Though home trends come, go, it’s your house

“Old ways will always remain unless someone invents a new one …” — Elbert Hubbard, American writer (1856-1927), “The Notebook of Elbert Hubbard”

OK, admit it, we all watch HGTV — sometimes — and depending on how old the particular program is, we see all different sorts of ins and outs in design. Especially if you watch the real estate ones. Some of the houses are so dated, but then sometimes when houses are redone you question the owner’s choices.

So thank goodness we’re all responsible for our own homes and what’s in them. Whatever you like has almost always been my mantra, but that means whatever you like to live with, not necessary being “in compliance” with design trends.

Remember brass? It used to be everywhere. Fixtures, handles, accessories. And then — wham — no brass. But believe it or not, is it not frowned on as much today as it was five years ago. But again, homeowner’s choice.

Not long ago I was invited to visit a home that had sponge painted walls. Well, it’s hard to know exactly what to say about that. Again, if you like it, go for it. Just don’t expect your guests to rave about your handiwork.

Twenty years ago everybody had a round table covered with a floor-length table cloth. Yes, all of my friends had one displaying a lamp, books, photos, etc. That particular trend disappeared quite a few years ago and, guess what: If you prowl around on the Internet or in design mags, there is that tablecloth. Home again. Warming up a living room or bedroom corner.

So, there are a lot of ins and outs, but one that has affected me to a great extent and a lot of other friends and clients is the home office.

Some years ago a lot of us stopped working in a business office every day. Some would go into the office a few days a week, but always wanted a home office for when they got to work at home.

Everybody wanted one, whether you had a business or not. We felt that we had to have a space of our own for our computer, printer, fax (yes, fax), file cabinets, “me” walls (awards, photos, etc.) and a comfy chair.

This was a refuge to get away from kids and day-to-day home life. And if you really did have a business, it worked. And seriously, it still works for a lot of folks. Depending on the business they have, the space is a necessity.

Oftentimes the office space was combined with the guest room. And if you did have company, they had a place to sleep, and you just couldn’t go in there at six in the morning to check your email. I was one of those. I’ve had a home office for years for all of the reasons stated above. And sometimes it did function as a guest room as well.

Well, move forward a little to now. Smartphones. Laptops. No fax machine. No land lines. Storage in “the cloud.”

My home office hasn’t been used in several years. And I know many others are going through the same thing. The kitchen table has become the office for a lot of us. It’s like a total reversal. Years ago when people started working at home, they would hang out in the kitchen and try to work, and then be delighted when there was that space — sacred space for an office.

It’s funny how times, trends and technology change us. And please understand, I realize that a lot of people who may run a business still need to have that space and feel blessed to have it in their homes. Designers all realize this and are happy to create that space for homeowners.

There was an interesting little piece I saw recently about offices in kitchens — not like I just described, but in the cabinetry. Remember the little kitchen counter space, a little lower than the actual countertops, that was used for office things. It was used to pay bills, find menus, write notes, and then, too, there might have been a wall phone. Those are hard to find in houses today.

Again, if you work from home, chances are there’s a laptop and a cellphone. No need to be hooked up anywhere. We’re very mobile and love it. We’re working out on the patio, in the kitchen, in a coffee shop. Even on planes.

Design and decoration trends do come and go. No question. And uses for spaces in our homes change just as frequently. The beauty of change is that it’s a choice. Yours.

So just be happy for your space and the fact that you can pick its use and what it looks like. And who knows, the next time you want to make a change, you may be the one to come up with the next hot thing.

— Carolyn Muse Grant is a founder and past president of the Architectural & Decorative Arts Society, as well as an interior design consultant/stylist specializing in home staging. Send questions to

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