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Steer Clear: 7 Living Room Design Looks That Buyers Hate

Home decor is all about reflecting your own personal style. It’s an opportunity to use your home as a blank canvas and paint a masterpiece that is decidedly you. And that style is never more apparent than in your living room—the spot where your guests gather and your personality is most on display.

We’ll never tell you to betray your decor desires in this room (or the rest of your home). But if you’ve gone nuts painting your living room in wild colors or spent thousands laying down Moroccan tile, bear in mind how potential buyers might perceive your choices.

Buyers need to picture themselves living and loving that space: throwing parties, entertaining guests, enjoying a lazy Saturday with a book. If your favorite living room design looks are dated or divisive, buyers might give your home a pass. So ditch these seven polarizing decor choices while you still can—before they sink your chance of a sale.

1. TV looming over the fireplace

Marion Residence

No matter which side you fall on in the great TV-over-the-fireplace debate, none of that matters when it comes time to sell. Find somewhere else for your flat-screen TV—at least temporarily.

“Today’s buyers are interested in beautiful, serene rooms with seating revolved around a focal point of beauty,” says Chicago interior designer and stager Kara O’Connor. A personality-free black box is neither serene nor beautiful.

Heads up: If you’ve already mounted your television on a wall or over the fireplace, you may have to remove the evidence after you take it down. No buyer wants to see unpatched holes in your walls.

2. Dead things

Obviously you’re not leaving dead mice lying around your living room (we hope!). Perhaps you should get rid of the enormous steer head hanging over your fireplace, too.

“We totally get it. Cowhides and taxidermy are super kitschy and trendy,” says Justin M. Riordan, a Portland designer with Spade and Archer Design Agency. “The combination of creepy and beautiful is all the rage. Unfortunately, for many, the creepy is far more powerful than the beautiful.”

Real or not, you don’t have to say goodbye to your animal skulls. Just tuck them away until the home is sold. Far away.

3. Blond wood

Fire Island Home

Don’t stain your hardwood just because you’re listing your home, but if you’re thinking about doing it anyway, O’Connor has some advice: Go dark.

“Dark, wide-plank floors are ‘in,’ and blond wood is ‘out,’” she says. “If the floors are dated, I encourage refinishing. The impact is huge.”

Alongside new baseboards and neutral paint, deep chocolate floors will give your home the modern edge that could attract on-the-fence buyers.

4. Saturated walls

Complementary Colours

Yes, your deep teal walls look rad alongside your dark wood credenza and velvet chaise. But all potential buyers see are dollar signs.

“More likely than not, your home’s next owner has some very distinct taste in furniture, which they recently spent quite a bit of money on,” Riordan says. “They are not going to buy new furniture to match your saturated wall colors.”

Many buyers do repaint before moving in, but painting over saturated tones requires more coats, more time, and, naturally, more money. And some buyers don’t want to deal with any of that.

To get the highest selling price—and the most interested buyers—paint the entire place in simple neutrals.

5. Outdated furniture

Is your vintage look intentional?
Is your vintage look intentional?

vicnt/iStock

Buyers bring their own furniture. But picturing their gorgeous modern furniture in your space can be daunting if everything you own is outdated and overwhelming.

“If the furniture distracts the buyer from the square footage, a focal point, or hardwood floors, then it should be carefully edited out,” says Jill Hosking-Cartland, an interior designer in Windham, NH.

Not only might they struggle to see themselves in your place, they might also worry about the quality of your home.

“Old furniture can leave a buyer with the impression that there is a lack of attention to routine maintenance and updating,” Hosking-Cartland says.

Work with your Realtor® to stage your property using updated, on-trend furniture.

6. Narrow baseboards

We're all 'bout that baseboard, 'bout that baseboard.
We’re all ’bout that baseboard, ’bout that baseboard.

Stockernumber2/iStock

New baseboards and crown molding can take a room from blah to bangin’ with an afternoon’s worth of work. But make sure the sizes and designs you choose look modern.

“Crisp, white baseboards that are a minimum of 5 inches high are preferable to the dated, 2- or 3-inch baseboards from the ’90s and early 2000s,” O’Connor says.

Teeny-tiny baseboards might not be a deal breaker, but they can make a room feel kind of off. Beware of going too big—though it is possible to overwhelm a room with your molding. Find the right size trim for your space before you embark on that weekend project.

7. Faux finishes

You might hate ordinary paint, but funking up your living space with a faux finish can be a sticking point. Even if your DIY job looks amazing, buyers see only another thing they need to change. Paint over your fake Venetian plaster, reclaimed wood, or “textured” walls before the first showing.

“Asking a buyer to adopt your specific design style is risky,” Hosking-Cartland says. “Most buyers see these polarizing design elements as work they will have to do and spend money on to make the home a reflection of their own personal style.”

 

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