When it comes to interior design and furniture, the rulebook is more personalized than ever before.
It’s always exciting to catch up on the latest trends in interior design, and today’s homeowners are savvier than ever when it comes to spotting and following trends. Websites such as Houzz and Pinterest—along with entire cable television networks devoted to home renovation and redecorating—have sparked a generation of educated clients who walk into local design and supply businesses with a pretty clear idea of what’s possible.
What’s trending now
“Right now homeowners are requesting more customized items and spaces, as they’re more exposed than ever to new materials and design trends,” says Kimberly Hopf, design consultant with Veridian Homes.
Hopf says that many clients now bring in design files of their own, or they share folders saved on design website accounts. “It’s fun to work with homeowners who are genuinely excited about their kitchen backsplash or granite countertop,” she says. “It’s also pushing us at Veridian Homes to have the most up-to-date and trending design studio so that we offer our homeowners the same finishes that they have seen on TV.”
Those finishes and materials lately reflect a trend toward inspiration gleaned from commercial and hospitality spaces; it’s a trend that is now showing up in the residential home industry. White interior trim and doors, paired with dark wood floors and dark-stained kitchen cabinetry, for example, is increasingly popular right now. Countertops in both kitchen and baths are moving toward very light-toned quartz or granite, along with many different applications of ceramic and glass subway-tiled back-splashes. In addition, painted cabinetry is a trend that first appeared in kitchen decor but has now made its way into bathroom decorating; whites and grays are popular color choices. Finally, wall color is used to unify home decor, remaining neutral but shifting to a taupe-gray palette, and with an emphasis on using furniture and accessories to provide accent color and variety.
“At Veridian Homes we partner with our homeowners to create a space that is unique and personal to them,” says Hopf, adding that interior design is both an “emotional” and “evolving” process. “I often encourage people to start with pulling inspiration from spaces that have made them feel happy, or they’ve had good memories in, such as a spa they just visited or hotel where they just vacationed.”
Hopf says most people know what they like aesthetically but then second-guess decisions after considering practical concerns such as maintenance and durability. And that, she says, is what she’s there for: to help her customers sort it all through.
“I like homeowners to have a sense of their personal style and take time to understand what appeals to them, what their vision is. We have the ability to put together many affordable options to show them how they can achieve the home of their dreams,” says Hopf. “One of my most important objectives is that they must love it. We don’t settle for ‘OK’ or ‘fine.’ We work to make the right choices for each person so they will love their space.”
One of the fresher and more innovative ways homeowners are personalizing interior design is with custom furniture made specifically to suit the space.
“People are having furniture made from scratch to get what they want, rather than looking for pieces that fit the space they happen to have,” says Keven Schmidt, owner of DreamHouse/DreamKitchens. Schmidt says there are two categories of custom furniture: freestanding, such as a traditional chair or couch, and built-in—although some are both. For example, because standard couches come in one-foot increments, if you’ve got an eight-foot, six-inch space, your only option is an eight-foot sofa; a custom furniture-maker can build an eight-foot, six-inch couch, instead.
“When you get to build one tight, wall-to-wall built-in, it looks a whole lot different in the space,” says Schmidt.
With the custom furniture projects Schmidt is overseeing, the furniture-maker constructs the piece on site, attaching all of the fabric, cushions, arms and more, right there in the home. With both built-in and freestanding custom furniture, the client enjoys a broader range to get exactly what he or she wants. Possibilities are limitless, particularly for developing theme rooms—nautical pieces, saddles on bar stools, or the world map spread across several chairs he just designed for a library. And there’s no more worrying about the furniture fabric matching window treatments, or some pieces clashing with others.
“Right now we’re having a couch built that starts as a seating area in the kitchen and then wraps around the corner to a great room,” says Schmidt. “The client didn’t want two separate pieces of furniture that chopped up the space and potentially clashed, so this is a pretty cool solution.”
Schmidt says custom furniture also solves common design issues such as standard couches or chairs blocking low-set windows, narrow spaces between windows, or factors such as exposed columns, support beams and corners. Of course, taking the leap of faith and investing in custom furniture can be a bit daunting for first-timers. But Schmidt says that’s where technological advancements in design can make a difference.
“Interior design has changed immensely. We used to pull all your samples together—woods, carpets, cabinets—and lay them all out on a large sample table. Maybe a really great artist could hand-sketch something, but there was still a lot left to the imagination,” he says, noting that nine DreamHouse/DreamKitchens staff hold degrees in interior design. “Now we can show the customer a colored rendering of a new piece of furniture and see exactly what it’s going to look like and what it will look like in the space.”
Your space, your rules
For Connie Holl at Gerhards, The Kitchen & Bath Store, there’s a clear trend today toward coloring outside the lines and making a space your own—and that happens to suit her personally, too.
“If you would walk into my living room, you would laugh because I have traditional dark-finished, antique, turned-leg tables. I have some Arts and Crafts pieces, and I have overstuffed, almost contemporary furniture,” says Holl. “But they’re all pieces that speak to me, and they all come together on a level that is very much who I am and how my family lives.”
That is what’s key, says Holl, much more so than trying to emulate design themes seen on TV or in magazines. After all, if your surroundings reflect your personality, your heart and your values, then your home will be beautiful to the people who love you. Throw out the notion that everything needs to match, or that the whole house must adhere to one style genre. As spaces have become more customized to suit a family’s needs—an open-floor kitchen and great room combination, for example, instead of a formal dining room—so, too, have the corresponding furnishings and overall design visions. Each person in the family has different tastes, sometimes more than one at a time. This current trend is also essentially an extension of the rustic furniture craze of a few years ago; today’s homeowners combine rustic and contemporary elements for an eclectic, customized style.
“I think we, as a society, have gotten more casual, as a rule, in the way we live,” says Holl. “Things are designed to be less formal, more casual, more warm and welcoming, and really more reflective of our personalities and open to entertaining in a more relaxed way.”
That said, consulting a design professional before throwing caution to the wind and overhauling your space, remains important. It never hurts to get input from someone who’s seen it all. Today’s rules may be more flexible, but results can still fall flat, particularly for those who are still hesitant.
“To me, the big mistake is looking like you tried to match, but missed,” says Holl. “That becomes the elephant in the room, that you’re close but not close enough. You want to make sure there’s enough contrast value in your eclectic design that it looks like it was intentional.”
Ultimately, if you love it, it works. A consistent flow of matching colors and textures is perfectly wonderful if it reflects your personality; so, too, is the mix-and-match hodgepodge of beloved pieces and favorite colors when it accomplishes the same thing.
“Make sure you choose pieces and colors and textures and styles that speak to you,” says Holl. “Because when something speaks to you, it’s going to tell your story to the people who visit your home.”
Marching to your own tune
As much as it is a fine-tuned musical instrument, a piano can also be a beautiful heirloom-quality furniture piece passed down from generation to generation. From a stunning, polished American walnut grand piano to a satin ebony upright, a piano is as much a part of a room’s design theme as any other piece.
“It’s as much about aesthetics as it is about musical quality,” says Craig Errington, store manager of Heid Music’s Madison store. “Both are so important. If you come visit our Madison gallery, our qualified associates can help you select a piano based on what, exactly, you’re looking for and help interpret your needs and wants into the perfect piano for you.”
For those who actually feel the opposite—they love playing or listening to piano music but don’t wish to devote the space to a piano—digital keyboards produce a remarkable quality of sound without taking up nearly as much room. What’s more, digital pianos can be synced to many handheld devices, used with headphones, and also create recordings for use with computer software or entertaining. Tech-savvy kids, especially, are drawn to digital pianos.
“We’ve definitely noticed a rise in digital sales in recent years,” says Errington. “As technology changes, digital pianos seem to hold a child’s attention longer and keep them interested. And there’s so much you can do with today’s technology that it makes playing really fun and engaging.”
As with the rest of interior design, incorporating a piano or other musical instrument into the home can evoke emotion and help tell your story. For some, these instruments are almost another member of the family.
“So many adults can remember playing piano as a child or taking lessons and wishing they had stuck with it, we hear that so often,” says Errington. “It’s important to encourage children and help them succeed. This is a skill they can retain for their entire life and it’s a worthwhile investment, both the education and the piano itself. That’s where the technology of a great piano can come into play. Making playing really fun and keeping the experience a positive one.”