Design of the Times


By Pat Sherman

During the subprime real estate boom, while investors were fixing up and flipping houses, design choices tended toward the predictable and staid: elegant yet safe options with massmarket appeal, such as granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

Robert Wright, a past national president of the American Society of Interior Designers, says homeowners these days are making bolder, more personal choices that reflect a desire to stay in their homes for the long haul.

“I think people are really looking at their homes more as a home and not an investment,” says Wright, a principal and co-founder of San Diego-based Bast/Wright Interiors. “People are kind of reclaiming their homes, so now the interior design solutions are a little bit more customized and personalized.”

Counters and flat surfaces made of composite stone are replacing natural stones, such as granite.

“It’s a more of a clean, contemporary feel-more straightforward,” Wright says.

Though stainless steel is holding steady in the market, Wright says homeowners are leaning toward tinted and painted stainless in kitchen appliances, window frames and furniture trim.

“We’re beginning to see a big redirection towards gray, mauve and purple- everywhere in the house, in upholstery and paint colors,” Wright says. “Stain colors tend to be leaning more toward the grays. I’ve seen it before; it’s coming back.”

Like fashion, interior design is cyclical. H owever, a home is more of an investment than a new suit, so the cycle moves slower. The colors and prints used in today’s fashion typically appear in home furnishings four years down the road, Wright says.

“Basically, whatever you see on the cover of a fashion magazine, you’ll see it in your home three or four years later-the fabrics, prints, designs, colors,” he says. “Typically, more fashion-forward colors end up in accents or easy elements to replace, such as
upholsteries and paint.”

While Oriental rugs would seem to have run their course, Wright says people are more emboldened to match design schemes these days. That ostentatious Oriental number might still work when contrasted with a woven, contemporary rug in an adjacent room.

“They bounce and play off each other,” Wright says. “Some of the wonderful, classic furniture looks beautiful on Oriental rugs.”

Less is more, again
Though San Diegans aren’t ready to jump on Japan’s capsule hotel trend (in which people rent coffin-sized, stackable lodging for the night), they’re definitely downsizing, preferring aesthetics over cavernous square footage, Wright says.

“People want to live smaller and better,” he says. “Proportionally, contemporary interiors are working better, because these homes are smaller and contemporary furnishings tend to be lighter in scale. They’re open and more airy. They’re not big and heavy and cumbersome, so they fit better in these smaller, clean-line, contemporary spaces.”

Chic and sustainable
As the demand for organic and eco-conscious building materials increases, the supply and variety of fabrics, cabinetry and countertops made from these materials have increased and become more tasteful. There’s no excuse not to build or design green, Wright says.

“I think, within the next 10 years, it’s going to be expected and just woven into every one of our design solutions.”

Design trends for 2011
Pantone color:
honeysuckle (last year’s color, turquoise)
Other trending colors: Muted hues and neutrals such as white, chocolate browns and icy grays; bright reds, sapphire blues, fuchsia purples
Vintage: Reused and restored furniture
Ruralist/eco-chic: Cabinets, countertops and fabrics made from recycled, organic or sustainable materials Indoor-outdoor blending: Bringing elements of the outside indoors, and vice versa; use of rattan deep chairs, bamboo coffee tables and large plants indoors
Scandinavian chill: Minimalism is still going strong with white furniture, romantic lines and white walls; colorful acc essories are used as accents
Belgian: Gray-washed, distressed oak tables and linen-upholstered sofas