by Rebecca Durante
You may have noticed that found space, industrial influences, and a resurgence of mid-century modern design have been prevalent for many years now. Even though these design concepts do not feel dated yet — though perhaps a little overdone — we must ask ourselves how long they will continue and what will replace them.
It is a necessity in my profession to follow market trends with an ear to the ground (or really, eyes on the blogs), to track what is fresh, unique, but also lasting. Timelessness is the toughest and scariest part of trends. It’s best to analyze what attracts people to the trend and what makes it a good idea to begin with, to determine if it will have any staying power.
The next trends are sometimes a reaction to what is of-the-moment. It’s understandable that what we’ve seen a lot of, we’re bored with; what was once trendy is now so pedestrian. The trendsetters will be discovering and creating what might surprise us at first but eventually will become the new norm.
Color trends are significantly affected by what is prevailing. In recent years, many of us were surprised to see taupe and dusty rose coming back around. Deep jewel tones usually balance these pale colors. The revival of brass and gold is very notable as well, although we’ve not yet embraced the gold tones for long enough that it has become overdone. It leads me to believe that this trend will remain relevant for quite some time. The more pastel, dusty colors bore us more quickly and will slowly be replaced by more saturated earth tones as we begin to crave some real color. Wood may see the reverse as we learn to accept some lighter, natural looking finishes.
There seems to be truth to trends resurging every 20 to 25 years, thus the recent popularity of mid-century style. When done well, vintage/retro/revival can have lasting power, as hindsight allows designers to pluck the “best of” from an era and leave behind what was likely done solely for the sake of doing. While mid-century is strong right now, a venue designed with Art Deco detailing is admired in today’s design world. But has the strength of the mid-century happened for a reason? I say yes. The style is marked by clean, simple lines, but not so modern and stark that it appears austere. It’s got character and personality, but its traits are understated, so it is offensive to few. It also has a level of complexity that makes it relatively affordable to produce. It and similar furniture and décor styles will continue to influence for a while.
Wood tones appear to be lightening, but due to a larger undercurrent in design than any trend. It’s our knowledge and conscience regarding environmentally friendly practices, materials, and creating with the wellness of society in mind. Biophilic design principles impart that people are productive and happier with a strong connection to nature. Bettering the environment and ourselves, we’ve embraced the grain, and natural quirks, of reclaimed lumber and plentiful FSC-certified varieties. As a result, we’ve become accustomed to more natural wood tones. As our knowledge of chemicals increases, we’re leerier of synthetic, high-gloss finishes and unnatural colors. We’ve grown an appreciation for Mother Nature’s creations and that which is handmade.
There was a time when we embraced technology as a trend and design influencer. However, the current human desire is to be in an environment that is very tactile, tangible, and natural. Our growing knowledge and desire to do right by the planet and living beings is thankfully the strongest influencer today. Trends will continue to come and go, and predicting them will always be a challenge.
Fortunately, we can feel confident in our designs if they’re backed by thoughtful analysis, best practices, and common sense.
Rebecca Durante, NCIDQ, IIDA, LEED AP, is senior associate at Wilson Butler Architects.