1980's authenticity valuable?
May 29, 2012 8:46 AM   Subscribe

We have a small 1982 tract home. It has all the original fixtures: brass doorknobs, little clear plastic knob faucets, brown ceiling fans with brass filigree. Is there any benefit to leaving it as is?

Are there people out there who LIKE the 80's look? (I like the 60's look, which my mom thinks is crazy.)
posted by kristymcj to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's not going to enhance the value of the house any time soon, if that's what you're asking. There are zillions of '80's tract houses with those sorts of fixtures. It can't become cool until it becomes unusual, and that's a ways off.
posted by jon1270 at 8:51 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you living in it or selling it?

If you're the one living in it, and none of that bothers you, than leave it as it is. It's not quite Mid-Century Modern, but if everything works, and you're not offended by it, then why not?

On the other hand, if you're selling, let's just say that what's antique to some, is dated to others. Most of what was popular in the '80's did not age well.

The good news is that most of what you're talking about is relatively easy and cheap to fix.

If you're fixing stuff up to sell, then buy builder-grade, neutral stuff. Brushed nickel is a pretty decent material, appeals to most. Don't put too much money into it because whomever may buy your house will probably want to upgrade to something very personal, but you don't want people to walk in and yell, "Holy 1982 Batman!" As they will if you've got all that stuff going on.

Also, a can of Krylon can do a world of good on brass trim on things like fireplaces, shower stalls, knobs and chandaliers.

Nothing can help that ugly glass chandalier with the brass chain, flat glass with etching on it.

Also, you might be able to spray your fans the same color as the ceiling.

Couldn't hurt to try.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2012

If you don't touch anything, then it will (probably) eventually become desirable. But, being desirable, doesn't necessarily translate into valuable - whilst for example, Mid-Century Modern stuff is currently cool and (some) people want untouched houses, I'm not sure they're paying a premium for it. And this is 40+ years after it was put in, which means that you've got another 20 years to go.
posted by plonkee at 9:15 AM on May 29, 2012

If you're not selling it, leave it. Change anything you want to change, just for yourself. Don't do anything for "style" that you don't care about.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:23 AM on May 29, 2012

I actually live in a vintage 1982 apartment right now. It's not exactly in vogue, yet, though I love it. I have thought about this QUITE A BIT. I do think there'll be an appreciation of the look in the future? But probably not enough of an appreciation to add value. People really just love new construction now, even though they're wrong. (Heh.)

The problem with updating places like this is: some of the stuff you can replace will improve the house (like probably the plumbing (mm, ancient PVC) and the doors; the early 80s is when door composition went from wood to garbage). Or, if yours is like mine, do you have white countertops in the kitchen? Oh man, that just doesn't age well.

So updating some things that clearly deserve it and leaving some original things is probably a great combination.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:28 AM on May 29, 2012

A lot of really interesting architectural details of the Victorian era were destroyed by renovations in the 1920's. Those details were stripped by the modernism of the 1950s/1960s. Then people in the 1980s removed atomic hardware and barkcloth with plastic knobs and country-blue wallpaper. Right now, in my bungalow-neighborhood, lots of young people are moving into homes that were previously occupied by seniors who are passing on, and who last decorated in the 80s. These homes are being updated to modern standards/styles.

There are old-home aficionados, who specifically search out homes with lots of original details from a particular era. While the 80s are on the young side of things, yes, I believe there are folks who do like that era of design. There are also others who want a fresh, modern look.

If you plan to sell the house sooner rather than later, you'll likely find lots of other houses with a similar look -- I suspect it will be easier for you to sell the home if it is (tastefully) updated. If your home is very very very 1980s, you might be able to market it as a niche purchase, but the number of interested buyers will probably be much smaller. On the other hand, if you anticipate being in the house for another 10 - 20 years, and you don't mind the 1980s style, you may find that leaving details as-is could bring in a bit of a return.

Me, I'm not a fan of the 80s nor the chintzy side of the 60s -- my favorite era is pre-war. But in 10 years of living in a WWII bungalow, I haven't touched the 1960s-era fixtures. They're not my style, but they do have character and because they've been here so long, I feel like they've earned the right to stay. I adore old houses, so I see myself more as a caretaker who is just passing through. This house (and maybe the light fixtures, and hinges, and sinks) will be here after I'm gone.
posted by muirne81 at 1:29 PM on May 29, 2012

Have a browse through Retro Renovation -- every era has its fans.

I like that stuff thanks to the sickness of nostalgia. Whether or not it's worth keeping depends a lot on how good the condition is. If it is banged-up 80s fixtures -- meh. But if they are still shiny, you might peruse decorating books from that era (I adore The Apartment Book) and adding in some of the more upscale stuff from that era. Italian plastics... Put up light blue wallpaper with clouds on it; making it clear that things are deliberate rather than neglected would cheer it up, if that's the aim...

Disclaimer: I have a room decorated in "1978-1982"
posted by kmennie at 7:41 PM on May 29, 2012

Well, all the stuff you mention is pretty much superficial and easily replaced. Kitchen cabinet knobs, for example, are considered one of the easiest, cheapest updates out there. There's also a lot you can do with color. Learn the various kitchen styles -- traditional, modern, country, and something they're calling "transitional" that can take elements from all of those. There are such things as $500 room re-dos that completely change the appearance. It should be possible to do a 60s look in a 1982 house with very little problem -- some splashy color cabinet doors against white, a cool globe light fixture, and a space-agey dinette set, bingo.

What I'm saying is that if you like 1982, and you're happy living there, there's no reason to change, but you also don't have to look at updating the appearance as a major investment and/or impossible task.
posted by dhartung at 11:03 PM on May 29, 2012

Ha, funny you should ask this because my husband and I just went to an open house last week of a house built in the early 80s and he got pretty nostalgic for his childhood home (a proper 80s style luxury home in an exurb complete with intercom and central vacuum system) based on some of the superficial details.

Of course, for every sap like my husband there's that sap's spouse, who said the house also was laid out awkwardly and didn't really care to live in a house that reminded her of her rich friends' houses growing up.

I think this points out the risk you run when you keep any styling stuff around that isn't 100% current - for everyone who thinks it's adorable and nostalgic you'll find a few people who think it's tacky or weird. My house has lots of original 1930s details (icebox!!) and I love it to death but definitely plenty of people are not so charmed by the aging electrical system, microscopic kitchen, lack of master suite, and strange gingerbready edging on lots of the cabinets.
posted by town of cats at 12:33 AM on May 30, 2012

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