish choices. Formica countertops were also quite popular – one out of three new homes built included this material.

Interiors weren’t the only thing changing, either. One-story houses gained popularity in the 50s. Nine out of ten new homes were a Ranch style design.

The psychedelic 1960s

vintage living room

While introduced during the 1950s, popcorn ceilings just about become the norm in home decor this decade. Along with this textured look came new color palettes. Rooms were often painted or decorated in “back to nature” hues. Green, gold, orange, and yellow were all popular colors. Kitchens didn’t get any less colorful this decade either – coppertone and turquoise were two favorite appliance colors.

Though you may be shaking your fist at 60s homebuilders for the all the popcorn ceilings you’ve had to have scraped, you can say a big thank you for the invention of no-wax flooring. It made its first appearance this decade, and floor buffers got pushed to the backs of broom closets.

Ranch style architecture was the still the most popular, but split level homes came in a close second.

The 1970s: a time of feeling good

shag carpet

For many people, just hearing the word 1970s brings up images of shag carpeting – and for good reason. Shag carpet was all the rage, even going so far as to be in the bathrooms in some homes. Brown, avocado green, orange, and multicolor are some of the favorite hues.

Super colorful kitchens are still in style, though this decade harvest gold and avocado make their appearance on the appliance color scene along with a short-lived poppy red. Home interiors featured rooms painted in various shades of bright green, turquoise, sunshine yellow, orange, brown, and white.

The "green movement" gets its start when the Energy Tax Act of 1978 goes into effect. It offers a tax credit of up to $2,200 to families who use wind or solar energy as a source of power for their houses.

One comfort many can’t live without now also got its big start in the 70s. By the middle of the decade, about 46 percent of all new homes are cooled with central air-conditioning.

The 1980s: the "me" decade


Who needs a living room when you can have one that's "great"? Large multipurpose living areas come into fashion, as did bigger rooms in general. In fact, if you had a small room that you wanted to appear larger, mirrored walls were a popular trend to trick the eye.

Appliance colors toned down a bit this decade - almond is the color of choice with harvest gold, black, and harvest wheat also in popular demand. For the rest of the house, hunter green, teal, peach, and salmon were trendy choices for interior paint.

Exteriors went through some big changes this decade. Builders figured out how to maximize their profits by putting large homes on small lots – and so the McMansion was born.

The 1990s: home technology makes its appearance

Walk in closet

The bigger the home, the better, as far as the 90s are concerned. New houses were quite spacious, with skylights, vaulted ceilings, and two-story foyers coming into style. Many homeowners focused on creating personal sanctuaries. Large master suites featuring luxurious baths and his and her walk-in closets become the trend.

Kitchens aren't just for cooking anymore -- many designs have desk cabinets added in as a location for the family computer. And while many families dream of Pacific islands, they also wanted one in their kitchens this decade. The kitchen island became a common feature in homes and is still in high demand today.

Only one percent of homes across the country in the 90s lacked plumbing facilities. Just 40 years earlier, only 35 percent had this luxury.

The 2000s: a new century begins

stainless steel kitchen

Well, what goes up must come down. Due to the economic downturn during the second half of the decade, new homes begin to decrease in size. Despite the decreased size of homes, over 40 percent of them were being constructed with at least 2.5 bathrooms. The sinking economy, combined with high energy costs and a desire to save the Earth, helps to revive the “green movement.” Energy efficient homes and sustainable materials are popular with many families.

We finally said goodbye to colorful appliances this decade. Stainless steel was (and still is) the finish of choice. A new appliance was even added to the must-have list: about 90 percent of new homes being constructed included dishwashers. In 1960, less than 50 percent of homes had them. Can you imagine living without yours?

And that brings us up to this decade! What trends do you think we’ll be talking about from the 2010s another 50 years from now? We’re betting on specialized rooms (home offices, in-law suites, etc.) and outdoor living spaces. But with six more years to go before the next decade, it’s still anyone’s guess which popular choices we’ll be cringing about in the future.





























About the Author

Jeffrey Anderson has a Degree in English from V.M.I., and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. He worked in Residential and Commercial construction management for 25 years before retiring to write full time. He spends his time writing, remodeling his old farmhouse, and in animal rescue.