A guide to navigating what’s too trendy and what’s timeless
I turn my nose up at trends. I smile politely as they come into the room and say “hello,” but I don’t chat them up and usually I don’t care to know them better. I never made a pet of a foo dog, and while I had antlers, it was years before they started showing up on every other page of Domino. I’d define myself as an organic classicist; I have no formal training but gravitate to elements that are grounded in tradition and continue to have legs. I’d like to think this makes me discerning. But I also have to admit that it makes me a bit of a snob.
Being confronted with the baser side of myself always makes me stop to reconsider. Am I right? Or am I being a brat? Is there an appeal to trends that I’m overlooking? Do they, even in their tiresome nature to sweep into a room and overwhelm, bring some life to the party?
I was mulling these things when New York designer Miles Redd was in town recently. In his presentation, he noted that there is nothing new in design. Each of us, every one, is recycling something that has been seen before. What makes it interesting is if we reimagine it in our own way. Redd takes classic urns and paints them in shiny, bright colors. He borrows room palettes from paintings of the great masters. He admires the fine pleating of a couture gown and replicates it in curtains.A living room by New York interior designer Miles Redd showcases his masterful use of color and pattern in a fresh take on traditional design. Photo by Paul Costello
I had always considered “trends,” and the copy that is devoted to them, as a way to sell either product or magazines, preying on the fear that none of us wants to be “out.” It was Redd’s notion of nothing new that helped me to see trends in a new way. Often, when we are exposed to something over time we stop seeing it. This is why things that we pick for our homes, that we initially adore, will suddenly seem flat. When this happens, we want to reinvigorate our space. We need to fall in love with it again.
This is why several years ago the resurgence in cooler metals—nickel and stainless steel, both brushed and polished—made their warmer cousin, brass, passé. He was too bold. Too loud. Too shiny. We wanted nothing of him. But after years of white and gray in cabinets and marble and hardware, we began to get an itch. Oil-rubbed bronze was the gateway drug. We liked the punctuation of that nearly black metal against the paint and stone. From there, it took almost no time before brass turned our heads again. He looked so fresh. So daring. Chic and warm and sophisticated in his goldy, glowy way. Better still if he were set off by backdrops of black or charcoal or peacock. We were in love with him again, though we thought we never would be.
So I see that trends can help us see old things in a new way. Trends open us up to a new perspective. The trick is to interpret them personally. Décor should never be disposable. You must make it your own.
ON TREND—There are a few things that I’ve noticed over the past couple of seasons that I think have some staying power.
We’ve had several years of very bold color in walls, fabric and rugs. I think a comfortable use of color will continue, but Pantone and Benjamin Moore are both predicting (or encouraging) a muddier palette. While Marsala is the Pantone color of the year (which is a little scary to me as it’s sniffing close to mauve) Ben Moore picked Gilford Green, which has complex gray tone. Olive showed up on several lists as emerging and I think we will see more of it.Benjamin Moore’s Gilford Green
Oh my goodness, but we have been a white tile nation for a long, long time. But I am seeing more and more patterned tile—particularly very bold and often geometric—especially in small spaces like powder rooms. I hope this is due to a desire to enjoy where we are now and focusing a little less on resale.Hand-painted terra cotta tile from International Materials of Design
I love nickel hardware and it remains a classic standard, but I think warmer metals are around for a while. Brass, currently favored in a rubbed finish, as opposed to polished, looks fresh. The same is true of gold leaf. As an aside, don’t be afraid to mix metals; it shows confidence.Solid brass knob by Omnia.
“Gray is the new beige. Many people are looking at grays to become a new neutral that updates and adds style to a space. And walnut is hot right now but will start declining in popularity as the material cost continues to increase. I anticipate a renewed interest in white ash and oak but in new finishes that are more gray to black in color.”
Tim Butt, Black Bamboo
WORD OF ADVICE
“I love watching the trends from fashion work their way into our weddings and events. I am seeing tons of patterns, and I’ve noticed that this inspiration has influenced linens, wall treatments, and the way flowers are being used. Clumps of floral paired with a hot botanical linen can add a bit of drama, and the layered effect this gives to a party creates interest for guests.”
Dan Meiners, Studio Dan Meiners
“Blue, blue, blue! I love it. You just can’t go wrong. Every shade of blue is beautiful and it’s timeless. Blue is so easy to decorate with whether it’s a whole navy room or just a couple of pillows. Just blue, baby, blue!”
Natalie O’Shaughnessy, O’Home
“Mixing metal finishes is something that was not widely done a few years ago, but you see more of it now. Having a house full of all one finish feels very sterile. I love the look of mixing brass and silver—even rose gold and copper are becoming popular to throw into the mix.”
Jaclyn Joslin, Coveted Home
Q: Nearly every time a magazine comes out, I want to repaint a room or buy the hot new thing. Help!
—Bridget Chang, Olathe
A: Freshening up is never a bad idea, and I’m the last one to tell you not to paint (or repaint) a room. Just be careful that you’re making the change because it’s something you love. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon, and more importantly don’t jump on every bandwagon. That is the kind of thing that makes one a trend trollop, and that should be something to which no one aspires. Instead, let trends open your eyes and your mind to new versions of yourself.