By Design by Elaine Markoutsas

A Look at What's On-Trend at the Dawn of a Decade

Reporting on home decor encompasses a lot of real estate, including furniture, lighting, accessories, textiles, wall and floor coverings, kitchen and bath appliances, cabinetry, hardware, housewares and building products.

For a global perspective, part of my routine the last decade or so has been tracking what's new at expositions in Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, Dublin and Bologna, as well as High Point, North Carolina, Chicago, New York and Miami -- always with an eye to new prospects and design summits.

Viewing thousands of introductions from year to year is a daunting task. And though some products are almost universally celebrated, deciding what to spotlight is a little like falling in love. Certain features resonate more to some than others. It could be a color. Or pattern. Or shape. It could be a concept. A texture. A technological marvel.

So much technology has changed in the last decade. LED lighting has fostered design creativity because it's smaller, more flexible and conducts less heat. Because it can be shaped, lighting can be more sculptural, especially eye-catching when it's designed for outdoor use. Pendant lights have morphed from tiny designs to a range of sizes and are now a go-to in decor because of their versatility and impact from hanging in multiples.

Digital printing has made a huge impact on textiles, wallcoverings and porcelain tile, with amazing fidelity to imagery.

Travel and ethnicity continue to inspire, either in motif or techniques. Textile artist Aliki van der Kruijs, for example, was fascinated with the texture and pattern of antique Japanese kimonos, and she played with them dimensionally -- on pots -- to develop VEER, a grid dimensional weave for Wolf-Gordon. At Kohler Co., kimono patterns depicting organic elements, such as waves, were translated into natural stone -- both honed marble and limestone. The material was etched using a 15th-century Italian technique called aquaforte, and the artisanal result is beautiful.

Handmade, or the look of craft versus machine, still holds enormous appeal. Stitching, imperfections in glassware and uneven edges on pottery all lend charm.

Many design cues come from fashion runways, especially those brands that also create product for the home. When New York-based interior designer Sasha Bikoff was tapped by Donatella Versace to create a present for the brand's new home collection at its storied palazzo in Milan during Salone del Mobile, she designed patterned carpeting in candy colors in a Memphis style to perfectly suit the furnishings. Her touch also graced the Versace boutique in Miami, and she orchestrated an installation (site of a fab party) featuring three pieces she designed -- chandeliers, a bed and a shapely chair, all inspired by the book "South Beach Stories," published by the family in 1993. It added to the excitement of Design Week during Art Basel.

When the red-hot Virgil Abloh, artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear, who recently had a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, collaborated with Baccarat, chief executive Daniela Riccardi made no promises. "He wanted to create a chain in crystal," she says. She pretty much told him, "We'll see." But to everyone's pleasant surprise, it worked. His new crystal chandelier features a crystal chain, and it's pretty cool. Small accessory pieces also are part of the capsule collection.

Home decor directions also are influenced by film styles and sets, art exhibits and lifestyle trends, such as wellness and sustainability. Travel continues to ignite interest in foreign or exotic locales. Motifs from Japan and Africa are particularly strong.

One category that emerged in the past year is that of linear drawings, especially those depicting faces. Some were more classic, others more Picasso-esque, and the drawings have found their way onto lampshades, pillows, fabric and plates. At Roche Bobois, a new collection of rugs depicts faces inspired by the artist Jean Cocteau.

Florals, palms and vegetation -- often powerful in uber scale -- as well as exotic, animal, geometric and other graphic prints feed choices for wall coverings and fabrics. And textures provide surface interest, especially in a monochromatic scheme.

Nature continues to be a muse, and we honestly don't see that changing anytime soon. Organic materials (including lots of woven basketry and rattan, plus embellishments like coconut shell beads), drawing from nature's palette, and the incorporation of live plants into decor are continuing, with vertical walls perhaps gaining traction -- both indoors and out. While many like the concept, they fret the maintenance. Here's one solution: At Cersaie, the international tile show in Bologna, we saw a wall of foliage and pink roses that looked so incredibly realistic that visitors actually touched it to check it out. It was made up of porcelain tiles printed with stunningly vivid imagery in a 3D quality.

The preferred overall look in furnishings is light -- not so much in physical, but in visual weight. Which is why wood finishes also are trending to the lighter side. The painted and stained gray that seemed to catch the fancy of kitchen cabinet manufacturers not so long ago seems to be waning in favor of warmer hues as well as colors. With the insistence of blue in all areas of home decor, it wouldn't be a stretch to see it emerge in kitchens again.

Matchy-matchy has pretty much been banished -- even with metals. While gold (still with a bit of rose gold and copper hanging on) continues to win confidence, it's far more acceptable now to mix metals, especially silver and gold, even matte with shiny. A deft mix is what makes furniture pairings more attractive.

And continuing to ramp up is the proliferation of performance fabrics. The no-fade, mildew- and stain-resistant materials now are produced by an enormous range of brands, some in tandem with Sunbrella or Crypton, the most well-known outdoor fabric specialists. Sophistication of design and suppleness, as well as choices of colors and patterns -- even luxe looks like velvet and leather -- are driving more consumers to consider them for indoors, especially in family rooms or high-traffic areas populated by children and pets.

That's because most of us, regardless of style preferences, try to be practical. Whatever makes life easier sparks joy. Don't forget the clutter-free part. Thank you, Marie Kondo.


-- Bruce Andrews Design, 706-750-8188,

-- Baccarat, 800-221-6330,

-- Bisazza, 800-247-2992,

-- Duravit USA Inc., 770-931-3575,

-- Empire Collection, 212-243-4993,

-- Etro Boutique, 212-317-9096,

-- Hermes, 800-441-4488,

-- Ligne Roset, 312-846-1080,

-- Moroso, 212-334-7222,

-- Ethnicraft USA, via Lekker Home, 877-753-5537,

-- Kohler, 800-456-4537,

-- Moooi, 646-396-0455,

-- Versace Home, 888-721-7219,

-- Paola Lenti, 619-850-9073,

-- Roche Bobois, 212-889-0700,

-- Rosenthal, 800-596-3503,

-- Thompson Traders,

-- Visionnaire, 786-577-4370,

-- Wolf Gordon, 800-347-0550,

-- Zoffany, 201-399-0500,


Design Trends Set Sail Into '20 Upon New Winds

So what about the new year? A few new directions in home decor are in place, ready to evolve. Some others are being talked up.

-- Expect to see more matte black, especially in kitchens and baths. Black faucets call attention to form. Solid black sinks can be very dramatic, as in one asymmetrical design from Thompson Traders. And steel? Framework for porcelain vanities, taking a cue from furniture, also is compelling. One handsome design from Duravit features a slender frame that supports a white sink and shelf.

-- Of course, we'll be seeing a lot of Pantone's color of the year: Classic Blue. Everywere. In every product category.

-- The latest buzz has nothing to do with mid-century modern. Even though it has to do with millennials. It's been dubbed "grandmillennialism." It's all about a thirst for nostalgia, inspired by the cozy feel of their grandparents' homes. It's their spin on traditional, with patterns a little chintzy, or at least with chinoiserie motifs. It's a decorating style that will dose out warm and fuzzy. Stay tuned.