I used to say that I hated anything “fake” or “faux” – anything that was trying to fool you into thinking that it was real, when it wasn’t. This included water bras, cubic zirconium and female (or male) butt implants. But that’s not the case anymore – at least not in the home realm. I love engineered wood (and wish I had installed that in our house), I have fake logs in my fireplace (and love the ease of it), I don’t mind some bonded leather, I LOVE a lot of polyester that looks like linen or velvet (for durability and stain resistant reasons), I prefer faux fur over the real stuff and Lord knows my weekly spray tan is integral to my life these days.
But when something is “faux old” or “antiqued” I get upset. There are a few larger culprits of this in the home design world that I consider a design mistake, and should be avoided when possible (and it’s almost always possible). I get that people want a traditional/antique look (I do, too), and often that can be expensive, but going for a faux aged piece is a mistake and will look cheap, tacky, and cheesy. So lets “out” those major culprits and hopefully put a stop to both the manufacturing and consuming of them.
1. Faux Painted Shabby Chic: People are still doing this, and it’s just so weird. Anything that has been scraped or sanded to purposefully look run down is bad, and it doesn’t work. An old chippy painted chest can be beautiful, but buying a piece that has been treated that way, always looks just like that – a new piece that has been treated. DIY-ing a piece to look like that almost always just looks try-hard and tacky.
Don’t do that. Instead I found many new pieces that give you the antique feeling, without being fauxed.
If you want a traditional feel, look for antique and classic lines (a curve of a leg, some carving) in classic finishes (wood, marble, upholstery, brass or silver). Avoid pieces that look like they’ve been treated or scraped to look like it’s survived decades.
2. Faux Industrial: This style has become so popular that even larger companies are making fake factory carts, and treating them with paint that is supposed to look all rusty. You can absolutely buy simple industrial style pieces, pieces that reference the style without pretending to be original and old. But please stay away from anything that looks all fake “ye-oldie.” Furthermore, real old industrial-factory pieces are easy to find at flea markets or thrift stores.
To be fair individual pieces, like these above, can be fine, and if you have one or two don’t cancel Thanksgiving at your house. But opt for some of these instead:
These all feel industrial without having any fake aging. Look for simple black or colored metal shaped furniture and accessories that have simple lines in very utilitarian shapes/finishes.
3. Faux Old Wall and Floor Treatments: If you recently installed “hand scraped” flooring or faux marbled your walls stop reading right here, PLEASE. If you are about to do one of those things then please, please read on.
Hand scraped flooring came about so that many commercial or larger residential projects (like apartment buildings) wouldn’t look like they had scratches or dents after a lot of wear and tear – as the flooring is actually full of dents, otherwise known as “hand scraping.”
Now I don’t know if it’s actually scraped by hand or not, but regardless it’s meant to look older and it doesn’t. It just looks like a machine has purposefully scraped it.
This is a really expensive mistake and I apologize to all of you who have made this one, because undoing it is neither easy or cheap, and you should just forget you ever read this. It’s also NOT that big of a deal, I promise, and I have seen some that are TOTALLY fine. The last thing I want is for people to be super bummed by these posts, but at the same time I also know that I can catch a few people from making a potentially less-great expensive decision.
I know that reclaimed wood flooring is often cost-prohibitive, so here are some great wood flooring options that I think look really good in an old house (or a new house where you want that ‘modern farmhouse’ feeling). Disclaimer: I have not seen all of these in person (one is even a laminate that looks REALLY good online) so please order samples before you just purchase.
1. Oak Engineered Plank | 2. Mohawk Industries Vintage | 3. Miseno Sonoma | 4. Mohawk Pure Maple Natural | 5. Grey Mist Hickory | 6. Mohawk Crema Maple | 7. Mohawk Flint Maple | 8. Mediterranee Oak | 9. Smoked White Oak
We have the same problem with walls. Some people are drawn to an older texture on the wall. I’m assuming there aren’t a lot of you in the audience that do this, but just in case we need to call it out. If you live in anything post 1930 then you should probably not put a heavy plaster-look on your walls. If you live in a castle in Spain, then you may. Same with marbling – don’t do it. I LOVE a rustic French chateau look, where the walls have been painted a million times and the plaster is thick and uneven, but that’s because its true to the style and original to the home. Do not do this:
People do the above when they want just a bit of texture and movement on the walls, and they think it adds character, charm and age to a space. Unfortunately this is not true. But it is possible to do it in a modern, fresh way. So, my new favorite thing to do (and something that I’ll be talking about more this year) is a lime-wash paint. I did it in my new guest suite (that you haven’t seen yet) and it looks beautiful. It’s not trying to look old, but it is a texture that has movement. I bought mine at Portola and while it hasn’t been photographed yet, trust me that it is BEAUTIFUL. Very similar to this:
It’s subtle and isn’t trying to add “age,” yet adds so much character, depth and texture.
In conclusion . . . fake “old” very, very, very rarely works. The best thing you can do to avoid it is to buy things that are legitimately old, and if that is out of budget or unavailable (or sometimes not functional anymore), then think about buying pieces that reference being an antique without having a faux finish.
**Disclaimer – I haven’t seen every single faux-ed piece of furniture or wall in the world, and I’m sure there are some beautiful versions of these bad ones that I’ve outlined above. These design mistake posts are general guidelines, from my years of experience, but there may certainly exist some faux aged pieces by some DIY folk that are lovely. I will say that I don’t mind faux mercury glass pieces and often an ‘aged brass’ fixture is perfect.
In case you missed any of our other design mistakes/PSA’s, head on over to these posts: The Generic Sofa Roundup | Rugs That Are Too Small | Painting a Small, Dark Room White | How To Hang Art Correctly | How to Hang Curtains.