Interior Design Trends

Taste in furnishings and home décor is individual, of course. But when a lot of people start liking the same thing, we’ve got a trend on our hands. Trends in interior design are what you’ll see these days in the Northwest’s fall home shows and new remodels – things that people want in their homes to make them more efficient, useful and beautiful.

While neutral walls (white, beige) are a classic that never goes away, so many new options in wall, woodwork and flooring colors and materials are available that things like glass and tumbled stone, reclaimed wood, Marmoleum, vinyl wallcoverings in lush textures and prefinished wood laminates rise in popularity each year.

Influenced by fashion, the economic and political climate and environmental concerns, as well as current events such as the London Olympics, trends in interiors reflect the way people want their lives to be arranged.

“Although the Street of Dreams features houses with rooms and rooms and rooms, one for the TV, one for the pool table, and so on,” said designer Gary Pearlman of DesignPro, “I find that people are furnishing now for a more relaxed, casual lifestyle. They want less formal interior spaces, with easy-to-maintain surfaces.

“People are opting to create more openness when they remodel, not more small rooms; I’m seeing a trend to knocking out walls for a single, large room that incorporates the living room, dining room, family room – a room that actually gets used daily, not just once in awhile, for a single purpose.”

Linda Georges, owner of Room by Room interior design, notes that carpets are shrinking while wood or tile floors are becoming more popular, accented with area rugs. That ties in with the easy-care trend.

“Carpets stain; the new polymer tiles look great and don’t stain. Porcelain tiles for floors are easy to clean, and they have come of age – an untrained eye can’t tell the difference anymore between porcelain and stone,” she said.

Those huge soaking tubs in bathrooms “are going by the wayside” in favor of showers, she added, due again to the desire for a more laid-back home life. “Who has the time and money to fill those big tubs with hot water?”

People are paying much more attention to the effects of lighting in their homes these days, designers say. Whether it is opting for larger windows to bring in more natural light or rethinking how a room is lighted at night, changes are afoot.

“People are adding more lights, such as recessed cans, around the perimeter of rooms, taking down that single chandelier hanging in the center,” Pearlman said.

“Chandeliers,” said Georges, “are going into bedrooms and baths, becoming the jewelry of the room. I’m also seeing lots of hanging pendant lights over kitchen islands.”

“The quality of lighting is critical for interior spaces,” said designer Karol Niemi. “The direction the home faces, whether there are skylights, the size of the windows – all come into play.”

Lighting also affects what colors work in a room, Niemi said.

“To choose a wall color, you need a sensitivity to value – the lightness or darkness of the color – and how it works with the woodwork,” she said. “If a space is bright, say east or west facing, you need to soften the tone of the walls. Homes in the Pacific Northwest often have natural, rich woodwork, which requires color in a medium value to soften the edge between trim and body.”

But that old standby, white, is never far down the list.

“White is back, especially for kitchens,” Georges said. “Everybody wants a white kitchen now, with Carrara or Calacatta marble countertops or dark espresso cabinets with a white countertop. We seem to be veering away from granite to quartz treated with resin – it’s not porous like natural stone, so it’s easier to care for, but it looks very much like slab granite.”

Pearlman sees a similar palette for other rooms – “beige walls with black furnishings, or, in exteriors, gray or taupe houses with black trim. Indoors, the rooms are accented with spots of a bright color,” he said.

“In fact, I just completed a ketubah, an illustrated Jewish marriage document, and the bride wanted the colors to be purple, orange and lime green.”

Bright colors on vintage furniture is a trend, as well.

“While the interest in traditional furniture is very strong,” said Niemi, “people are twisting it by using a unique finish, glaze or color. I go to the Maison & Objet trade show in Paris each year, and what I see is a strong interest in the clean lines of Asian design with its very decorated, very bright-colored furnishings, as well as people taking a classical piece of furniture, say a not-terribly-valuable baroque piece, and making it contemporary with a high-gloss automobile finish.

“The idea of recycling old materials isn’t new. I think it’s better to buy something good the first time and just refinish it. The juxtaposition of new materials on an old piece can make it something else completely.”

Portland freelance writer Jan Behrs specializes in stories about gardens, remodeling and real estate. She moved to Oregon from Wisconsin in 1980, trading tornadoes for volcanoes. She is a master gardener who tends two-thirds of an acre in Southwest Portland. Her work appears in The Oregonian, Better Homes and Gardens and online.

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