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Brown Walls and Old World Touches Are Out: Here’s How to Update Your Tuscan Home

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The old-world charm that was popular in the early 2000s is out, and fresh, contemporary coastal is in. Homebuyers are opting for a simple, airy design over warm tones, rustic iron, and wine-inspired vignettes. What does this mean for homeowners who bought or remodeled in the height of the Tuscan home craze, though? This is a dilemma that Milwaukee agent Pat Tasker, who built her home in 2004 with Tuscan design in mind, knows well.

She says that beginning in 2018, she noticed she was showing more modern homes with a light and airy style. “I started coming home and thinking, ‘Oh, wow, you have a lot of that yellow and gold…’ Then, as the year went on, I was like, ‘Oh, your house — even though it was built in 2004 and is not that old —it’s really outdated,’” she recalls.

As one of Milwaukee’s top agents who has sold 12% more homes than the average broker, Tasker had an edge on revamping her home. Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert agent or designer to breathe new life into your Tuscan style villa. We sat down with real estate and design experts to bring their restyling advice to you. Here are their top six tips for taking your style out of the early 2000s and into the 2020s.

A home that's Tuscan style was updated.
Source: (Stone House)

1. Paint the walls a warm white

One of Tasker’s first steps in updating her home was to bring in the expert advice of a stager. She enlisted Anna Franklin, owner and designer with top-rated design firm Stone House, who went straight for the walls. Franklin says, “When you think of Tuscany, you might have warm brick, warm wood, warm walls … In an ideal world, if I came in and staged a Tuscan [home], let’s just say I may suggest wall color immediately.”

It’s all about toning down the warmth of traditional Tuscan design, Franklin adds.  “A lot of the time when you get into the Tuscany looking homes, because there is so much of the heavy looking wood going on, we don’t want to introduce a new color or a new wood. We pick out a warm white color that would pair well with it.”

By neutralizing the gold and bronze tones, you instantly refresh the space. Franklin favors Sherwin-Williams’ Crushed Ice and other warm beiges and grays to balance out the other warm features in the home — like exposed brick or wood beams — that are harder to replace.

If your walls are Venetian plaster, consider hiring a professional to repaint them. The textured finish can be tricky to cover, especially if you’re making a drastic color change. You can even damage the wall if you accidentally sand off the finish that keeps it waterproof.

A bedroom that has an updated style.
Source: (Stone House)

2. Swap out Tuscan motifs for neutral upgrades

“Remove the decor items that fit that Tuscan look,” Tasker says.

“If you remember, there were all those plaques you could put on the wall: pictures of vineyards, bunches of grapes and ‘Live Laugh, Love’ … Get rid of that kind of stuff.”

These motifs date your home back to the early 2000s.

Kitchen backsplashes

A tile backsplash featuring wine and grapes was a must for many. Today, however, these murals don’t fit the contemporary aesthetic that many homebuyers want. In HomeLight’s most recent Top Agent Insights Report, agents ranked a pretty backsplash as one of buyers’ most-wanted kitchen features. So if you’re looking to sell your home, swap out your vineyard view for one of these on-trend looks:

Vineyard murals

When selling a house today, top agents recommend avoiding accent walls, and wine country motifs are no exception. Tone down these distractions with a fresh coat of paint. Keep in mind Franklin’s advice to bring balance with neutral beige and grays. In addition to Sherwin-Williams Crushed Ice, she recommends Greek Villa and Revere Pewter as steadfast swatches.

Themed wallpaper

Busy or faux textured wallpaper is a major no-no when putting your house on the market. Not only is wallpaper a highly personal preference, but research shows it can put off buyers who imagine the cost and hassle to remove it. A fresh coat of paint is a cheap alternative with a big ROIup to 109%. Don’t give buyers any excuse to hesitate on putting in an offer and remove that scroll paper ASAP.

A living room that has an updated style.
Source: (Stone House)

3. Stage the primary living areas with coastal modern furniture

“The furniture that’s paired with a Tuscany style home can be as heavy as what you’re seeing on the walls or the woodwork or the flooring,” shares Franklin, noting that homeowners should update their furniture to lighten up the look. Heavy, earth-toned furniture can make rooms appear darker and smaller than they truly are — two qualities that turn-off prospective buyers.

If you’re selling your home and your budget permits, Franklin recommends hiring a stager to bring in new furniture. These experts update your interior’s style and layout, maximizing selling potential. In a study by the National Association of Realtors, over half of the surveyed agents reported that buyers offer more money for a staged home.

If you’re in your forever home, consider hiring an interior designer to help you transform your villa interior with transitional or coastal inspired furniture like this chesterfield sofa from Wayfair. These simple, lighter pieces help you achieve a contemporary look.

A fireplace that has an updated style.
Source: (Stone House)

4. Remove heavy fixtures

“A Tuscan home, if it’s done right, actually has really beautiful elements,” says Franklin. She highlights the craftsmanship of artistic brick inlays and exposed wood. “I don’t think [it] is entirely out. It’s just a matter of how and what it’s paired with.”

To highlight these beautiful architectural features, try these quick fixes:

A light fixture that has an updated style.
Source: (Stone House)

5. Shine a new light on your light fixtures

Maybe it’s all the time we spent indoors in 2020, but lighting is shaping up to be a focus of 2021 design. Unfortunately, though, the heavy, ornate chandeliers common in the early 2000s are out in favor of sleek, modern pendants. Whether you’re updating your home for the market or yourself, replacing your light fixtures is a must for any Tuscan re-do.

Go for glass

If you’re looking for a 1-1 swap for your chandelier, consider a glass sculptural pendant set. These fixtures provide the embellishment of a chandelier with a decided 2021 twist. The streamlined design also offers a strong counter to the scrolled look, a cornerstone of Tuscan design. The contrast can help offset any other Tuscan features remaining in your home while establishing a contemporary look.

Change the focal point with a floor lamp

Floor lamps can add brightness to any location in the home without changing the mood of the entire room, making them the perfect addition for those needing a lighter work-from-home space. Floor lamps are also an opportunity to contribute to your home’s new style. Check out this arc lamp as the kind of trend-setting piece to be on the lookout for.

Brass is back

You might even consider adding a few brushed brass fixtures to the mix. Brass has made a comeback in the last year, and all signs point to this trend sustaining. These metals’ reflective quality can help lighten the dark and heavy alcoves that are quintessential to Tuscan design, but too much of a good thing can appear gaudy. Check out these swivel wall sconces from CB2 for an idea of how to incorporate brass in small doses.

6. Remember to rebrand in your home listing

Searches for “Tuscan style homes” have dropped more than 80% since the fad’s height in 2004. As more of the home buying process moves online, you’ll need to rethink the search terms for your house featured in the listing to capture as many buyers as possible.

  • Instead of “Tuscan” try rebranding as a “Mediterranean villa.”
  • Highlight the craftsmanship of your original home by calling out details like hardwood flooring, granite countertops, exposed wood or brick, and other luxury features.
  • Most importantly, call out the recently completed upgrades so buyers notice the interior’s pristine finish.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Tasker offers one piece of enduring advice: “Work with a stager that will tell [you] exactly what to do. That’s the best advice: work with an expert who knows what to do … and do what they say.”

Another expert you can lean on is your real estate agent. Agents are aces at more than home transactions. They’re also valuable resources who can connect you with local experts and help you decide how to prioritize what home improvement projects to take on. Even if you’re not looking to sell immediately, a top real estate agent can help you make impactful remodeling decisions.

Header Image Source: (Artazum / Shutterstock)