It is not for me to analyze why, but trends in our field of interior design seem to roar in and trickle out. And this year, perhaps due to the political limbo, some trends have simply hung on.Gray may be the “winter of our discontent,” but it certainly hangs in there. Gray stained white oak, gray limestone, gray kitchen cabinets and in every fabric and wallpaper, a rainbow of gray options (if rainbows are gray?!). Accompanying and in brotherhood with this color-free world are brushed steel, stainless steel, chrome and, slightly fading in popularity, nickel. Still going strong, the graying of America finds itself ubiquitous in Benjamin Moore and Pantone color wheels. I haven’t beheld this much gray since the minimalist period of broadloom, upholstered seating pits and the Halston, Calvin Klein, Bill Blass pinstripe suiting period.
A parallel universe has emerged in the shelter magazines, Instagram and Pinterest. Designer Kate Reid points out, “Strong, shiny, dark wall colors appear constantly on the net. Deep teal green walls, azure blue, saturated reds, even dark pinks proliferate. Along with these dramatically deep-colored walls, designers are hanging mismatched and different-sized pictures, all in different frames, in close proximity to each other. This method is called 'gallery style hanging.’” Reid points out that “the rich, dark background knits the seemingly different artworks together.”
Wallpaper is definitely realizing a Renaissance this year, with collections crawling out of the woodwork fueled by internet publicity and availability. The ability of a wallpaper to radically alter a room’s appearance has taken the consumer by storm. Reid observes, “Old prints, blown up, have hit the markets, often borrowing from very traditional images. Yet the change of scale and saturated hues pushes out the traditional and tosses a modern feel into the ring. They are quite exciting. Wallpaper is being used everywhere: on the walls of course, but also on the ceilings, on furnishings, in door panels and literally across flat doors in order to disguise the openings.”
In the world of marble and stone, dramatically book-matched, heavily veined stone slabs are finding their way into bar backgrounds, kitchen backsplashes, kitchen islands and shower walls, and even cladding every surface of residential foyers. The theatrical, yet intensely material strength of earth’s geological masterpieces is replacing art as the focal point.
The concept is that walls need extra oomph. Designers and architects are eschewing Sheetrock acreage for wood planked walls and ceiling—not necessarily “ye olde bead board,” but butt-jointed and shiplapped applications often left unstained and untreated.
The soft goods universe still finds itself square and blocky in shape with Jetson legs. The lower the seating level, the better. Low lounging with legs draped like stretching cats seems popular.
Translucent acrylic or glass create furniture with the fewest joints and seams possible and remain stellar standouts in the bedroom and bath landscape. Consoles, desks, lamps and chairs, with legs and arms disappearing like ghosts, float ethereally through the pages of the magazines and across the Pinterest screens.
Plumbers may not like it, but brass seems back and here to stay—its golden hues heating up the austerity of our kitchens and baths, as well as being the material of choice for lighting fixtures. California has seen a resurgence of industrial faucets and lav sets, appearing as if they were ripped right out of a warehouse. And a new finish, blackened chrome, is raising its enigmatic head, and is popular for lav sets, knobs, pulls and nail heads (yes, nail heads still have a fan base!).
Though vessel sinks cannot find a home or even a buyer, they are finding their way to the trash heap. Instead, freestanding, vessel soaking tubs have conquered the market. No one wants a built-in tub, and why would you, with these sculptural beauties that are available to you today?
Porcelain tile has hit the showrooms like Superstorm Sandy! Porcelain’s surefire durability has flooded our homes, tsunami-like, with dead-on reproductions of wood species, marble, shagreen, limestone and linen. Over-scaled tiles, easily installed and thin as a Swedish pancake, make radiant in-floor heating a cinch. Though perfect for rumpus rooms, utility rooms, mudrooms and dog kennels, these porcelain wannabes are finding their way into formal foyers, dining rooms and kitchens. As they are everything but the essence of what they are trying to simulate and they never wear, patina or naturally age, I can’t stand them. Only under duress and an extraordinarily limited budget will I ever use them. Call me a snob, but I just prefer the real thing.
On the other hand, a charming tile that does not pretend to be anything but what it is, patterned concrete tile, has won my heart and obviously the hearts of everyone else. Historically seen on the floor and walls of South American haciendas, French kitchens and Portuguese courtyards, these graphic, colorful tiles fit together, yielding a bold, cheerful effect—perfectly hospitable and full of charm. They do wear; they do patina; they even crackle. And when waxed over and over, they become a visual treasure.
Certain elements of design have trickled away, such as oil-rubbed bronze, heavily textured chenilles, flokatis and beige. One idea, concept or trend does not necessarily dismiss others, but the upbeat news is—the world of design can absorb, tolerate and even celebrate our large basket of enjoyables. Not a bad way to start the new year.