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50+ Things Everyone Had in Their House in the ’90s

Remember running to Blockbuster on Friday nights for the latest VHS release?

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Sponge paintingPhoto: Family Handyman

Sponge Painting

Sponge painting was so easy it spread across the country throughout the 1990s.

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Old VHS tapesPhoto: Family Handyman

VHS Tapes and DVDs

In the ’90s, we were still a ways away from learning what streaming meant. Instead, we used VCRs to play VHS tapes and worried about the tracking of the VCR. Later in the decade we got DVDs and didn’t have to worry about tracking—but we did have to worry about scratches on the DVD.

Check out these obsolete inventions people thought were going to last forever.

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Shutters in '90s living roomPhoto: Family Handyman

Shutters

Shutters were a popular choice for many in the decade and we can all recall the sound lightweight shutters made when air from nearby vents moved them up and down.

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Labyrinth gamePhoto: Family Handyman

Labyrinth Game

This labyrinth game took over houses for about a month or so in the ’90s as everyone rushed out to grab one, only to become bored with it 30 days later.

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Recessed lightingPhoto: Family Handyman

Recessed Lighting

Track lighting was all the rage in the ’80s so in the proceeding decade recessed lighting took form as a way to hide the unattractive qualities of track lighting.

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Glass block wallPhoto: Family Handyman

Glass Block Wall

Glass block walls appeared in homes in a variety of ways in the ’90s. We wrote back in ’96 that glass block hit an all-time low 20 years ago but that it’d returned with a splash. So while it maybe didn’t appear in every home, it certainly was trendy.

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Cassettes and tall speakersPhoto: Family Handyman

Cassettes and Tall Speakers

When you reflect on things 20 years later, it’s hard to imagine why we needed such large speakers, It was almost like we felt like we could throw a rock concert in our living room. These days a sound bar will power your living room just fine.

Here’s what your favourite type of music can predict about your personality.

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Bird scale balloonPhoto: Family Handyman

Bird Scare Balloon

It’s hard to pinpoint when bird scare balloons like this first started appearing everywhere but we wrote about it in 1997 as a way to scare off woodpeckers. There’s also a video from 1994 out there that says NASA used them to scare woodpeckers away from the fuel tank of the shuttle. Woodpeckers caused in excess of $3 million in damage and a Minnesota man shipped some bird scare balloons down to Florida. The balloons worked because the reflection and the movement of the tail simulated movements of a predator bird.

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Sliding glass door barPhoto: Family Handyman

Sliding Glass Door Bar

Home security never got simpler it seemed than placing a bar behind your sliding glass door. Any home with a sliding glass door also some kind of rod or bar behind it to prevent break-ins.

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'90s alarm clockPhoto: Family Handyman

Alarm Clock

Alarm clocks are certainly still around but younger generations are relying more and more upon their phones to wake them up. Not every house will have an alarm clock anymore but they used to have them.

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Chevy Astro VanPhoto: Family Handyman

Chevy Astro Van

Maybe not every house had one, but there was likely one on every block at one time in the ’90s. We’re talking about the Chevy Astro van. The Astro was introduced in 1985 and was GM’s first minivan.

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'90s computer monitorsPhoto: Family Handyman

Huge Computer Monitors

When everyone was running Windows 95 on their PCs, they were watching the pipes screensaver or the 3D maze screensaver. They were also viewing those screen savers on huge monitors.

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Old laptopPhoto: Family Handyman

Laptops

For those who didn’t like the look of a huge monitor there was the emergence of the laptop computer. The early models were indeed a compact option and the mouse could be tough to figure out.

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Little kid with his VCR playerPhoto: Family Handyman

VCRs

By the ’90s rolled around nearly everyone had a VCR in their home and the local Blockbuster was packed on Friday nights. VCRs were also lightning rods for children to stuff toys and apparently, sandwiches, into. That’s why we came up with handy hint to place plexiglass in front of where you inserted the video.

Check out these things everyone had in their house in the ’80s.

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'90s playgroundPhoto: Family Handyman

Playgrounds

Any kind of playground around seemed to have a tower similar to this style in the ’90s.

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LegosPhoto: Family Handyman

Legos

Legos were the bane of any parent when they stepped on them but just about every kid had a set or two of them.

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Man and woman putting on their rollerbladesPhoto: Family Handyman

Rollerblades

Rollerblades could be found under any Christmas tree back in the ’90s as inline skates skyrocketed in popularity. We showed off kids wearing them around in a 1992 issue.

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Brita Water FilterPhoto: Family Handyman

Brita Water Filter

How did we ever drink water before it was filtered through a Brita? These things started showing up in homes in the ’90s and pretty soon everyone had filtered water.

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Nintendo GameBoy

GameBoy revolutionized video games, taking the game from the couch to the streets. The first eight-bit handheld video game system to utilize cartridges, GameBoy was the brainchild of long-time Nintendo employee Gunpei Yokoi.

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POGs

POGs was a milk-cap game originally played for decades during breaks by Hawaiian dairy workers. At that time, the game was called Menko. In 1991, teacher Blossom Galbiso reintroduced the game in her classroom in the form of a math game. The game involves players facing off by contributing the same number of cardboard POGs to a large stack, all placed face down. The first player aims, shoots and slaps down that slammer on the stack, with whatever POG flying out and landing face up now belonging to that player. As POGs evolved, “slammers” were introduced, which were thick and made of metal, rubber or plastic.

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Barney

The Barney Talking Doll was created by Greg Hyman and distributed by Playskool. Released in 1993, it became one of the biggest fads during that holiday season. There have been at least four different versions of the doll produced throughout Playskool’s time making Barney toys.

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Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

Five diverse teenagers with superpowers flooded TV screens in the early ’90s, creating a major ad that turned into a line of toys featuring the Power Rangers. Along with their giant robotic dinosaurs, called Zords, they fought evil aliens.

Check out these surprising facts about your favourite superheroes.

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Beanie Babies

A line of stuffed animal plush toys, Beanie Babies were stuffed with plastic pellets (“beans”) instead of the usual soft-toy stuffing. The idea behind the design was that it looked real because it moved. Beanie Babies are cited as the world’s first internet sensation in 1995.

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Tickle Me Elmo

From at least one stampede of parents that left a store employee in the hospital, to two women being arrested in Chicago for fighting over the doll, it’s safe to say 1996 was a big year for Elmo. The doll would chortle when squeezed once, and shake and laugh hysterically when squeezed three times in a row.

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Tamagotchi

This egg-shaped computer offered kids a fun way to “parent” a digital pet. The toy even required feeding and poo-cleaning. There have been 70 million Tamagotchis sold to date.

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Furby

The Furby—a furry robot that could talk and blink its eyes—became a major fad in 1998. Originally retailing for $35, the toy skyrocketed to $100 thanks to the craze. More than 40 million Furbies were sold during the three years of its original production, and 1.8 million alone were sold in 1998.

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Pokémon Cards

The Pokémon Trading Card Game was first published in 1996 by Media Factory, but other card series came to light following, and by 1999 the cards were a huge hit. The most expensive single Pokémon card is the Pokémon Illustrator card. Only 39 were ever made, and at one point the card was available on eBay for $100,000.

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Primary coloursPhoto: Family Handyman

Primary Colours

Bright colour tend to indicate the strength of the economy. When colours turn brighter in clothing and decor, it’s generally because the economy is performing well. That’s what happened in the mid ’90s and it often took the form of primary colours in home decor.

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KitchenPhoto: Family Handyman

Frilly

Décor in the ’90s tended to include a lot of plants whether real or fake and plants on the wallpaper to create a frilly look.

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Purple kitchenPhoto: Family Handyman

Purple

Purple was a big colour trend across several platforms. Purple was especially hot for vehicles beginning in 1994.

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Purple wallpaperPhoto: Family Handyman

Floral Patterns

Floral patterns made an impact on walls too, as our 1996 December/January issue shows. A block painting pad helped dress up a kitchen wall painted purple.

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Floral pattern wallpaperPhoto: Family Handyman

Wallpaper

Wallpaper is making a comeback, just not this wallpaper. Floral anything was huge in the decade that brought us The Rosie O’Donnell Show and her Koosh Ball Slingshot.

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Chandelier from the '90sPhoto: Family Handyman

Chandeliers

Chandeliers maybe don’t qualify as a trend because people still have them in a lot of houses but the type shown here held a certain popularity in the ’90s. It’s another example of a decade that tried to create classy looks cheaply.

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Faux plantsPhoto: Family Handyman

Faux Plants

Floral prints and patterns weren’t enough for everyone in the ’90s. So people cranked it to 11 with fake potted plants like these. Faux plants are one of the things that can make a room look cluttered.

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Thick blue carpetPhoto: Family Handyman

Thick Carpet

Thick carpet might be thought to provide a more durable flooring option and maybe that was part of the appeal in the 1990s. Colourful carpet did hold a certain appeal in the decade, too.

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Rag-rolled wallsPhoto: Family Handyman

Rag-Rolled Walls

Textured painted walls were all the rage as Clarissa explained it all and we all wondered if Ross and Rachel would ever get together.

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Light oak kitchenPhoto: Family Handyman

Light Oak

Oak cabinets are still pervasive so it’s solely a ’90s trend necessarily. But they were especially ubiquitous in the ’90s.

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Arched windowPhoto: Family Handyman

Arched Windows

Arched windows are a staple of the McMansion, which we all know is never to be followed for design inspiration.

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Green living roomPhoto: Family Handyman

Hunter Green

This colour is a little lighter than hunter green but it’s close enough that it’ll trigger the memories of seeing hunter green everywhere you went.

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Above cabinet decoratingPhoto: Family Handyman

Above Cabinet Decorating

This perfectly ’90s kitchen decorated above the cabinets with some fake plants, which was acceptable then. It’s not any more and neither is the arched window, though it does provide a gorgeous fall view.

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Garishly decorated bathroomPhoto: Family Handyman

Patterns

Points for the determination to carry out a project completely with this tile job. This project from 1997 looks gorgeous for its time, but it might be a little too lively right now.

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Patterned countertopPhoto: Family Handyman

Patterns on Patterns

The internet was just emerging, we could talk to anyone over a computer and we couldn’t completely trust they were telling the truth… we needed order and patterns on top of patterns emerged.

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Faux granite countertopPhoto: Family Handyman

Faux Granite

Many people still have and want granite countertops though it seems to have started falling out of favour in the last few years. The paneling above the countertop here is faux granite and people liked the look in the 1990s.

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Off-colour shower tilesPhoto: Family Handyman

Off-Colour Shower Tiles

If you look closely there is more floral patterns with this shower tile from a 1997 project. It’s a far cry from what’s playing now like wood planks, neutral colours and subway tile.

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CD and cassette cabinetPhoto: Family Handyman

CD and Cassette Cabinets

A CD cabinet played a pivotal role in the home and had to be near that six CD stereo. It’s certainly anachronistic to see one in a home now, but kids from the ’90s will certainly remember trying to depress the magnetic locking mechanism just right so the glass would open to provide access to that killer Smashing Pumpkins album.

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Brown and brassPhoto: Family Handyman

Brown and Brass

Clothing went through the grunge period and for a while the drab browns and brass light fixtures had a similar effect. That coffee table looks like something that later found its way into a college dorm.

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Faux columnsPhoto: Family Handyman

Faux Columns

Columns should connote class but they look better on the exterior of a home. It didn’t stop people in the ’90s from trying to bring them inside though, especially that McMansion crowd.

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Stripled awningsPhoto: Family Handyman

Striped Awnings

This awning works perfectly well with the home which was part of a 1998 story in The Family Handyman. It’ll bring back those moments of sipping lemonade on the porch.

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Rope lightsPhoto: Family Handyman

Rope Lights

Rope lights came around later in the decade but boy were they cool in your room or at the prom.

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Iron railingsPhoto: Family Handyman

Iron Railings

Whoever thought these were a good idea must not have had kids.

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Dark oakPhoto: Family Handyman

Dark Oak

Everyone had this in their home at some point it seemed. It was so common that you could forget whose home you were in sometimes, especially if the cabinets were organized the same way.

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Huge entertainment centrePhoto: Family Handyman

Huge Entertainment Centres

The advent of flat-screen TVs made the old entertainment centre somewhat obsolete. But the entertainment centre in the ’90s was exactly that. The place to rummage through the VHS copies of E.T., Hook or anyone of those bootleg recordings of movies played on HBO your rich neighbour recorded for you.

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Glass tablesPhoto: Family Handyman

Glass Tables

Glass tables were probably a little more prevalent in the homes of older folks in the ’90s but they were there and so where those great looking chairs for the dinette set.

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Pastel-coloured living roomPhoto: Family Handyman

Pastels

Pastels probably move in and out of cycles more than any other colours but in the ’90s they had a place, just like in this kitchen.

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Huge window treatmentsPhoto: Family Handyman

Huge Window Treatments

It’s as though people attended a few too many Renaissance fairs in the 1990s, because the McMansions sometimes had turrets like castles and other homes decided to have bulky window treatments like royal palaces. What a pain it would be to clean them!

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Ornate family cabinetsPhoto: Family Handyman

Ornate Cabinet Handles

Fancy handles on kitchen cabinets appeared in houses in the 1990s before more practical knobs came into popularity.

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Originally Published on The Family Handyman