On the HGTV series “Love It or List It,” designer Hilary Farr and real estate agent David Visentin know that retro designs from, say, the 1980s can look cool in small doses. But a whole house filled with this throwback decade just looks dated!
In the Season 18 episode “The ’80s Get an Overhaul,” Farr and Visentin meet Peter and Sheryl, a couple with two kids and a seriously dated house. The home was Peter’s mother’s house, so not only does it feel like a hand-me-down, but it also looks like a Reagan-era time capsule.
While Visentin takes Peter and Sheryl house shopping, it’s up to Farr to help this house travel to the 21st century. With a $150,000 budget and a long to-do list, Farr works on eradicating everything that screams ’80s in this home. Read on to learn how Farr’s surprisingly simple fixes make this outdated house look like it was built this year—or at least this century.
Swap stair railings to update an entryway
First impressions are everything, and it’s clear this home makes a bad one. From the flooring to the light fixtures to the stair railing, the entryway is filled with dated features people see as soon as they walk through the front door.
In fact, when Farr and Visentin first walk in, Farr is surprised by how old-fashioned the space is.
“I haven’t seen one of these staircases for such a long time,” she says.
Farr makes a lot of changes, including new flooring, new paint on the walls, and new recessed lights. But perhaps the most meaningful change for this entryway is the new banisters. Farr replaces the old wood spindles with sleek black metal bars. This easy upgrade gives the space an instant new look.
A wall between the kitchen and dining room must come down
One staple of the ’80s home is a dedicated dining room. While families often wanted a formal dining space 40 years ago, homeowners today usually prefer a more casual setup, like island seating or a built-in banquette.
When Farr sees the space, she wants to knock down the dining room wall and create an extra-large kitchen with a massive island.
“If ever there was a room, actually many rooms, that were just made for walls to come down, this is it,” she says.
Still, she acknowledges that taking down these structural walls isn’t a small job. Farr can get rid of this dated dining room, but it’ll come at a price.
While it costs an extra $25,000 to open up the dining room, the end result is worth it. The now expansive kitchen is gorgeous, with new white cabinets, stylish pendant lights, and plenty of informal seating. Plus, the open layout feels more modern and improves the flow of the whole first floor.
Brick is an ’80s feature that has to go
Sheryl and Peter’s living room is dark, dated, and closed off.
“This is just too closed in,” Sheryl says. “I want open space. It feels like we’re in a box.”
While Farr does work hard to open up the layout in this home, she has some other tricks to make this room feel bigger and brighter. First, she covers up the dark brick on the fireplace, replacing it with a new, smooth finish. Then she adds elegant paneling to the fireplace wall, which provides some extra charm.
The nice, light fireplace brought this ’80s house into the present.
“I’m thrilled with how this turned out,” Farr says.
A desk in a bedroom makes it hard to relax
Upstairs, Farr finds a lot wrong with the main bedroom. Basically, it’s overwhelmed by a large workspace. With very few decor items and no color, this room feels like an office with a bed, rather than a bedroom with an office.
“Your bedroom’s supposed to be an area where it’s calming and peaceful, and it’s a getaway,” Sheryl says. “Instead of sitting at your desk and then going to bed afterward.”
Farr relocates the office, then adds some soothing finishes to the room, including warm wood flooring, pops of blue and gold, new light fixtures, and even wallpaper. While wallpaper can seem like a dated feature, Farr proves it can have a more contemporary look. The subtle design adds texture and color to the room, making it no longer feel corporate.
Don’t be afraid to rearrange the bathroom layout
The ’80s was a time of built-in bathtubs and tiny showers. Exhibit A: Peter and Sheryl’s awkward master bathroom.
This space isn’t small, but Farr knows it simply isn’t working for this couple. When first touring the home, Farr and Visentin mention that the tiny shower probably never gets used, and the corner tub doesn’t have a lot of space to stretch out.
Farr remedies the problem by changing the layout. She moves the vanity, installs a large standing tub, and upgrades the tiny shower to an elegant feature with glass walls.
While removing built-in bathroom features isn’t easy, the results are well worth the effort.
Do they love it or list it?
When Visentin and Farr first see the house, Visentin says the home is worth $925,000. After examining the home’s structure, Farr needs to go over the $150,000 budget to $175,000 in order to create the open layout Peter and Sheryl want. It’s a risky move, but by the time renovations are finished, Visentin says the house is now worth $1,200,000—a hefty increase of $275,000!
While Peter and Sheryl could have made bank by selling their home, they decide they now “love it” and stay put. Renovating this old home made a world of difference.
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