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Do you Follow the 10 Year Rule?

By 09/16/2010February 14th, 202137 Comments

You know the stuff you pull out when your friends or family come over that was a gift and you don’t want to hurt their feelings to suggest you don’t like it, so you display it when they arrive?

How about the one-off candle holders you get as presents (everyone gets those).

Or, just about anything you are simply not thrilled with anymore.

When I sense that is the case with a client or perhaps it’s just dated, I’ll ask “How long have you had this?” if the response is “more than 10 years”, that’s when I say “Then let’s get rid of it, that’s long enough”.

After 10 years, most everything is dated anyway, unless your home is filled with antiques. Joni from Cote de Texas recently wrote the best post ever on creating a timeless room.

It’s the continuation of a series she is compiling on the Top Ten Design Elements that creates a beautiful room. Click here to read.

Joni goes on to say “One question a designer gets asked over and over again is, “I want to decorate my room, but I want it to last, I don’t want it to look dated or trendy in five or ten years.

I always say – impossible. Everything dates in ten years.

Each decade is easily identified by its furniture styles and fabrics. The only way – the absolute only way to avoid having a totally passé look in ten years is to decorate using classical antique shapes: use Louis XV and XVI chairs, use antique English side tables with barley twist detailing, bring in antique consoles and cabinets. Simply said, the more antiques in your room, the less trendy it will be and the more current it will look for many years to come.”

Is this look expensive? Yes, I just about fell over when I found out how much it’s going to cost to recover the chairs I bought for my dining room.

So over to you my lovelies, what do you think contributes to a timeless room?

A note based on the comments: I’m not saying everything that is dated should be tossed every 10 years, I’m really talking about gifts that are 10 years old that you may not be in love with in addition to mistakes or furniture you may have inherited that no longer make you happy! I’m simply suggesting that 10 years of looking at it is plenty long enough.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me for on-line or in-person decorating and colour.

Related posts:
10 Things I Learned (so far) from my Designer; by a Happy Client
Design Lessons from Elizabeth Stevenson
Which Colour Sofa should you Buy?

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  • Anne-Marie @ 10 Rooms says:

    I think a timeless room begins with pieces and colurs that you truly love, because those will not be trendy, they will stay with you until you tire of them.

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    If you stop worrying about 'trendy" and decorate with what you like, in colors you like, for the lifestyle you are living, it's a non-problem.

    • Melanie Gross says:

      I totally agree with you. I don’t decorate or choose colors for my home for “resale”. I use colors I like. If I ever do sell my house, then they can repaint. I had to paint it when I bought it. Paint colors shouldn’t be a deal breaker. But, if I am not happy with them and feel a sense of comfort when inside my home then why be in my home?

      • Melanie Gross says:

        By the way. My couch is teal, my 18 ft. curtains are teal. My walls are light gray. My dining room, formal living room and hallway are a darker gray.

  • Marie Brady says:

    I think classic pieces with good scale and color you love. Save the trends for the accessories!

  • Karena says:

    A good mix of antique and timeless, comfortable upholstered pieces. You will still want to reupolster, change cushions etc!
    Then of course fabulous Art that is a wow whenever anyone walks in your home.

    Art by Karena

  • Cote de Texas says:

    Thanks for the huge compliment!

    much appreciated!!!


  • Christen says:

    When I decorate, just like when I buy clothes, I purchase big ticket items (furniture, etc.) in classic shapes and neutral colors. I then accessorize with the more trendy items that I can change out easily and cheaply.

  • ClarityK (Sarah) says:

    So true – stick with things you really love rather than the latest trends and your room will stand the test of time, for you, anyway – and that's most important, surely?
    I too read and loved Joni's post about antiques, though I think we should allow room for the antiques of the future, and include today's very best designs as well as those of the past.

  • chanteusevca says:

    Love this post, Maria, as we continue to embark on remodeling and redecorating this 90s house in the burbs while shopping for the major elements that will stand the test of time. I agree with and most here and with wonderful Joni at Cote de Texas regarding only investing in things we love and incorporating timeless pieces like antiques, artwork, etc. Fifteen years ago I loved my sofas and even though they are a timeless style, they are completely worn out and will be replaced. Hopefully the new ones will last as long as the ones we are replacing. Ten years from now I only pray I have to repaint (probably sooner than that!) and purchase new accessories, drapes or minor elements here and there to keep a fresh look instead of a complete remodel. I knkow my husband won't even want to think about repainting in ten years! He believes if you do it once, you should be done with it forever. I'm not exactly of the same mind. But I would not enjoy a complete remodel again in ten years. I'd rather move!

  • Deb's mind says:

    Great Post!!! Great information to ponder… I am in my living room looking at everything!!

  • Donna says:

    That is a great concept Maria! I'm sure you are right about that. I think the difference between trendy and classic is very obvious. I well remember the pastel blues and peaches state. Didn't we call them 'country' style? It wasn't. I have to NOT react when I see something those colors and just get prejudiced about the combination.

    I think our antiques and our good paintings are the best thing we have. And our couch, though it is navy blue, doesn't follow any 'trend' that I can discern. It seems to flow with the years and the decor. I would love to bump it though. We are heading very close to the ten year mark with it. :o)

    Good food for thought!

    PS. I LOVE Victorian style..but can't afford the beautiful things in your photo. Gorgeous photos!

  • Marcus Design says:

    Yes, I agree that the more trendy the more likely it will date quickly. And I agree with you that in about 10 years most things begin to look dated. Timeless pieces (especially for the larger more expensive pieces) are an investment!

  • I had to laugh — oh, I have those pieces, too, much as I try not to admit it. I've gotten better, though you would never know from my basement shelves!! Timeless shapes are the way to go in my book. Fun fabric on the pillows or drapes (which fade in less than ten years, anyway)is the way to be "timely".

  • Brenda says:

    I love the 10 year rule! I did that with a husband.
    Sounds like a plan with all the stuff that accumulates too…OUT IT GOES.
    Love this blog and so much information shared. I do appreciate the insights, I've learned, into colour selection from an expert.

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    Maria said: I'm really talking about gifts that are 10 years old that you may not be in love with in addition to mistakes or furniture you may have inherited that no longer make you happy!

    If it doesn't make me happy any more, it gets about 10 seconds before it hits the resale shop or the thrift store collection box.

    Life is too short to live with things you don't like.

  • Annie, bossy color says:

    Maria, I LOVE this! A very simple, accurate rule: more than 10 years = dated. Brilliant.

    I agree that the key to "timeless" (which no one REALLY wants, if they thought about what that truly means) is classical shapes. I think a healthy mix of contemp. and antiques also looks fresh longer.

    Great post – thank you!

  • Laura Trevey says:

    Hey! I am liking this rule!!

    xoxo Laura

  • Tricia says:

    Great post, Maria. About the chairs; I purchased four chairs with a very similar shape. Love them, but have not gotten an estimate on reupholstering yet. I have already removed the old fabric…thinking of turning all the staples in at the scrap metal yard. Maybe I should consider finishing them myself. =)

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    I knew there was a reason I like 'old' stuff. No replacing dated looking furniture. Yay!

  • Nichole@40daysof says:

    I don't know if I follow the ten year rule. I do follow the "stick ugly stuff in the closet and hope they never ask about it" rule. 😉

  • Anonymous says:

    Maybe the key is to decorate with the items you "love" and forget about whether it's timeless or not.


  • Kelly Berg says:

    Maria – I completely agree with you that you shouldn't hang onto anything in the home out of guilt. This includes gifts from friends and family members. The problem with hanging onto these items is that they drum up negative emotions each time you look at them. There's the guilt, for sure, and then sometimes the feeling of irritation that someone so close to you doesn't have a CLUE what your style preferences are.
    On the other point, I really dislike the 10 year rule. I think it's ridiculous for almost every residential space. Maybe for kitchens and bathrooms this works, because when you remodel these spaces, nearly everything is replaced at the same time. But what about a living room or a family room? To me, these spaces are living, breathing things which need to be nurtured through the years. I don't think we can just wipe everything out after 10 years and say "Hey – I'm done with you, Room! Time to purge and fill you up for the next 10 years."
    I think filling a space initially with antiques is a good place to start for some people, but Louis XV chairs aren't for everyone. I say, gravitate towards what you love, update when you feel like it, and don't worry about how many years you've had something. If you like it, keep it, if you hate it, get rid of it. Better yet – don't let anything you don't love into your home to begin with!

  • designsimplyworks says:

    I definitely follow the 10 year rule and in fact have a 2 year rule! I think it's because we move so often, but now if I look at something in a cupboard/box/closet that hasn't been looked at or used in the past 2 years – out it goes!
    When I married a little over 10 years ago my husband had a great black leather sofa. It's now starting to show wear due to our little dog so it's on it's way out.

  • Jürgen says:

    What a wonderful living room with a beautyful decoration. Thank you for this pictures. Have a wonderfull weekend regards jürgen

  • Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home says:

    I think the 10 year rule is a great guide. Especially for accessories. If you buy things that have a more structural than decorative design, they will stay more current. I keep things for about five years before I get tired of them, but I also usually wait until someone in my family gets tired of things I have always loved and then grab them! 🙂

  • Maria Killam says:

    The 10 year rule is really the first part of this post (re: gifts, inherited furniture, etc) and just because 10 years also applies to trends, etc, I included Joni's post. This is not a post that's suggesting you get rid of everything and start over every 10 years. . . but I can see where it might be a bit confusing.

  • Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP says:

    10 years works for clothing too. very few pieces work when they're over 10 years old, unless they're true vintage.


    I am much more of a "one year girl." If I don't love something in one year, I never will, and out it goes to find a new home with someone who loves it.


  • gleenn says:

    So beautiful. I love bright colors and it's amazing to see how this interior design made the colors work together 🙂

    Win a $75 gift certificate giveaway at Creative Fashion!

  • camdesign says:

    10 years makes total sense, but you must hear this story…I was at my moms again this summer, she is getting older and wanted me to put my name on things I want when shes gone…I must admit I put her off for a few days but she insisted so I started tagging things…I told her I would want her coffee table and end tables and stopped to see what my hubby would say… he loves them and wanted them to… so I asked her how old they were because they are quite hip… heres the story, she bought them in 1951 and has had them striped and refinished a few times…today if I was to get them and refinish them again in expresso you would think I just purchased them they have the x's on the sides like new ones have today and are the right scale in height for todays sofa arms…
    So the 10 year rule would not apply to my moms tables and I am so glad she kept them all these years because someday they will be shipped to my condo and refinished to go with my new loveseat and look wonderful…

    • margaret G says:

      my daughter is currently refinishing the side tables my grandparents gave to my parents as hand me downs in the early ’60’s they are that nice!

  • Kimberly Grigg says:

    Love the post, Maria! I think that even if you could find a way to make a room completely timeless that the reality remains that we would still be sick of it in 10 yrs if nothing changed! ha. So, having said that, I like to decorate with classic pieces as my main "bread and butter" then add more trendy pieces as accents that can be substituted for new trends in a few years. I am in the process of remodeling my home right now, after 10 years, and WOW! What an undertaking, both exciting and exhausting! Whew!

  • Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle says:

    I recently picked up a book on design that was written in 1993 and was surprised how fresh some of the rooms still appeared. I think one of the keys to a timeless look is to avoid choosing patterns that are of the moment for high ticket items and opt for solids instead. You can always add in pattern with pillows to update the look.

  • Rebecca says:

    Mother always said, "things either wear out or ugly out. Your job is to not live with ugly."

    We have had a lot of our furniture for years. Some of it is at least 35 years old. We chose to buy classic designs. The curtains, pillows, accessories, and such are what I change out from time to time. Right now the living room – family living area is in the process of accessory/art work change. We have had a framed antique tapestry for over 35 years. It is still lovely but I am feeling the need for a change.
    For those of us who do not go for trends the 10 year rule does not have to be followed. For those who follow trends 10 years is most likely a long time.

  • Amanda says:

    Well said. I'll never get tired of those Louis chairs. And antiques are even more amazing when upholstered in a more modern fabric or painted a new color 🙂

  • Sybil says:

    I don’t follow the 10 year rule when it comes to saving things or stick to trends though I might use one aspect of a trend that appeals to me. If I really don’t like something I get rid of it fairly quickly. Storage space is valuable in my smaller home so it’s only for things I love but don’t have a perfect place for at the moment. We have furniture from decades ago and newer items. We are in the process of repainting (new color) and rearranging the living room and I’m finding some accessories that I had stored for years suddenly look fresh and new again with new room colors.

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