Retro or a no-no?

We love old houses. Their architectural styles tell stories of the past, and their classic character feels familiar and welcoming. A house with a history behind it is a major draw for many potential buyers. Some aspects of an old home, however, can feel outdated rather than retro. Stepping through the front door of a 1970s rancher can often feel like a time warp. While keeping the home's original character is important, it's necessary to make some updates so you don't feel stuck in another decade. Repainting the exterior, for example, is an easy way to freshen up an older home. There are some interior design trends—wood paneling, popcorn ceilings, vertical blinds—that should be left in the past for good.

The one thing that will immediately make your home look outdated is the material of your kitchen countertops. Busy granite instantly ages a space. The dizzying pattern of the heavy slabs becomes an unwelcome focal point and usually overpowers the rest of the room. Picking a backsplash that doesn't clash with a busy granite pattern poses another challenge. Natural wooden cabinets are usually paired with these counters, but pine or hickory cabinetry can set the style of your kitchen back a few decades too.

Another countertop material that instantly ages your kitchen is tile. Ceramic tile counters crack easily, so they don't stand up to the demands of a hardworking kitchen. Bright white grout easily gets stained by inevitable spills, which can leave even a clean space looking dirty.

Unfortunately, replacing kitchen countertops can be pricey. Purchasing remnants of granite, rather than investing in entire slabs, is one way to save money. Or keep the original countertops and freshen up the space in other ways. Repainting cabinetry, for instance, is a more cost-efficient way for bringing a new look (and incorporating some color) to the room.