Emily Henderson

Keep It Real ...

Design Mistake: Anything “Antiqued” or “Faux Old”

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Antique Inspired Furniture

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.

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Shabby Chic

Don’t do that. Instead I found many new pieces that give you the antique feeling, without being fauxed.

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Roundup_Antique Inspired Furniture Accessories

1. Side Chair | 2. Black Chest | 3. Marble Lamp | 4. Headboard | 5. Mirror | 6. White Secretary Dresser | 7. Bookends | 8. Sofa | 9. Chandelier | 10. Tufted Bench | 11. Dinnerware | 12. Pillows

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.

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Industrial_Bad

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:

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Roundup_Industrial Inspired Furniture Accessories

1. Leather Sling Chair | 2. Chandelier | 3. Dustpan | 4. Metal Nesting Tables | 5. Canvas Basket | 6. Bed | 7. Table | 8. Stool | 9. Pendant Light | 10. Side Table | 11. Concrete Lamp | 12. Stool

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.”

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Hand Scraped_Bad

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.

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Side By Side_Handscraped Floor

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.

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Roundup_New Wood Flooring

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:

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Textured Walls_Texture

or this:

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Textured Walls_Texture_Side By Side_Bad

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:

Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Textured Walls_Texture_Lime Wash
Design Mistakes_Faux No Mo_Textured Walls_Texture_Side By Side_Good

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.

***limewash photo sources: 1, 2, 3 

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  1. Really great design advice here!!! Thanks so much for sharing this.

    BTW, Emily, can you please share the link of how you hand painted the Target glass lamps in your Guest Room Makeover? The post said you were going to share a DIY on that but I couldn’t’ fine it. :)

  2. I love the lime wash, I cant wait to see your new guest suite! As someone living in a 1925 rental with real aged wood floors, I can’t say that I want choose to faux replicate it! They’re uneven and nicked!

  3. I was wandering thru an “antique store” the other day, and there were painted pieces that were supposed to “look old” but actually only looked like they had 1 coat of paint but need 2. At first, when those were few and far between and done well, I was drawn to them…but now, I can’t even look. So many are done so poorly. The market is saturated!! (I also secretly enjoy searching craifslists and finding and gawking the best examples of what not to do to “refinish” a piece.)

    1. There is sooo much of this on Craigslist, people refinishing with a “shabby chic” look and then selling it as a value-add.

      Another thing I do on craigslist to amuse myself is look for “chester” in furniture. You might even find a “shabby-chic” “chester” if you’re lucky!

        1. Someone buying a dresser from me actually CORRECTED me when I said “chest of drawers.” “Honey,” she said, “I’m so sorry to embarrass you but it’s called a Chester Drawers.” *facepalm*

  4. I’m sad you didn’t call out badly antiqued bronze and brass and nickel finishes. I’ve seen so much bad metal that’s pre-patinaed in a totally unbelievable way, and sometimes it’s then coated in a gross lacquer that peels off and reveals the faux-ness for what it was. So bad. Consumer-quality metals in the home (door hardware, lighting, even oven knobs) have really cheaped out over time.

    1. One of my favorite thrift store finds ever was a pair of gorgeous vintage Stiffel lamps with a lovely, really patina. That fake patina is so weird.

  5. LOVE these posts – I read this post just in time (phew)… we are doing a total gut reno to our new home. I want to install laminate because it is more durable and a better choice for this phase of our life. I have been seriously considering the ‘hand scraped’ because in some homes that I have seen it looked and felt more real to me. So what I am getting from this post then is just do a flat finish with laminate? You think that looks more ‘real’?

    Second question – I love the look of marble for flooring but again, for durability, I was looking at white porcelain with grey veining (white subway tile in the shower)…. does this qualify as looking just ‘fake’ or ‘cheap’? Help!

    1. Hi, Melissa.
      We actually found a laminate very similar to Emily’s floor recommendation number 1 in color. It has some texture, but isn’t like the handscraped manufactured looking textures. It looks like old barnwood, but has the ease of laminate. We have small kids and a large dog, and a real wood floor would have been too expensive an investment in our starter home neighborhood. We found it at Floor and Decor Outlet.

      1. I was shocked at how good some of the laminates are in person. They look just like real wood. I don’t know if I would do them in a really old house, but man, for durability sake they are soooo good for how real they look. nobody would know. our ‘real wood’ floors are soooooooooo beautiful but they dent so easily.

    2. I’ve seen some really excellent porcelain made to look like marble, and I’m personally not opposed to it at all, especially if you intend to use it on the floor. If you pick one that looks “real” enough, I think it’s a totally reasonable place to save money and maintenance. It also passes the “does this make sense?” test. As in, it’s perfectly reasonable to see 1×2 or 2×2 marble tiles on floors, so it doesn’t seem out of place in that environment, whereas an 8 x 20 wall of golden marble is highly unlikely to occur in a suburban home.

    3. Have you considered LVT/LVP (luxury vinyl tile/plank) instead of the laminate? It is a great alternative to hardwood – durable, easy to install, looks really nice.
      Good luck with your renovation!

    4. Hey Melissa! I’m no Emily but I love her style and work in the flooring industry. I completely agree with Sarah in terms of the glazed porcelain “faux marble”. A lot of times you can put them side by side and can’t tell the difference. Stay away from the “faux tumbled marble” though! In reference to the laminate, I might suggest a “wire scraped” look in a laminate. It’s a flat, matte surface, but it has a physical texture to it, as if it’s been scraped by wires (absolutely zero waves!!!). It’s very easy to live on and has a natural feel to it! It’s definitely something you have to see and feel in person though, as you’re not likely to be able to see its texture in an image on the computer.

  6. this is a great post, team emhen! i have to say, i have never understood the appeal of ‘hand scraped’ hardwood floors. they just look like the homeowner is trying way too hard. but if a ‘faux’ solution ups the durability factor and looks plausible, i’m all about it. as you pointed out, there are some great laminate (and even tile!) options out there for those of us (read: large dogs) who are hard on their floors but want them to be aesthetically pleasing.

    1. Yes!!! I’m in a vintage yard sale group on Facebook and I wish I had all the money in the world to buy all the antiques before people paint them with chalk paint.

  7. I remember ‘sponging’ my son’s nursery in the early 90’s. It was absolutely ugly, it kinda looked like my stretch marked stomach.

  8. We installed pine floors which are CHEAP and then used tung oil. Pine is soft and gets dented but since we don’t have a poly coat, it doesn’t looking scratched and plasticky. And I don’t have to worry about it wuitj four kids and a whole lot of trucks and dance parties.

  9. So, I have the floors. They the real deal, oak hardwoods. Installed, hand scraped and stained and poly’d on site. They were in the house when we bought it and when I wanted more wood I matched it. I would probably not have picked these on my own, but they have made it possible for my large dogs to be less destructive. Since you are a cat person, I am guessing the “I must own a 90 pound Labrador disease” has never been a part of your flooring decision making world. ?

    1. I think there’s a big difference between the pre-finished “hand scraped” and the stained on site versions. Something about flooring finished on site makes it look more authentic. I have the “I must own a 75 pound and 35 pound Hound disease” and our original 1950s oak flooring, which was refinished and stained a natural color shortly before we bought it, has held up SUPER well to their running around and wrestling, and our frequent vacuuming.

    2. I’m sure they are beautiful. I would have done the same thing. When you have a quality feature, like real hardwood floors, I’d *almost* always say to keep them/leave them alone.

      At some point our beautiful, original, solid, 125 year old, red oak floors were “refinished” by a previous owner…they were sanded perfectly smooth and look exactly like laminate flooring now. I kid you not.

    3. Part of my problem with the faux hand-scraped stuff is that it is so perfect and uniform that you can tell the scraping isn’t real. I find the real deal looks much nicer.

    4. We’re installing oil finished oak this year in the house and I’m really looking forward to it. Even though you have to oil them every so often making the maintenance more intensive than regular finished hardwood being able to hide the scratches with another coat of oil really appeals to me. We’re looking to get a dog soon so it’ll be well worth the extra work to keep the floors looking scratch free

    5. Nichole – same, same, same. LOL @ people judging the “faux hand-scraped” wood floors. With 2 medium-large dogs, that’s the least of my concerns. I’m choosing to believe that I can still have a tasteful home despite my “faux-pas” flooring, since I don’t happen to have a money tree in my backyard.

      Besides – rugs, duh.

  10. I love this series SO much, especially because you provide solutions in addition to critiques. Those flooring pictures you showed look beautiful, but I also think people need to remember that pre-finished flooring isn’t their only option, and that flooring stained after the fact can wear a little more naturally. I also really like the look of the lime wash, but I’m a little confused because it feels like it’s faking it pretty hard. Especially in the two bottom pictures, those walls are obviously being made to look like concrete or plaster and I’m guessing they aren’t. It is miles better than the 90s faux finishing, but it looks like it’s trying to be old school paint over plaster, or a natural weathering over concrete. Even the website refers to it as a look with “weathered patina”, and how does one’s drywall-era bedroom wall become so weathered (do I want to know)? I’m still excited to learn more about it, though, because it does look pretty cool!

  11. Even though shabby chic isn’t my style, milk paint and chalk paint can do wonders to help restore an old piece in need of restoring that still needs to look old that perhaps someone destroyed by trying to refinish it poorly. Just because this style is clearly not in your wheelhouse you can’t discount it entirely.
    Also, you have a real problem with “faux industrial” but have a link to a TARGET bed??? Made in China, mass produced and imported Target bed… Yeah, no. I don’t usually comment negatively, Emily, but here I feel you are talking out of the side of your you-know-what on a couple of these.

    1. I don’t think that was hypocritical at all. In the explanation it says: “You can absolutely buy simple industrial style pieces, pieces that reference the style without pretending to be original and old.” The stuff from Target is referencing industrial styles, but it doesn’t have fake rust painted on it.

    2. I kind of expected some pushback on this post, simply because the “shabby chic” movement has such a devoted following. I think within Emily’s aesthetic, this post makes a lot of sense. However, I think that there are a lot of people who make these choices and make them happily. I would just consider it food for design thought, and only apply it if it makes sense to you personally. For example, based on her advice and a review of my Pinterest boards, I bought a much larger and lighter rug for my family room and LOVE the results. At the same time, I shortened the curtains in my son’s room to hang only about a foot below the sill because he kept draping them over his chair. Emily says curtains that length are a design mistake, but I am happy with my choice. ;)

  12. Emily, I don’t know anything about lime wash and I love the look you have shown above. Would you do a piece on lime wash and how too do it some time?

  13. Me! It’s me! You just saved me from buying “hand scraped” flooring. I’ve been looking for flooring for a while and I found one this week on sale that was hand scraped and since I thought it was fine looking I was going to pull the trigger this weekend. As soon as I read this post I felt . . . relief! I’m going to make sure I LOVE the flooring I buy instead of just buying what is on sale. Thanks for the tip to avoid hand scraped flooring! BTW- I LOVE all the design PSA’s.

    1. My advice is to get an unfinished wood and have it sanded/finished onsite. The pre-finished wood pieces always have a beveled edge to the boards which jumps out at you from a mile away (not to mention traps dirt).

  14. I have agreed with your design mistakes posts thus far, but kinda disagree with this one. Don’t worry, still love you and still a fan! I wondered why, in your book, when doing the quiz of finding our style that you didn’t have any farmhouse or shabby chic (vintage) or any style near them as one of the styles….
    I loved the quiz however just for fun! ~Kim

    1. I agree….feels very much like just because Emily doesn’t like these styles that no one should? I mean, while the first picture of the faux finished paint made me shudder a little, that isn’t my home so why judge others who like that style? I have seen friends who have done that look and pulled it off…still not my jam, but to each there own!

      1. There are hundreds of blogs that cater to the shabby chic look if that’s what you are into. This is not one of those blogs. I’m not sure why as a designer, people feel Emily is required to love every style out there. If you don’t like what she’s saying, maybe go read one of those other blogs to get your shabby chic fix?

        1. Kellie, I think they don’t mean that Emily is REQUIRED to love every style but she should have Shabby Chic or Farmhouse in her STYLE QUIZ. Which is in her book. And many people actually did her quiz. And many people are into Shabby Chic or Farmhouse style. That’s what they’re saying. :)

        2. I think you have missed the point Katie- It is not that the shabby chic style is not on Emily’s blog, it is that Emily is usually open to all design options and this post is very against a few. I am actually a bit surprised that Emily wrote this. It seems a bit hypocritical and petty. Usually these posts are great, but this one is just making fun of people’s design choices instead of saying how to do things better.

          Also, let it be known, I am not a fan of shabby chic, hand scraped flooring, faux textured walls, or faux marble. The difference is that I would not make fun of or put down those who are. There were better ways to do this post; the way it was done is just not nice.

  15. Some have asked a similar question, but I’m considering the tile that looks like wood. Not scraped wood, more like light grey wood. I have 8, yes 8, dogs and 5 of them weigh more than 50lbs so the tile would likely be more cost effective AND more durable. Thoughts? I heart your blog!

  16. These posts make me want to stop getting your emails. While I agree with some of these topics and actually have not done any of what you have mentioned in my own home, they are very judgmental. You even start the post by saying you have changed your mind on things over the years. Who is to say that your mind is not going to change on these topics next year? You tend to go back and forth on your opinion on things, which is fine, but why put down other people’s style in the process? How about bring us more posts that inspire instead of put down? Design is personal! Not everything you do is the right way, so why act like it is?

    1. I totally agree. There has to be ways of expressing your design preferences while not putting down other people’s preferences. While the examples of the painted furniture in the first pictures are not my style, how are #2 and #6 in the recommended alternatives any different? They are just stupid expensive painted furniture. #6 has “hand-painted” right in its description! Sorry that I don’t have $1,100 to spend on someone else’s hand-painted desk nor do I want to have all Target and Ikea furniture in my home, which is the extent of my budget limitations if I want new furniture. I’d much prefer buying a real wood but ugly old dresser for cheap from a second hand store and make it feel modern and fresh with a couple of coats of paint. And it won’t cost anywhere near $1,100.

      1. I think what she is trying to get readers to avoid is the “faux distressed” look where you paint something then sand the edges and beat it around with a hammer to make it look old. Painting an older piece is totally different-Emily does this all the time with fantastic results! The point is it isn’t trying to be something it’s not, which can come off as cheesey.

        1. If the older piece wasn’t painted to begin with, then merely painting it sans distressing is STILL making it something it wasn’t. Some people like this look…some don’t. End of story.

      2. When words like “Cheap” and “tacky” and “will always look as such” .. are used…that kind of stings. I have found myself staring at my aqua painted furniture and feeling… kind of like the kid who has all the wrong clothes and the fake “nikes”. Maybe instead of making these “cheap and tacky” readers feel shitty about “design mistakes” Maybe with your HUGE platform, maybe help readers with what to do..NOT what to BUY, but what to DO with all the cheap and tacky shabby chic painted furniture that maybe THEY TOO am growing weary of…Maybe ideas for painting it that would look less “cheap and tacky”. But the snarkiness and the “better than” tone of this piece.. has a tendency to invite more snarkiness…. like the commenter who says..”the majority of these culpits are not reading your blog and are quite content to continue buying badly faked items because they don’t know any better and even if you gave them an alternative if it cost more they’d still go with the bad fake”… seriously? that is just plain mean and that makes me sad.

      3. Yes, and I think it’s a little funny to say some things are trying to be real but are fake and some are not. It’s all trying to be something. I grew up in the seventies and the new vintage target stuff looks fake to me. I could never live with that.
        It looks too manufactured to look authentic.
        Also to say that someone should just go get an expensive piece of furniture instead of enjoying the art of remaking something makes me sad. I don’t like new furniture. It often smells like lacquer paint and feels cold. But sometimes it’s a better choice. For most of us it’s a balanceing act that needs to include variety and artfulness for our souls.
        Sorry the new old looks more fake to me than the re-newed old.

    2. Designers are paid to have a point of view. That means she likes some things and she dislikes other things. The fact that readers have a different point of view on some items is normal. She shouldn’t have to put a disclaimer at the bottom of each post saying this is just her opinion. Style is 100% subjective. Just take what you like from lots of different designers.

      Yes, Emily doesn’t like Shabby Chic! That shouldn’t come as any surprise. Let her have her opinion. That’s what she gets paid for.

      1. There are links at the bottom of the page linking these pictures to other people’s blogs. That is just bad taste! That is why this is a judgmental post – not a inspiring or helpful one. One that helps other at the expense of someone else is not something I can support! Plus, how is Target not mass manufactured?

        1. she wasn’t referring to “mass manufactured”. she is clearly talking about mass manufactured trying to look like it was found in an old factory.

        2. The links to people’s personal blogs with their projects also made me sad. Especially because those bloggers are going to start getting traffic from here and they will follow it back to this article :( I know the intent of this article wasn’t to make anyone feel bad personally, but using other people’s blogs for photos of what not to do might be an unintentional public shaming. So I think using only store photos/products to illustrate what to avoid would have been the better way to go.

          1. I see no links provided for the projects that are made examples of, only links to the beautiful lime wash photos and to the products Emily suggested.

        3. Hey Lauren, we took these off (I didn’t know they were on there, actually). I feel terrible. As to everyone else, yep, its just my opinion and i’m only talking about the fake stuff. I love the real stuff when its chippy and distressed I PROMISE. I love legitiment antiques, the older and more distressed the better. Just not the new stuff trying to look old.

          1. Maybe it will be better next time someone check the post before it goes published because, I think I’m late to this, didn’t see any link to “design mistakes”. I think it’s awful to call out someone for their works to be “design mistakes”. I am trying to start my own blog and freelance career in my tiny country (in Asia) so I know I will be devastated if someone took my DIY or designs and slap it with a “design mistake” label.

    3. I didn’t get that Emily was “putting down” a particular style but rather that faux/fake versions of said style look dated and possibly cheap.

      1. i agree with Lindsay. she’s talking about pretending something is old. that faking it always looks cheesy, not that the style is cheesy.

  17. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

    Can we add fake brick walls in buildings that are not constructed of brick?

  18. Such a great post! In the Industrial Inspired product list the link to table #7 isn’t working, but I would love to know where it’s from.

  19. Yes to everything!!! Another thing I find funny is the fact that back when each piece of truly antique furniture was new, it didn’t look old and tattered. It looked new because it was new! So really, if you want to go traditional, you should have it look like a new room did 200 years ago (or whenever). Not like the room would look if all the furniture was left in a damp barn until you pulled it out today! :) Wonderful post!

  20. Hi Emily, I really love this feature on your blog. I’ve been a huge fan since your Secrets from a Stylist days. That being said, I was so disappointed when I got to the bottom of today’s post and realized that some of the photos you used to feature these design “mistakes” are photos used in tutorials on people’s blogs. While the techniques they used may not be your taste or mine, there’s no reason you needed to choose photos that belong to real people that might be readers of your blog. I can’t imagine their reactions when they get an uptick in traffic from your blog, only to realize it’s because they are being featured for something you deem a mistake. I am sure there’s plenty of stock photos or photos from retailers that you could have chosen instead.

  21. People need to take a step back from all these posts and not take them so personally?

    I think for a lot of what Emily is mentioning, you need to be a professional to pull them off and pull them off well. Mid century pieces here and there looks great for example but I would not do my house full mid century without an outside eye and a professional. Similarly, I think, to all the things above.

    Also we are here to get her take on things. A real life stylist, designer person! How great is the Internet for these kinds of things! She is saving you from a potentially expensive mistake or you would just cover up your floors with a vintage rug! And if you don’t like the advice, don’t take it! Part of the wonderfulness of sponge painting the walls in the 80s, shabby chic-ing in the 90s, and zebra-ing all the things in the 00′ is the fun of it. If you love it, do it!

    1. Not taking anything personal, as nothing she mentioned hits home with anything I have done myself. However, I can think of a million and one ways to go about explaining dos and don’ts of design that don’t involve putting down other people’s tastes, style and actual photos from other people’s blogs.

      And for the love of God, can we me sent to buy something that isn’t sold at Target?

  22. Yes, thank you! Especially that over-Tuscaned 90’s textured wall treatment one. The alternative you gave reminds me of what Jersey Ice Cream Co does to some of their walls, which I LOVE.

  23. I share your opinion on all of this, so it might hurt a little bit, but if this post saves someone from adding “faux” anything to their home, that’s a good thing.

    All of the walls in our 70s home have a stucco texture- I’ve seen/heard it called “chicken feet” or “stomp” or “rosebud” texture. Just… why???? Would love to know who to blame for this…
    We purchased the house last year and it doesn’t bother me that much, because all of the walls are painted a matte light grey so it masks it a bit. But I feel like I don’t want to make any big design changes, event painting the walls, without tackling that first. And it’s a messy job that would need to be done professionally because I don’t feel capable of actually DIY smoothing it out properly, especially in the 2 rooms with vaulted ceilings. I don’t lose sleep over it, but this post just reminds me… ugh, my plight.

    1. how do you feel about grasscloth wallpaper? It would cover the texture and be less offensive, but it depends on your style.

      1. Thanks, I love grasscloth, it’s beautiful and makes me reminisce of my grandmother’s den. Grannie is a frequent design inspiration for me! I’m sure there would be some smoothing in the process but wallpaper is actually a great idea for the smaller bedrooms. One room at a time, I guess!

  24. Yes yes yes, a thousand times, yes. I have a 125 year old house. I love my old floors, patches and all, but I would never NEVER put in new “old” floors. Although I don’t think they are terrible in new construction. I just think that in a few years they might feel very 2015.

    As for “antiquing” pieces…again, I so agree. I have stripped paint off of old wooden furniture and given up before actually getting to the perfectly clean wood stage, but it’s REAL, not faux-looking.

    As for old furniture and antiques, I find it is FAR less expensive to source from used furniture stores and auctions than to purchase new reproductions. I sort of feel that once you go this route though, you kind of need to stick with it. The scale of furniture has changed quite a bit over the years. Especially in places like a dining room. When choosing upholstered pieces, I tend towards new furniture in classic styles (chesterfield, etc.) but in a natural (or natural looking) fabric.

    One place I have gone the vintage style is in some of our rug choices. The “real” antique, and/or overdyed wool and silk rugs are far out of my budget. I have several synthetic, “faded/distressed” styles and while I can see that they do not look authentic, it doesn’t bother me too much on a day to day basis.

    I am really struggling right now about what to do with our kitchen. I was actually considering chalk-paint for the cabinets, but reading this post pulled me back to center.

      1. I Don’t know! That’s what I was going to do. Just to have that rich, matte finish…and supposedly it sticks to cabinets really well? I’m just afraid it will come off as too “rustic.”

        Instead think I might go with a simple chalk white, or light “greige” satin or semi-gloss in traditional paint. The kitchen already has original exposed brickwork from the old stove flu AND I added a wall of that anthropologie etched arcadia wallpaper, so I don’t want every inch of it to be too “special.” We can’t have everyone getting whiplash!

    1. I am just too lazy (and have an 11 month old!) to sand, prime, and paint all of our cabinets. Our new kitchen is huge and the cabinets are that yucky maple orange stain. I hate them, and chalk paint seems like the quickest way to cover their ickiness. And the matte finish makes me really happy. I think I’ll go for it– you do it too!!!

      1. Julia – I have used chalk paint regularly (I like it a lot better than milk paint). I wouldn’t leave it on heavy use cabinets without some sort of top coat. It absorbs any kind of grease or dirt like crazy – even regular fingerprints, especially if you have just put on any kind of lotion. You want to be able to scrub your cabinets in case spaghetti sauce goes everywhere and these will just absorb the stain if unfinished. I’ve usually done the wax, but it can take a long time to ‘cure’ and get hard and frankly isn’t that scrubbable. I just used water based clear satin poly instead for my daughter’s dresser (that girl can destroy ANYTHING) and I really like it. It was easier than I thought it would be, didn’t smell, and looks great. I did three coats of the heavy use stuff in an effort to help it survive her ‘creativity.’ Good luck to you!

    2. Chalk paint plain will look like any matte paint when finished – you are not at all required to distress or wax it. However, for longevity you would want to do a coating – wax eventually gives a beautiful patina when done right, but requires upkeep. Or you can do Poly (water based polycrylic or oil-based polyurethane [not for white – it yellows as you have experienced]), clear shellac, or varnish.

      With a child I would look for a water-based poly in a matte finish as least smelly. FYI shellac is the most child-friendly finish because it’s completely non-toxic if they chew but water poly would be less smelly while applying. Unless you think the child will chew the cabinets – idk I don’t have kids. You can always paint now and then coat later. I recently painted my cabinets with SW ProClassic which doesn’t require a top coat but requires long dry-time so there’s a trade.

  25. Ok so the faux shabby chic really threw me off because I love that look but completely agree with you to not make it look old, actually buy old!! Thank you for your insight on that!

  26. Your disclaimer cracks me up, haha. I completely 100% agree about the painted shabby chic look. Eeeevery once in a while I come across an example that isn’t completely awful but the vast majority of them are. A genuine antique with chippy paint can be so beautiful though, so I get why people try. I’m in a Facebook group for buying and selling “Shabby Chic and Repurposed” because a lot of the stuff on there is actually good vintage… but man have I seem some stuff.

    Regarding faux finished walls, I literally just published a post in which I proclaimed my love for plaster walls with all that texture. Of course I would want REAL plaster, and only if it made sense for the house. Jersey Ice Cream Company plasters a lot of the walls in the homes they design and I find it so drool-worthy. While part of me started to feel upset that you don’t think it’s right for any home post 1930 (because I don’t know if I’ll ever own a home that old although I’d like to), I’m also really glad for the lime wash suggestion! It accomplishes much the same feel.

  27. I love these mistakes you have brought up. I have a home decor and DIY blog. I collaborate with other bloggers frequently and there is still a large group that want to work on weathered, chipped paint pieces. It is something I have never been able to get into. If I want old and used I want the real deal. I do like the industrial look and the idea of people finding them in stores who are unwilling or cannot see the possibilities in used real pieces is a great option. Love your list and so relieved none of my usual decorating habits are on here! Go me!

  28. Bless you for having the guts to say it!!! No more faux shabby chic! Those words bring vomit to my mouth and cause my eyes to roll up in my head. lol. I live in Georgia–I think it may be worse here than anywhere! Friends and family always ask for my design advice, but then send me pics of faux “shabby chic” crap and I’m like “do you!”. Why even ask when they know I don’t like that style???

    1. Haha! I’d actually love a post about how to handle those calls and texts. I really struggle with how to handle it gracefully because I have a hard time lying and letting them go off down the ugly route, but how to stop them without being a total jerk.

      I will say, I found I must ALWAYS find out how far along they are first. “What do you think of this tile for my kitchen?” “Did you buy it yet?” hahaha it helps a lot to frame up my answer.

  29. I say the exact same thing all the time, stuff pretending to be something it isn’t is the worst! It’s just cheesy. And it’s all you see on HGTV now (when are you coming back!?). I love a farmhouse look, but I like it done in an authentic way, blending in antiques, but mostly being built from pieces that reference the style like the ones you posted above because that’s what I can afford right now. The faux stuff has to be done VERY WELL and that’s rare.

    Although like you I have been known to change my opinion! I am currently installing quartz counters that reference marble, after learning how annoying marble is to care for and seeing how people like Studio McGee are installing marble-like quartz with gorgeous results! At one point I would have scoffed at that!

    And please, PLEASE keep posting Target links. I live in a small town, so Target is somewhere I can actually shop. And I love seeing how you take their pieces and incorporate them in a high/low mix. Plus with the Target Red Card and free shipping, it’s super easy to shop online. I don’t see this as selling out, because you have been repping Target items since before they hired you! Please don’t stop! You help me find stuff that I walk right past in the store!

    1. I agree with the quartz/marble thing, which is why the whole post wasn’t ‘i hate faux’ because faux can be soooo practical. Just faux old is not (in my maybe-not-so-humble-opinion-anymore),

  30. Love this post, thank you Emily. Very helpful as always :)
    I have never liked shabby chic etc and now I think I understand why!
    To those who don’t agree with this post… you can always go and read another blog which you do agree with :) Keep up the great content Emily!

  31. You have to be careful about buying the truly old painted chipped stuff if you have young kids around… a lot of it has lead paint. At the very least, it you’re going to buy old vs. creating or buying repros (when it comes to the painted and chipped/distressed look), get a lead paint test kit and then figure out what to do if it comes out positive.

  32. I think the theme of this post is: Too Much Fake looks Fake. If you like the idea of something looking fake, then go for it. Lots of people like faux-finish. I don’t care for them, but that personal taste.

    The criticism with faux-old (shabby chic paint, painted rust, fake marble, manufactured “hand-scraped” look) is really that there is way to much going on. There is too much contrast, too little subtly, and that makes the fake-ness show.

    All these people bent out of shape need to understand that the difference in how fake something looks depends on how much pattern, contrast, and un-even character. Not the fact that its a fake.

    Fake can be well done and look less fake, maybe not even noticeably fake. Think fake boobs – do they look like grapefruits under stretched skin (aka faux-finish) or are they really really convincing, like only your husband knows? That’s the idea with new-that-looks-old furniture. If you like Fake go for it. If you want to fool others, then limit the contrast and surface patterning for a less obviously fake look.

  33. I have really loved your design mistakes series so far. I feel these posts generally address timeless and universal principles of designing a good space. This post feels different to me (maybe more like the one about types of wood?). This reads more “trends that are no longer current” versus “design mistakes”, does that make sense? Not that I don’t think educating about trends is not useful. It totally is. But I think that is definitely more subjective and more likely to be dated. I just doesn’t seem to be quite the same category as hanging rods at useful heights or not using white in dark spaces.

    1. well said, and i totally agree. i think that’s why a lot of commenter’s feathers are ruffled; it feels more judgmental of style, instead of offering useful guidelines.

  34. For some reason I think that the first picture of the hardwood flooring mistakes is actually a ceramic tile?
    I work in sales in a tile/hardwood flooring/laminate store and to me it looks as if these “boards” have dark grout between it? It looks WAY too manufactured to be wood and the boards are too far apart, the other pictures are clearly wood to me but the first one just screams (ugly) tile.

    Now I hate this “trend” so I absolutely applaud you for this and at least where I live in Europe the hand scraped thing in wood is over and done with. I don’t think we sold 100 m² of it last year so yeah!!!!
    Unfortunately it is all about ceramic tiles in some wood decor these days. There are some good ones but you always have the grout colour which WILL change colour in a couple of years due to maintenance. And then you end up with light coloured tiles and black grout and your tile looks very 2015-2016.
    These options you gave are great. We sell a couple of them and the finish is very natural. Not that cheap but it is a defining part of your home look for (hopefully) at least 20 – 30 years.

    On a sidenote: I cannot believe my first comment on this site is about something to do with flooring. I’m clearly obsessed with my job.
    And to the person who wanted faux ceramic tiles in marble look (or other people). There are indeed several amazing looking options out available right now. Some Italian manufacturers (atlas concorde, marazzi, fmg) have very realistic looking marble imitations. So go for it!

  35. What about fake mason jars? I love the grit of the real thing. The elbow grease, the purposeful life they have lived. If someone (me) wants to use a 100 year old Ball jar in their decor somewhere, it’s GREAT (though i often wonder if old people ever wonder why so many folks have spaghetti and applesauce jars sitting around their home.).

    But, when I saw FAKE mason jars–as in, they couldn’t even be put into boiling water, at the craft store, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

    1. i just reread the comment above and it doesn’t really relate to the post exactly, but i got stuck on shabby chic and farmhouse, and the things people are doing to achieve the look, which took me directly to mason jars.

      I’ll stop before I get going on pallets….

  36. Thank you Emily!

    You rounded up several of my “design” mistakes in one place and looking at them just drove home the point: No, no, no!

    Please keep writing these posts. Although some seemingly grown adults seem to be Stunned/offended at reading another person’s opinion, I really love reading what you have to say and am pretty confident that I’ll live even if I don’t agree with you 100 percent of the time.

    Now I’m definitely tackling that “distressed” table.

  37. I think the tone of this post was just off – you usually come across as helpful and upbeat, and this reads as kind of negative and judgy. I suspect that many of your readers (like myself) are not professional decorators or stylists; we come to you for advice and your expertise, with the understanding that we’ll choose to incorporate what ‘sparks joy’ (to borrow from Marie Kondo) in our own homes. Clearly, everyone has their own style and to simply emulate yours would likely leave it devoid of character. While I won’t argue that some of your points are valid, I think labeling these as ‘design mistakes’ is alienating to your readers.

  38. Woah! These comments made me laugh. Simmer down everyone! No need to get our grundies in a bundle over the pros and cons of faux finishes!

  39. I was SO not offended by your post..even though I do like shabby and industrial, I see and agree with your points. And I 100% agree on the hand carved floor. It looks so fake, it’s not pretty and it makes me upset to see it used time and again on HGTV. Would LOVE to see more posts on the lime paint – seems dreamy!

  40. I totally oppose you using small-time bloggers’ photos as examples of a “mistake” in decorating. Are you really that insensitive? To faux or not to faux is not the issue here…if you’re going to hold up people who are doing it “wrong” then you need to pick on people your own size.

  41. FINALLY! Aging painted furniture is still really big in the home and garden blog world where I blog, and I just hate that shabby chippy distressed look. To me it doesn’t look distressed, it looks destroyed. Thank you so much for writing this. Maybe there will be a turn in the other direction soon!
    Brenda

  42. Whilst reading your post I just kept picturing the Hobby Lobby stuff that’s meant to look old and metal-ish. Ugh. So tacky. I cringe in that store.

  43. Love these types of articles. Loved yesterday’s article also on your design regrets. I learn so much from these posts. Thanks for such great information.

  44. Loved the post. Personally I have never understood fake-old, and I just don’t know why someone would buy a new piece of furniture , and then paint it and then sand it down to look old. I just watched an HGTV design show, where the host bought a couple of wood beams from Home Depot and then uses crowbars and hammers to give it an aged look.

    That said, the patina of an old piece is priceless. Although, shabby chic (and i mean real old pieces, not the fake ones) is not my style, I can see why people would value a real antique, aged piece.

    Lovely post.

  45. What if someone did an ironic shabby chic house? That would be great. Just entirely fake. Stepford wives’ fake-country-grandma.

    Disney meets wax museum meets horror.

    Fake distressing and aging is kind of the opposite of paying tribute to the era that produced the piece. Our actual grandparents would think we are insane if they saw us essentially making a mockery of the furniture.

  46. My brother and SIL installed hand-scraped wood floors in their old house, and they added a beautiful texture to an otherwise newly-constructed and architecturally generic space. They chose a dark stain, which was gorgeous!

  47. I think flooring in general is so hard for most people to pick out. A lot of the new products look too uniform even if “hand scraped” or produced with flaws (the flaws are uniformly applied, it seems!). I love my 75 year old oak floors that have plenty of interesting features–they are in bad shape, though, especially in places due to the house settling over the years and some damage caused by previous owners–but I’m not sure I can afford to replace them with the good stuff. I do vow, however, to avoid the hand scraped stuff. It ain’t pretty to me anyway.

  48. oh my god! thank you for finally saying something about this “shabby chic” furniture craze! I am with ya! I love a real old, worn piece. They can be so beautiful and nostalgic. But the fake worn is getting out of hand. I actually sell home décor items/furniture at a local consignment store in town. People flock there for distressed furniture and I have a hard time supplying it because it just seems wrong in my soul! So, I am sticking with my streamlined, non-exposed wood painted furniture and my vintage finds on etsy. I just can’t jump on the fake old furniture wagon!

  49. I bought flooring identical to #8 Smoked white oak and it’s been sitting in my basement for the last 9 months waiting to be installed. Can’t wait to see how it transforms the house :)

  50. Great post Emily! I have a question – The mention of ‘shabby chic’ made me think of this. Farmhouse style? (I’m not sure what it’s called) a la a specific HGTV show that is insanely popular right now that shall remain nameless. I like that style, but sometimes, especially on that show, its a bit… MUCH. Any tips on how to recreate a feeling of that without it being overboard? Or what not to do? Is there a way to make that classic and somewhat contemporary or does it go completely against your design aesthetic? Please help us Southerners (and maybe mid-westeners? I’m not sure who this style is popular with) figure this out! I try to keep it classic and contemporary and mix it some tin pieces and mix antiques, but really I’m shooting in the dark. Feel free to delete if too controversial. Thanks Emily!

    1. Check out her work with Country Living magazine…gorgeous! There is also a section for “country” in her Styled book. To me, this satisfies the casual/shabby/country style in a way that current and now!

  51. I dunno, i love you and who you are and how you communicate but this rubbed me the wrong way. I guess to be successful you need to piss some people off, and I certainly have a list of “I would never do…” but I think of all of those people sweating away , sanding their chalk paint corners and feeling so proud that they actually did something to make their home THEIR own and then reading your assessment of it as a “mistake” and I get a serious case of second hand embarrassment …

  52. While i agree with everything you’ve said about fake antiqued pieces/industrial etc, I do feel your audience is a little more sophisticated and certainly with a little more design savvy than you’ve given them credit for. The majority of these culpits are not reading your blog and are quite content to continue buying badly faked items because they don’t know any better and even if you gave them an alternative if it cost more they’d still go with the bad fake. Sad but true.

  53. Gah! We purchased our new hardwood floors (partially) based on the fact that Emily had them installed them in her home. I was leaning towards smooth, bf wanted handscraped to mask potential nicks & dings and I went with that (I should know to go with my gut :-) ). There’d been several mentions in comment sections about doing a post about her hardwood floors but I could never find a follow up article.

    I love the look of our floors from BD but I feel as though the acacia is just not that…hard. If anything looks like it’s going to fall to the ground, I just about fling myself under it to cushion the fall so it doesn’t make a dent. My fault…we got a sample but I should have tried to bang on it to see how it holds up.

  54. Hey Emily, I’m curious as to why the first photo is of the Spanish Californian house you did? That project is my all time fave of your work so just wondering what you think is the design mistake there?

  55. Everyone is certainly able to have their own taste and opinions – it’s your home, you do what you like. I think it’s a mistake when people take current styles of a vintage look and think it’s authentically based on how things were. The big problem is ignorance of the real deal. The equivalent of thinking Taco Bell is Mexican. I love me a crunchwrap, but I know it’s not Mexican food.

    I have never seen hand-scraped floors in a prewar because the huge benefit of hardwood floors is that they can be refinished. Guess what – they’ve been refinished since 1930. And they probably weren’t scraped originally. But if you like the wavy floors, get the wavy floors! I too dislike the shabby chic look (hey, it’s not my thing), mostly because that’s not how a properly finished antique piece would age most of the time. The piece would have been waxed or shellac’ed if it was painted. And it’s rare for old pieces to be painted originally. But if you want to sand the paint, sand it. And I think the faux-painted walls are tacky mostly because they were so overused in the 90s and in the 00s by people who wanted their home to look all classy-tuscany-esque (or, even worse, ‘european’).

    If you’re looking for the vintage feel, try (real hard) to buy vintage – thrift, antique, estate & garage sales. It’ll be authentic and more environmentally friendly!

    I think the real design mistakes are those that make life difficult – carpet in bathrooms (unsanitary), popcorn ceilings (ugh), uncomfortable but stylish furniture, keeping an extremely small & inefficient 1920s stove in your rental unit because you think it looks cool (my boyfriends place).

    And if you’re complaining because Emily is linking to mass-produced goods, she can’t exactly link to a piece in your local thrift store, now can she? If she links to actual vintage goods in a store, chances are it’s gonna be expensive or the listing will be gone by the time you see it.

  56. This post made me feel kind of like the time another blogger bought the rug I had painstakingly saved for, wrote a post declaring it “cheap”, and then immediately returned it. Ouch.

    It’s okay, though, I still love my cheap rug. And I will probably ask to be buried with my cheesy, chippy, milk painted labor-of-love china cabinet. It makes me happy. So does this blog, so it’s not hard to ignore my knee jerk reaction and move on. You are still awesome. (And so is my cabinet!)

  57. I really love the lime wash. I have always wanted to add a touch of depth to my walls but hate the sponged on look. Ironically I am renting a house where the previous owner hand tore the wallpaper and applied it to the kitchen walls to try to get that Tuscan stone look.

  58. I love the lines of the gold chandelier in the traditional section but I don’t love the price point. Do you know if another one that costs less?

  59. I really enjoyed this article, and I believe it is unfair to say that Emily is attacking other design styles. This is her platform, she has a clear design sense herself, and I feel that it is the reader’s responsibility to take what they want out of the article and leave what they don’t agree with.

    Throughout the article she mentions that there are some places for these things, and that she hasn’t seen every faux-antiqued piece. She seems to have an almost apologetic tone at times. It is unfair to name her the bad guy here because you disagree with her views.

    I think a big problem today is that we can disagree without taking things personally. She doesn’t like shabby chic, this is her blog, why should she be telling you that your style is Shabby Chic, and how to specifically outfit it? She is giving you options she believes in (perhaps that shabby chic person would see themselves in the Rustic style, too?) Even if you do like a style Emily is not into, a lot of her advice (although not necessarily this post) would be very helpful.

    Phew. Anyhow, thanks for the lovely post, as always, Emily. I really enjoyed it.

  60. I made the decision awhile back to spend my hard earned money on engineered hand scraped floors and it was a good decision for me. I’m happy to say they are beautiful, but the main thing is they are standing up to the wear and tear of little boys and large dogs. I highly recommend them. Being of a much older age than a youngster like Emily, I have found I could care less about anyone’s design advice. Go with what makes you happy and what you can afford.

  61. 2 years ago we were looking to install wood flooring and I really had a tough time finding floors that I liked in our budget. I loved the reclaimed wood look but most of them were shiny which didnt seem to fit or the scraping was too uniform and it just didn’t feel right. We ultimately got a flooring that has a great look very similar to #5. Glad to know that my 6+ month search was in good taste, even though it drove my husband crazy.

  62. Well I’d have to say I thought I really enjoyed you blog and target style but this post just doesn’t set well with me.
    As a women, sister, aunt , friend wife & mom of three who works part time juggling life… I think this post was just to negative and critical so what if a piece is faux if it makes you happy and you love it what’s wrong with that!
    I like many different styles and feel it’s ok to play around with different pieces new & old faux and real.

  63. OMG this is sooo good. I think you have material for a 2nd book with the Design Mistakes / design advice stuff. Really really. These are my favorite posts.

    The marble stuff is sooo true. Yassss!

    The truth is that a lot of people live in houses built post-50’s and they’re trying to make them look unique and lived-in but the DIYs don’t match the architecture of the house. The other truth, of course, is that sometimes you just have to have professionals do their thing.

  64. It took my time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!

  65. My husband and I are replacing old carpeting and bad laminate flooring throughout the entire first floor of our ranch. We are looking at an engineered handscraped acacia, but now I’m second guessing our decision as the handscraped is on your design mistakes list. It’s an expensive decision and I want to make sure we are selecting the right flooring for our home.

    I discovered that the floor in your living room is very similar to what we have selected (if not the same flooring). Would you clarify when handscraped is ‘fine’ in your opinion and when it is a ‘mistake’?