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Home Build prep guide



Timeless Interior Design vs. Trendy

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written by:

Carrie Barker


Are you building or renovating a house and you find yourself thinking … ‘there are so many decisions and I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong one!’ OR ‘what if I make a trendy decision and end up hating it in two years?’ 

You are NOT alone! This is a very common fear.

In this episode, we’re going to talk about where to add timeless interior design finishes as well as where to add trendy finishes when you are building or designing your new home so that you don’t make decisions you later regret.



If you’re nervous that you’ll make the *wrong* choices or make design decisions that are too trendy and you’ll soon regret making those decisions, we’ve got you covered. 

By the end of this episode, you’ll have a better understanding of your own personal design style (not just what is trending on Instagram or Pinterest), AND you’ll feel more confident in where you should focus on choosing classic, timeless design finishes that you’ll love for the long haul … as well as where to sprinkle in trendy finishes.

Quick side note … there truly is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ design decision! However, some finishes have more style longevity than others.

tips to design a timeless home


First, let’s talk about what timeless interior design means.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘TIMELESS’ means ‘not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion.’

According to Caroline on Design (that’s me!), timeless refers to classic design choices that are simple, subtle, sophisticated, understated, and can easily adapt to evolving styles.

In other words, timeless design makes for a great backdrop that can stand the test of time and will look great no matter what trendy pieces you throw into the mix.

how to choose timeless design finishes vs trendy tasson interiors
White cabinets, white tile, and stripes are always in style! via TASSON INTERIORS


To understand what timeless means for YOU, it’s important to first be aware of what design elements are important to you and what will make you happy for years to come … because that, my friend, is how you make design decisions you won’t later regret.

Some timeless design examples for me include simple white shaker-style cabinets, neutral paint on the walls, white trim work details, white baseboards, and crown molding. Others may gravitate toward exposed wood baseboards and cherry cabinets.

Both are classic and timeless; just varying styles.

If you are unsure about what YOUR design style is and you find yourself leaning toward whatever the current design trend is on Pinterest and Instagram, I have a helpful design exercise for you in my blog post, ‘How to Determine your Decorating Style‘. 

Do keep in mind that Pinterest and Instagram are excellent places to gather design inspiration, but don’t just copy what you see. Take your favorite ideas and tweak them to make your home your own style :).

how to choose timeless design finishes vs trendy rita chan interiors
A classic white cabinet and tile backdrop with gold (trendy) light fixtures = a STUNNING kitchen! via RITA CHAN INTERIORS


Now let’s talk about trendy design.

It is absolutely OK (and encouraged) to add some trendy finishes to your home.

There is certainly a place for trendy design in a timeless home … and adding just a little bit of ‘trendy’ can go a long way.

Just so we’re clear on what trendy means … trendy = design fads that come and go.

You can spot a ‘trend’ when you see the same design over and over (and over again) on Instagram or Pinterest … to the point that you don’t even know whose Instagram feed you’re looking at anymore because they all look the exact same.

We don’t want to get to that point!

I recommend that you keep your foundational finishes classic and timeless (as determined by what makes YOU happy) so that your home design can grow and evolve as your style grows and evolves. A timeless backdrop allows you to easily change out accents or small finishes to change the look of your home.

Go ahead and mix in trendy finishes that are easy and inexpensive to change in the future when they are no longer trendy (or you tire of them)

In a minute, we’ll talk about where to add timeless and trendy finishes to your home, but first, let’s talk about how to determine if a finish is timeless.

how to choose timeless design finishes vs trendy cottonwood and co
A checkerboard floor in a laundry room = perfection! It can easily be changed if desired in the future. via COTTONWOOD AND CO


Ask yourself the following questions to determine the longevity (or timeless-ness) of a finish:


Can this design element serve as a backdrop regardless of my changing style and whatever is on-trend at the moment? 


Is this finish neutral and simple enough that I can easily add in different trendy accents as my style and current trends evolve?

The more simple a finish, the more likely it will remain timeless.

And the most important question …


If you answered YES to these three questions, then you’ve found yourself a timeless finish. 


how to choose timeless design finishes vs trendy su casa
Cape Cod Shingle Style homes are ALWAYS in style! via SU CASA DESIGN


I recommend timeless design finishes in areas that are expensive and difficult to change.

This includes your home exterior finishes, flooring, countertops, cabinets, interior doors, and trim work. Essentially, the backdrop of your design should stick to timeless details.

Of course, there are some exceptions … if you want to do trendy tile flooring in a bathroom or your laundry room, go for it. These are small rooms and aren’t too difficult (or expensive) to change in the future if you want to.

how to choose timeless design finishes vs trendy mcgee and co
Two of my favorite timeless design details … trim work and grasscloth via MCGEE AND CO


Limit trendy finishes and decor to inexpensive and easily changeable finishes. 

It is much easier and cheaper to change cabinet hardware than actual cabinets, for example … so keep your cabinets timeless; your hardware can be trendy and changed in the future.

Think about the things that are easy to change … a backsplash is a place you can go trendy because it’s a small area and can be fairly easily replaced in the future. However, going trendy with an entire tiled shower would be very expensive to change in the future.

I, personally, like to sprinkle in ‘trendy’ design with my home decor and accents (e.g. light fixtures, rugs, linens, art, accent furniture, etc). Just remember that making small adjustments to your home decor can completely change the look and feel of a room.

Obviously, styles and trends are constantly evolving. However, if YOU love the finishes you choose, then they will never be out of style in your home/mind.

I hope you now feel a little bit more confident in your ability to choose timeless interior design finishes that appeal to YOU … regardless of current trends.

If you wanna dive deeper into designing your timeless home with confidence? Grab a seat in my *FREE* on-demand training, 3 Simple Keys to Design Your Dream Home with Confidence … without second-guessing your decisions or making costly mistakes you’ll later regret’.

  1. Linda says:

    Carrie this was such a great article! I am gathering ideas for our soon to be built home and I have been struggling. Love your posts!

  2. Jill says:

    Hi! We did all white cabinets in kitchen, with Calcatta Laza countertops. I love the look of white tile herringbone pattern for backsplash. My husband feels like it would be good to have some contrast.

    We do both like MSI Dove Gray 4*12 tiles with white grout. Dove Gray matches they grey veining in countertops perfectly.

    What are your thoughts on an all white kitchen with Grey tile backsplash? Too busy, or could it be timeless?

    Also, we have a large walk in pantry just off kitchen. I opted for no door. So you can see it as an extension on the kitchen. My husband said this is where I could do a really fun tile. My concern is you can see it from the kitchen. Would it look too busy and distract from the kitchen?

    Sorry for too many question in one post. Haha!

    Thank You

    • Hi Jill! I personally love an all-white kitchen with a grey backsplash … that’s exactly what I have! Not busy AT ALL! I have a subtle grey backsplash. You can see it HERE. As far as an open pantry, I love this look! It makes the kitchen feel just a little bigger. I do think it’s best to keep a consistent design flow throughout the kitchen and pantry (same flooring and wall tile). Keeping consistent flooring, backsplash, and hardware will eliminate any ‘busyness’ or ‘distraction’ from the kitchen. I would go with a fun tile in your laundry room … or another completely separate room from your kitchen!

  3. Jill says:

    Oh I forgot to mention my drawer pulls, faucet and pot filler are champagne bronze. Would that look ok with gray tile?

  4. CeCe says:

    Best advice I’ve found so far. I don’t like it when I hear I must NEVER or ALWAYS do something. I just want to live in a home I love. My husband and I are in our 5th home and just want it to be ours. Not dictated by resale for the first time in our 37 years together. My style leans to warm coastal, but I’m told I can’t have that because I live in high desert. I’m so tired of design snobs! Thanks!




  8. […] is cozy, functional, and perfect for the way my family lives, and I’m still happy with my timeless design decisions SEVEN years […]

  9. […] I wrote in ‘How to Choose Timeless Design Finishes vs. Trendy’, it is absolutely OK (and encouraged) to add some trendy finishes to your new home build or […]

  10. Janet says:

    I love the pendant lighting in the kitchen design from Rita Chan. Do you have any information to share about these lights?

  11. Patricia Raab says:

    Caroline i absolutely love the dutch colonial pictured on your site. do you know what kind of siding was used on the exterior?

  12. […] (probably) light oak floors and a less busy kitchen countertop (however, the light oak floors won’t be the ‘it thing’ forever … the trend will go back to dark floors … trends come and go) […]

  13. Debi says:

    Very helpful advice across your website and blogs for interior design and custom home building ideas. Thank you!

  14. Ben B says:

    Do you have any recommendations for interior designers who specialize in this style?? Especially in the South?

  15. […] people desire to style their homes with a timeless aesthetic. According to Caroline On Design, classically styled spaces include elements that can evolve through time and still appear in style. […]

  16. […] people desire to style their homes with a timeless aesthetic. According to Caroline On Design, classically styled spaces include elements that can evolve through time and still appear in style. […]

  17. Heidi says:

    I’m in the process of building my dream home, and in the kitchen, I’m planning on doing Schuler maple shaker cabinets in biscotti finish for base cabinets and white shakers for wall cabinets. There will be a very large island, and I was considering using Kraftmaid rainfall as the color for this. I know green cabinets are a trend right now, but I feel they can also look timeless in the right kind of home (such as an old farmhouse). What are your thoughts on throwing in a COLOR for island while having two different color cabinets?

  18. Jeanene Stephens says:

    This is Nene and my home suffered major damage during Hurricane Ian. I need to redo most of my kitchen as the salt water destroyed the appliances. I loved my kitchen and was wondering if I should do the same floor plan, cabinets etc but tweak with some changes to accommodate larger appliances. Do I do a total gut or work with what I have. I, also, need help with the laundry room. The home is very minimalist —white walls and narrow maple hardwood floors. Is it possible to add some fun to the laundry with sea blue cabinetry. Any help is appreciated. This can be overwhelming as we just finished a refresh of our home this past year.

    • Hi Nene! I LOVE the idea of blue cabinets in the laundry room (and the first-floor bathroom that was destroyed by stupid Ian). I think we covered your other questions on the phone yesterday :). – Carrie

  19. […] classically-designed rooms call for a few eye-catching trends now and then. Don’t be afraid to incorporate trends in smaller, easier-to-change areas of your home, especially if those trends bring you joy and a sense of excitement about your space. […]

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I designed my own custom home from the ground up, inside and out. A home that is cozy, comfy, laid out perfectly for the way my family lives, and makes us happy every single day. Oh, and did I mention I did this all without blowing the budget?! 

Yep, it’s true. I’ve been there, done that, and actually lived through it … and you will too. Pinkie promise!

a.k.a. Caroline on Design

I’m Carrie Barker.

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