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Want to make your house a home? Keep away from trends

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

One thing about the internet is that it's always ready to tell us what the right thing to do is, to get us to strive towards some idea of perfection - what the best eyebrows are or vacations or meals are supposed to look like.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Well, as with those things, there is a look that we have come to expect when we check out real estate listings. Think the perfect kitchen - streamlined, neutral, kind of a blank slate, probably white, like you might find on HGTV or your favorite design magazine's Instagram.

ANNETTA GRANT: Media outlets have made the home more of a financial asset to be maximized. People now are always doing renovations with an eye to what everyone else wants.

FLORIDO: That's Annetta Grant, an assistant professor at Bucknell University. Along with Jay Handelman of Queen's University in Ontario, she studied the habits of 17 homeowners as they renovated their homes.

GRANT: And we'd asked them, do you have plans to go ahead and sell your home anytime in the future? And typically, they didn't have plans to sell their home in the future. And yet they were still looking at, you know, what is my home going to be worth?

KELLY: The researchers found that thinking about your home's future value, what they call making decorating choices based on the, quote, "market-reflected gaze" - that this leads to anxiety and homogenous design. After all, the average renovation show starts with a laundry list of a home's faults. So why would the average homeowner keep appliances or countertops that they have seen skewered on TV?

GRANT: When that camera crew goes through the home, criticizing and scrutinizing all the things that are wrong with the home, that indicates to people, hey; you know, I may have gotten this wrong, or I could potentially get it wrong. And therefore, people are going to sort of see me and think of me less for it.

FLORIDO: In the end, the house is not so much a home as an investment. But Grant hopes her small study helps people shake off anxiety about making the right choices if and when they do renovate and feel more free to enjoy what they have and what they love about home.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAE STEPHENS SONG, "IF WE EVER BROKE UP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Megan Lim
Sarah Handel