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Design Across The Decades

This open concept space by Remodelers of Houston, allows family members to mingle freely between the kitchen and family room. The L-shape kitchen is defined by a large island with barstool seating, plenty of countertop space, and a conven­ient built-in mini fridge for cold beverages located on the outside of the island. (Photo courtesy of Remodelers of Houston.)

Trends from The New American Home  

By Alexandra Isham, NAHB

How long do design trends really last? Some, such as white-on-white, have stayed strong for decades, while others, like wool carpeting (Grandma, we’re looking at you), have thankfully left the building. The New American Home (TNAH) has been the official show home of the annual International Builders’ Show (IBS) since 1984, and is built in the IBS host city. The home showcases industry best practices, state-of-the-art products, energy efficiency, sustainable materials and the newest construction techniques.

The New American Home show also features innovative design concepts and high-end trends of the day. With 34 years of homes to look back upon, we can fondly (or not) remember these trends and determine: Are they still in or are they out?

Cheers! to the ‘80s

People remember the 1980s for many reasons. They might say the most memorable moment was the release of Pac Man, a royal wedding, the Challenger disaster, or singing along with the Material Girl.

Speak with an interior designer, though, and you may find their memories of the ’80s filled with thoughts of Memphis design (known for its bright colors and highly geometric furnishings), pastels, and the opening of America’s first IKEA store. The ’80s also experienced more of a “homey” look and feel, sometimes synonymous with country design. The New American Homes of the ’80s, on-point for their day, celebrated these trends.

In (but modified): The Country Look

In the 1980s, homeowners asked for designs with a homespun feel. Today, designers regularly incorporate modern farmhouse, an arguably upscale, more refined version of the ’80s country vibe. The modern farmhouse style sends us back to our roots without going over the top, and it includes sleek lines the ’80s did not offer. Farmhouse sinks, dark window and door frames, and farmhouse hardware, most notably sliding farmhouse doors, are incorporated today instead of simply relying on muted colors.

The ‘90s: The Techno Rebellion

The 1990s ushered in the digital age and the dot-com boom. (What did we do before eBay, Amazon, and Google?) The decade also had its fair share of design trends and styles. Some, like Japanese Zen, were a continuation of the ’80s , and others were unique to this decade: dark greens, blonde wood floors, floral wallpaper, and area rugs on hardwood floors.

In (but modified): Japanese Zen and Minimalism

Japanese Zen and minimalistic design were very popular in the ’90s; designers focused on creating symmetry, balance, and relaxing vibes in their clients’ homes. Today, homeowners continue to cherish minimalist approaches, but are careful not to have homes appear barren. Lines are clean, colors are often light and soft, and furnishings are comfortable, yet modern.

A New Millennium: The 2000s

With the new century came the iPod, Facebook, and Twitter, the housing boom and bust, and the end of Pluto as a planet. This decade also saw reuse-recycle furniture, the supposed end of the living room, stainless steel fixtures and appliances, and modern technology, such as WiFi in homes and freestanding TVs. Green building gained momentum and has continued to improve; you’ll see the latest green technology in the 2019 New American Home in Orlando, Florida.

Out: Formal Living Rooms

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint its exact bow-out, formal living rooms have become less popular since the 2000s. Many homeowners instead prefer home office space, a reading or game room, or just a larger, more casual family room.

In: Scaling Back

Homeowners want usable spaces, not extra rooms to clean that are rarely used. They do not necessarily want to live in tiny homes, but they want open spaces that can be used for multiple purposes instead of having separate spaces. Some buyers go one step further with spaces that can transition between inside and outside.


The past few New American Homes showcase the trends we’re most familiar with today, such as white-on-white, open floor plans, mixed exterior materials, exposed wood beams, and unique and detailed tile patterns.

At Best in American Living, we see all these trends appearing across the country, as well as:

  • Benches, nooks, and unique storage solutions in underutilized spaces
  • Big showers and free-standing tubs
  • Accent walls with wallpaper
  • Dark frames
  • Metal roofs
  • Modern/contemporary
  • Natural wood ceilings and beams
  • Color accents
  • Clean details
  • Open but defined floor plans
  • Metal and wood exterior details and mixed metals
  • Whites, grays, charcoals, neutral taupes and earth tones
  • Right-sized kitchens


If there is one thing to learn, it is that design trends (almost) always come back in style – whether or not we ask for it. Stay up-to-date on the latest design trends for 2019 at blog.bestinamericanliving.com.


Alexandra Isham is Program Manager, Design, at the National Association of Home Builders. Text reprinted with permission from Best in American Living™ e-magazine:

With storage of close to 1000 bottles of wine, this second floor office-turned-wine room is stunning. The reclaimed 3d wood tile that runs on the ceiling and wall, along with the alcoves clad in a honed finished limestone tile, lend to the desired underground feel of this remodel by Eklektik Interiors.
(Photo – CHuck Williams.)



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