What's In? What's Out?

What's In?  What's Out?

By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News

Every so often I write a column about what’s in and what’s out in the world of decorating. This time, however, I’m concentrating mostly on what seems to be out. As always, I issue this caveat: What’s out can come back at a moment’s notice, especially these days when decorating photos can travel the globe in an instant via the internet.

Shag rugs, tile countertops with contrasting grout and kitchen appliances in harvest gold and avocado got the heave-ho years ago — yet I occasionally see retro-inspired rooms that feature these items. Thankfully, not very often, however.

And what’s out also often has to do with the technology that has replaced it. New electronics come along fast — and then, somehow, even faster. Remember swivel-base television sets that gave way to antique armoires fitted to hold bulky TVs? The advent of flat screens certainly did away with that decorating look.

In today’s world of decorating, ferns in pots are a no-no, at least for anyone who is the slightest bit avant-garde. And today’s up-to-date rooms certainly have no artificial plants, nor any of those waxy-looking bananas, apple and grape arrangements on the dining table in the Waterford cut-crystal bowl.

But speaking of designs that make comebacks, Waterford crystal seems to be enjoying somewhat of a resurgence, even among millennials, who like to add the touch of glistening to their table setting.

When it comes to the bedroom, on the “out” list are tufted leather or fabric-covered headboards and ruffled bed skirts of the frou-frou style.

Likewise, movie-star dressing tables surrounded by bulbs were fine in Greta Garbo’s days, but are certainly out in the days of Renée [Zellweger] and Reese [Witherspoon]. Lighted dressing mirrors are among the items that have seen remarkable advances in technology.

I’m sorry to say lace curtains seem to have been given the chop, except, perhaps, in the cottages in Ireland. Vertical blinds are definitely remnants of the past, although they still can work in commercial office settings.

The same goes for mini blinds — remember them? Wide-slat Venetian blinds and plantation shutters took their place and remain popular today.

Now, think about valances. Please don’t hang valances at your windows of a fabric that matches the slipcovers or the upholstery on the living room lounge chairs.

Reproduction Tiffany lamps, I suppose, might still find a new home somewhere — I know not where, but anywhere that’s not in the house. Time for a garage sale, perhaps.

And the Tuscan look in decorating — with heavy bronze-like lighting pendants hung over the kitchen counter — also is a no-no! Keep the Tuscan look in Tuscany or maybe use it for a touch (only a touch!) in Arizona.

A no-no, too, is the haphazard appearance of retro furniture in an otherwise classically styled room. I’ve seen this retro look along with modern art surfacing lately in traditionally decorated hospitality settings, and it’s almost always jarring, a moment of madness in the decorating world.

Some say zebra rugs on bare floors are out, but I disagree. Form your own opinion since you know mine.

The same goes for finishing your walls — please yourself. But I’d definitely recommend against choosing a 1960s-style super graphic wall hanging or mylar-silver wallpaper.

As far as bathrooms are concerned, subway tiles may be in vogue but I fear they will look passé in a year or so. I recommend using as few tiles in bathrooms as possible — just for baseboards and shower enclosures. Small, glittery tiles are the preference of today.

Now, here’s the kicker: If you prefer to live in the past, forget all my musings about ins and outs. Remember that one of the most important aspects of decorating is to be happy in your space. Do as you wish.

But keep an open mind, I say.


  • Kathy Rivenbark on

    Thank you, Mr. Varney! We just finished painting, and having new floors put down in our family room. Many friends have suggested that I get rid of my armoire that houses a small flatscreen tv. I just can’t. We never watch tv, and I was so happy the day I finally got that armoire 20 years ago! Anyway, she is being moved back in today. One more thing…I believe you met my twin granddaughters at the Greenbrier this past weekend. My daughter and son-in-law were thrilled at how kind you were to the girls! Thank you so much. We visited the Greenbrier 2 years ago. Can’t wait to go back!💗💚💗

  • Lou Barone on

    I so look forward to your E-Mail every Saturday.

    I have been following you for years. (Ever since my husband and I stayed at “The Grand Hotel” in Mackinac Island in 1986 or 87. My husband bought me a beautiful piece of jewelry in the gift shop. A
    gold chair with an amethyst stone for the seat.. It is my favorite piece of jewelry. It is also my grand daughters’ favorite. I told her she has to wait till I die to have it. When she graduated High school (2010) I called The Hotel & they said you were not designing them anymore. I was disappointed, but did not give up. She finished her college program for her Nursing Program 2018 and I looked you up on line and found the chair. Got her one with a ruby seat for graduation, PS I’m a nurse also. Happy ending to my story. We both love our little chairs,..THANK YOU Lou Barone Ocean City, N.J.

  • Beverly Raney on

    I look forward to the weekly writings of this wonderful gentleman!
    Informative and well said with a touch of humor.
    Thank you Carleton for sharing your decorating wisdom! You are loved!

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