Houses of this period, whether single-family or multifamily units, are hitting the market all across the country. Construction methods and materials, mechanical, windows and design features require updating and renovation to meet the needs of today’s buyers.

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Housing built in the early 1990s was impacted by the earlier energy crisis and gas shortage of the 1970s and the economic depression of the first part of the decade. By the mid to late 1990s, the economic recovery sparked more daring and innovative modern architecture in residential and commercial buildings.

Houses of this period, whether single-family or multi-family units, are hitting the market all across the country. Construction methods and materials, mechanical, windows and design features require updating and renovation to meet the needs of today’s buyers.

Both kitchens and bathrooms of this decade have singular design features that real estate agents who are schooled in design can identify as emblematic of this period and discuss with their buyers and sellers.

Kitchens from the 1990s

Blonde wood, whether birch, oak or pine, in natural tones, is the identifying feature of 1990s kitchens. Darker cabinetry was not completely absent, but lighter tones were the most common. Lightly stained wood was used in window frames, flooring and interior doors.

Brass hardware was everywhere, from appliances to cabinetry to doorknobs and light fixtures. The combination of shiny yellow brass and lighter wood tones was thought to be warm and homey. Countertops in kitchens and bathrooms were granite or tile, most often beige or light brown. The 1990s were indeed the “age of beige” when it came to wood and tile. 

Almond, bisque or white appliance tones were most commonly used, and stainless steel, brushed and matte, was introduced in the 1990s. Dishwashers, garbage disposals and microwaves were now common in most kitchens, and they each had an allotted home in the kitchen. Trash compactors were the newest appliance to enter the kitchen.

Serenity in kitchen and bath palettes was valued, with neutrals being in favor. As is usually the case with home design and decor, there is usually an opposing or contrasting decorative vibe that presages the next trend.

Country kitchens, with brick, plaster and the ubiquitous rooster and hen motifs and accessories, came into vogue in contrast to the minimal beige and light wood tones. Honey oak or medium brown wood tones with terracotta floor tiles enhanced the country kitchen aesthetic.

Kitchen cabinets no longer extended to the ceilings, which were often “cathedral” height, and there were no built-in soffits above the cabinets. This open space between the cabinet top and ceiling was an open area for accessorizing, often with artificial plants. Silk and polyester plants came into popular use and were often used to fill this space in decorative containers.

Skylights, plants and vaulted ceilings were found in kitchens of this time period, as well. Unusual kitchen floor plans, with angled or diagonal islands and cooking areas, created interest in 1990s kitchens.

Bathrooms from the 1990s

New homes in the 1990s continued in the vein of the prior decade, with an ensuite bathroom for the primary bedroom, a hall bath for the other bedrooms, and a half bath or “powder room” on the main floor, or near public spaces for guests.

Floral wallpaper, pastel, white or almond fixtures, and brass hardware carried over into the bathrooms from the kitchen. Oversized mirrors with dimmable lighting were commonplace, as were glass block and frosted glass in windows and room dividers within bathrooms.

Bathtubs and showers were incorporated into alcoves, no longer freestanding as in lavish homes of prior time periods. A significant development was the passing of a federal law that prohibited toilet tanks to use more than 1.6 gallons of water for each flush. President George W. Bush passed the 1992 Energy Policy Act, which mandated that all new toilets were limited in the capacity of their water usage.

Paint colors in the 1990s veered to purple, pink and hunter green, a combination of the cool and warm sides of the color spectrum. Sponge painting, a wall treatment involving natural sea sponges dipped in paint and dabbed onto walls, was the rage, used in every room in the house. 

The ability of real estate agents to identify housing periods and be sensitive to style and design issues will help in their listing and selling of homes. Both buyers and sellers appreciate informed agents who can discuss trends and how they have been incorporated into the American lifestyle. Fluency in style and design will always come in handy when discussing home sales.

Gerard Splendore is a licensed associate real estate broker with Warburg Realty in New York. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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