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Questions about Timeless Design?

Emily H
2 years ago


Lake Minnetonka Tailored White Kitchen · More Info


We're talking to a Houzz Pro next week about timeless designs as part of our Houzz TV Live series.


Do you have specific questions you would like to ask about timeless designs or particular challenges you have around this topic that you would like to have discussed?


Tell us about it in the comments!


Comments (44)

  • cawaps
    2 years ago

    Why would anyone believe that there is any such thing as timeless design? The evidence is against it. (That isn't a rhetorical question; that is actually what I want to ask the pro).


    How does the age and style of the home factor into "timeless"?

  • Architectural Notice
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Are there any colors that constitute timeless design and remain popular year after year?

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  • Anna Devane
    2 years ago

    Who decides what is timeless?

  • PRO
    Sabrina Alfin Interiors
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    @Architectural Notice, most of the major paint manufacturers have Historic Color palettes. While they are often used to restore old homes to their original look, they're also time-tested colors that look great in any era. They work for exteriors, interiors, and for kitchen cabinets, too.

  • hollybar
    2 years ago

    Why do you believe timeless design exists? Have you always thought so? Which specific rooms or designers led you to think this? Is "timeless" the most important quality you want to achieve in a space?

  • bllandreth
    2 years ago

    I’ve heard that neutrals, white and black are considered timeless. If you do all of your more permanent items like cabinets, flooring, counter tops, etc. in that palette, you shouldn’t have to remodel those in the future. Use wall color, fabrics, accessories for Current trends. Is that correct advice? Does this also apply to exterior items?


    Will you also post a link to the interview so we don’t miss it?

  • arcy_gw
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Doesn't timeless equate to safe, not individual, neutral, appeal to the masses.? It's when designers or home owners get the itch to 'put their mark on it' that timeless goes out the window!!

  • tartanmeup
    2 years ago

    This concept is very appealing, Emily! Yes, please post the link to the interview.

    My questions for the pro: Can you share examples of timeless rooms? Do you believe a timeless decor can be achieved with any budget (I don"t)?

  • Jinx
    2 years ago

    First I’d like to know which pro is answering questions, and what their qualifications are.

  • Astrid Hale
    2 years ago

    Designer design and decorators tend to decorate and follow new trends as opposed to design which lasts much longer. Decorating tends to "date" your house. Think of how houses are staged on television. They go for the trends to help sell premade items you can pick up at Target

  • tartanmeup
    2 years ago

    Never thought about that distinction before, Astrid Hale. Might be something to it.

  • cawaps
    2 years ago

    Do you believe subway tiles are timeless? If so, did you miss 60% of the 20th century?

  • Astrid Hale
    2 years ago

    In regards to subway tile it is timeless just as are the short skirts of the 60's. The longer you're on the planet you're hopefully exposed to more things. At a certain age, you are no longer the demographic certain markets are targeting. Timeless simply means it has duration and doesn't mark when it was. created

  • Astrid Hale
    2 years ago

    Real designers have to pass the NCIDQ exam, which is a national standard to be legally be called a designer. This can mean 4 years of college as opposed to a 6 week decorating course.

  • Carolyn Sanders
    2 years ago

    following

  • Carolyn Sanders
    2 years ago

    following

  • Astrid Hale
    2 years ago

    Timeless in the 1920, 30's and 40's were 80 to 100 years ago. Items were limited and not easily or readily reproduced, hence the repetitiveness and saturation of a certain aspect. Again, trends. My point e exactly. If you look a various designs. there are elements of several era's as opposed to trends.

  • Nancy
    2 years ago

    following

  • jmm1837
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    I guess my question would be, why do you think timeless design is important? Some of the styles people strive for now were very much new and different when they first appeared. Art Deco, MCM, etc broke out of the standards of the past and established new ways of using shapes, colors and materials. They wouldn't have been thought of as timeless when they arrived on the scene, but our world would be poorer without them.

  • Astrid Hale
    2 years ago

    I completely agree jmm 1837. We know what is comfortable to us. That's why there's more than one flavor of ice cream and we all have different budgets and circumstances. Great comment.

  • Tenna Ball
    2 years ago

    Is there a timeless palette to go with grays? I am having a hard time coordinating wall color with gray floors. I'm also trying to bring in cherry toned kitchen cabinets that I am hoping never to remodel again.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting
    2 years ago

    IMO what is timeless is a home done to what you love and that is timeless for you not nessessarily anyone else.It took me a long time to find my timeless I played with styles , colors and when we bought 1956 MCM ranch was when I found my timeless. We have been here for 13 yrs and to my husbands delight I have not changed colors all through the house like I used to.

  • Jazz Easy
    2 years ago

    There is no such thing as timeless design. There are however, timeless design (or architectural) characteristics and elements. For example: Humans are naturally attracted to symmetry, and are inherently put-off by asymmetry. Humans tend to feel uncomfortable if the volume of the space they are in is unnaturally large or small. Rooms that have less natural light generally feel less pleasant than those that have an abundance of light. There is a strong attractiveness to natural materials in a design such as wood, stone, metal, glass, and fabric. We associate light colors, especially white, with cleanliness, dark colors with seriousness, and bright colors subconsciously raise both pulse and respiration. As for an example of timeless design: The old Getty museum in Malibu was a relatively new build based on the style of Greek palaces; large central courtyard with fountains pool and garden, surrounded by two stories on all four sides, outstanding views from virtually all rooms. The design, function (you could see how it could be some high net worth individual's rather extensive home), orientation, space occupied in its environment, balance, etc. was magnificent. If you'd ever been there, you'd know what I mean. The new Getty Museum is just the opposite, all angles, sharp edges, and asymmetry. Not timeless design, but built to last a long time...

  • shivece
    2 years ago

    I agree with Jazz Easy. Alexander’s “A Pattern Language” is, among other things, an effort to identify those aspects of use of space/design that create a feeling of comfort and belonging. What are the most important aspects of “timeless design” that create a space that feels comfortable and inviting? And the flip side, what are aspects that work against that feeling? To me, it is a “you know it when you see it” kind of thing. When I walk into a space that is comfortable and inviting - whether it is a hotel, store, train station, museum, historical site or someone’s home, I notice how it “feels”. One memory that has stuck with me was a visit to a very expensive, superficially attractive and not obviously badly designed or decorated house in a fancy metro suburb that was fundamentally uncomfortable. I spent way too much time trying to put my finger on the issue(s) and was not very successful. The best I could do was that the spaces were somehow out of proportion in a very disturbing way.

  • Carol jean Mudgett
    2 years ago

    I believe timeless design is possible but I love santa and mermaids

  • lauriegp18
    2 years ago

    Following, while enjoying the comments.


  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus " He comes to those with the courage to remain true to what they love. Patricia loves her Mid Cen, ......a well know fact here. I love Mid Cen, for other people. I love a LOT of things, for other people. For myself ? Given I could change most anything anytime, I don't - despite that is what clients tend to think all designers do. My own place is loaded with things I have had for decades. Possibly I am lazy? Nope. Possibly I am nuts? Yeah, that's debatable. I don't tire of it ? Nope. I don't. I never tweak? Yes I do. Almost bought a new sofa....but truth is I didn't really need one. I confess I was a bit tired of its shape, but its as comfy as the day I bought it over twenty years ago.

    In a recent cleaning fit, I yet again washed its slip cover. Shrinks a bit every time. Tug, yank, tug, yank... sigh. . Muttered... " should have grabbed that fab Hickory Chair sofa at the design center before Coviid....,what an idiot............, more muttering, yanking and tugging as that sucker, even wet, is like getting a condom oover a basketball. Finally? I threw out the back cushions. GONE! HAH! GENIUS!! I'll just have my pillows, I laid down and realized wonderful. As deep and cushy as a damn bed.

    Here, I shall confess ( Breathe, I want nobody to faint. ) For decades I have been unable to shake my love of needlepoint pillows. For........PINK. I can not be without,....some PINK. Now you know. It's my weakness. I feel NO urge to add the logical gray, did that nearly 35 years ago and almost died of depression. My pine cupboard? Thirty years and counting, bought in a fit of joy at a local antique show. My buillotte lamp? No WAY. Today that lamp is well over a grand from Decorative Crafts. Is it "out"? Well. It doesn't have a drum shade , does it? My bookcase unit? The thing is a put together of unfinished pieces. Dirt cheap and anchors a space with needed storage, in a place not given to a whole lot of architectural interest. Just incredible location - I can be anywhere in less than ten minutes...........alas.....as a client said upon entering."OMG!! You have PINK? and flower pillows, you don't seem the type!??" Yeah, honey....but you don't have to, right? : )" Oh... tulips. I must have them. Weekly. Preferably ....pink. The hide? Well yeah.... of course. Covid zshooosh.

    Can't show bedroom, bed not yet made, and then there is the issue of the idiot Covid treadmill : ( but yes, it has some......PINK.


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  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!
    2 years ago

    I am astonished that people think there is no such things as timeless design. Traditional furniture, even excellent modern furniture, coupled with personal style equals timeless. I see designer rooms from 20, 30 , 50 years ago that read utterly timeless.

  • PRO
    Sabrina Alfin Interiors
    2 years ago

    Agree @Zalco/bring back Sophie!. Pick up a book of Mark Sikes' interiors, for example, and those rooms will be gorgeous 3 decades from now. Traditional and transitional design tends to be more timeless because it's not trendy.

  • jmm1837
    2 years ago

    Zalco - it's not that I'm unaware of timeless design. It's that I don't want to be constrained by it. The examples I mentioned -deco and MCM - have moved from trendy in their eras to timeless now. If we always aspire to timeless, we lose the value of innovation.

  • hollybar
    2 years ago

    Zalco/bring back Sophie! Can't agree. Most "timeless" rooms are easily recognized as belonging to a certain decade. (check out Phaidon's 100 Greatest Rooms of the Century, you can pretty much guess the date of every one) Even with historic properties that have gone through various iterations, you can see/study/date the interior decoration evolution. (like at the fab Henry VIII/JohnFowler/Nicky Haslam Hunting Lodge) Doesn't mean some interiors are not still beautiful or functional. Just that one can date them with a certain degree of specificity. Now, an empty space...those can be harder to correctly assign to their era. So closest to timeless interior design.

    All that typed, "timeless" is the new "millennial pink" so I am sure we will all be reading the word ad infinitum. Until the new marketing buzzwords come along.

  • PRO
    JudyG Designs
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Contemporary design (in its true meaning) makes everything timeless.

    A painting from the 1800’s, mixed in with boho..



    An antique Oriental runner in a modern space.



    It is all in the investment.

    If I could go back to being first married, I would invest in one piece of art. It would stay with me forever, despite my fickle taste.


  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC
    2 years ago

    Good proportions, beautiful craftsmanship, honest, natural materials. all are timeless.

    Can be any style--Craftsman, 18th Century English/French/Swedish/American, Modern, Victorian--as long as it is done well, it's timeless.

  • cawaps
    2 years ago

    Zalco, there are definitely designs that I cannot date to a particular time period, usually high-end rooms where the owner bucked the trends of the day. But I do think that "timeless" routinely is applied to rooms that aren't. I have notably seen "timeless" used to describe kitchens that are clearly part of a historical revival trend (think Christopher Peacock scullery kitchens). Subway tile is timeless! (No it's not.) Shaker cabinets are timeless (no, they're not). The kitchen in the OP is not timeless; it reflects things that are popular right now. You would have to go back 80 or 90 years to the last time Shaker cabinets had this level of popularity (they have been "in" for quite a while now, but before that it was raised panel and before that it was slab in the mid-century period). Subway also has been in for 15 years or so after being out for 70 years. If you have a 1910 or 1920 house, sure, those things could look "timeless". If you have a 1990s McMansion, not so much. Choosing a kitchen design that matches the architecture of your house will help it from feeling dated, but it doesn't make it timeless either; it just makes it appropriate for the vintage of your house.


    I loved Jan's description of her interior design, though. Because it isn't about aspiring to be "timeless" in any objective way, it's about her choosing design to please herself. And since her tastes are seemingly pretty constant, she remains happy with her choices decade after decade.

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Yes, to above with the caveat you don't get stuck in ruts ! While just as in life, it takes time to "know yourself" , ( start from age 38 and no less than that ) also time to not CARE what anyone thinks ? Keeping things in good proportion, scale, .....leaving room for tweaks and updates and makes a room timeless for YOU.

    That's really the key. When you buy a big beast of a brown recliner sofa/sectional....no matter it's comfy - you are screwed. : ) When everything is low end...it all falls apart at the same time.

    I remember walking into a clients living room thirty years ago. It had been done fifteen years prior! I could walk in today, and not change a single thing, Her designer, now long deceased, was renowned for rooms like this. It's a skill. You can't really even teach it. It eschews fad, but is not without a surprise - like the orange grass cloth covered parsons table that was in that room! The single go with nothing element. It's art.......really. it is art.

    I later ran into that designer, introduced myself, and remarked on that memorable room. She pointed a gnarled and arthritic finger at me......" There are RULES my dear. There are RULES. !"

    I laughed, said " oh yes, agree! Many of them begging to be broken!"

    She was right, so too am I. You need a little courage now and then. More rooms have died from fear, than just about anything else. That, you can take to the bank.

  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!
    2 years ago

    Cawaps, I agree that the timeless designs tend to be in high end homes that eschew trends, though money is not necessary to get the look at all.

    I am not sure kitchens and bathrooms can ever be timeless, even when they adhere to the dictum of fitting well in the design of the house. Cpartist's kitchen most certainly seems timeless to me.

    The kitchen in the OP is lovely to me, timeless it is not.

  • lara1812
    2 years ago

    @Jazz Easy The Getty Villa (which you call the old Getty - and you're right, it is older) is based on a Roman country house, not an ancient Greek one.


    I would argue that the Getty Center, the newer, more modern, part of the museum, is also timeless. Just in a different way.

  • btydrvn
    2 years ago

    Unique is timeless

  • bllandreth
    2 years ago

    Did they even post the segment?

  • Astrid Hale
    2 years ago

    I also believe timeless means different things to different people

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    If you can't quite put your finger on a decade, a moment in time a room was done? Call it timeless. Nobody was better at that than Albert Hadley. He died at 91 leaving a legacy behind that includes all those whom he trained.

    I love what a client of his said, referring to Hadley, still designing in his eighties............

    “He’s still the hippest thing out there, “I don’t want it to be modern, and I don’t want it to be traditional. I want it to look interesting. Who else would I ask?”







    That word, "interesting"......was so often used to describe his work. Call it the "it factor", that je ne sais quoi factor, quite the opposite of oh! so cute and modern farmhouse.

    You know it when you see it, and you can't really date "IT".

    Fifty years ago.......Billy Baldwins own apartment. Has the "it" and even if you could have no idea a decade, you'd not run screaming from this room, today.



  • tartanmeup
    2 years ago

    That is how I've learnt to define timeless as well, JAN. Most of the time when I see these types of rooms though, they're furnished with expensive and often custom elements. That Billy Baldwin living room? That sofa was his design, right? (By the way, so many Houzzers today would tell him his rug is too small when in fact, who wants to vacuum under a sofa? This size is more practical, imo.) I remember someone in this forum sharing a pic of their living room. It had a sofa very similar to the one in that famous red library from Albert Hadley you shared above (Brooke Astor's?). So many comments about it being dated and old-fashioned and the first thing that needed to go.


    It's not easy for most of us to create these "interesting" rooms because most of us are limited in our resources and/or budget.

  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Jan, thank you so much for posting those "timeless" rooms. If you look at the Glam Pad blog, https://www.theglampad.comthere , there are many houses featured which are designed in a classic way. Kitchens however date because they feature appliances and imbedded trends that are hard to avoid.

    Tartan said,

    It's not easy for most of us to create these "interesting" rooms because most of us are limited in our resources and/or budget.

    This is true to a point. If you shun mainstream furniture and decorating stores and focus on buying used pieces, making things yourself and decorating with things that are personal, you will easily avoid the trendy, here today, gone tomorrow trap.

    NB By making things yourself, I mean turning personal items into decor, not making your own furniture, though that would certainly be helpful if you could ;-)