COMMERCIAL RECORD, Connecticut features Elizabeth Brosnan Hourihan Interior Design in the May 21, 2015 issue.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF…
Individuality is the Interior Design Trend of 2015
Interior design trends have always been a reflection of the times. Social, economic, and even political factors contribute to style in every era. In early Colonial America, simplicity was the predominant expression in architecture and furnishings. Then the focus was on building a new life, and adornment was a luxury people had neither the time nor the inclination to pursue. By the late 1700s, as our nation was taking its place in the world, burgeoning political and trade connections with Asia and Europe began to influence our day-to-day lives. Important design figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Samuel McIntire, who took a holistic approach to design and promoted an aesthetic that was thoughtful and personal, incorporated those far-flung inspirations in their work.
Most of us would agree the world is smaller today, given twenty-four-hour news access and social media. For the design community, global connectedness translates to a clientele who is more aware, more design savvy, than ever before. Our clients troll the Internet to see what’s trending, visiting myriad websites where they shop for “looks” that appeal to them.
An interior designer’s mission has always been to design with a thoughtful understanding of how clients live and what they aspire to, and—given the sophistication of today’s clients—that approach is more important than ever.
There is no doubt that certain elements enjoy more or less popularity at any given time, but my experience of more than twenty-five years tells me that trends are not always about the latest colors or furnishings. If there is a twenty-first-century trend, it is that clients want a home that expresses their unique spirit. It’s not about having the “latest” technology or accessory, but about creating an environment that is comfortable and functional as well as luxurious, and—above all—personal.
Rather than hire a designer to create a whole house in one pass, homeowners today are likely to work with a design professional over an extended period, refurbishing one or two rooms at a time. My small-projects division, E-Interiors has been well received, as even the most affluent clients want to be sure they are spending their money wisely and approaching each space in their homes thoughtfully. All that said, I do see things that we could call trends, especially a move toward the practical and comfortable.
Fussy window treatments have given way to simple remote-control mesh shades that keep the sun from fading furniture and rugs or damaging art. Simple as they are, shades add a decorative layer that lends richness to a room. When a client desires more than a shade, simple opaque panels or sheers add softness to the space and help frame the view, bringing the outside in.
Mixing and matching is trending when it comes to furniture. People are starting to collect again, though they may not necessarily be looking for the finest eighteenth-century tripod table. Vintage pieces mix well with both antique and more modern, streamline pieces, and homeowners enjoy hunting for just the right piece. A client recently texted me a photo of a metal crank table she spied at a Connecticut shop I had recommended. We ended up using it as a side table in her family room. It has a steam-punk character that’s popular today, and she reported that the table was a real conversation piece at her last family gathering.
Midcentury modern has earned a well-deserved place in twenty-first-century design. I was recently searching for a sofa for the living room of my own home, a one-of-a-kind 1980s home that was built as a sustainable house. The space has unique architectural curves and wonderful modern details, so I wanted a piece that would blend with and enhance those details. I finally settled on an Edward Wormley sofa, a modern, vintage piece that feels perfectly at home in my living room.
As contradictory as it may sound, a desire for timelessness may be today’s biggest trend. Homeowners often have a deep respect and appreciation for history, but they do not want to live in a museum. I designed the interiors for an important turn-of-the-twentieth-century Shingle-style for clients who wanted to honor their home’s history but make their personal space comfortable for a modern family. I chose pieces from periods as early as the Jacobean era, then added oil paintings from twentieth-century American artists to bridge the gap between yesterday and today.
Oriental rugs and other patterned rugs are perennially popular, but neutral, natural fiber rugs like sisal are enjoying a revival. Sisal has a comfortable, casual look and feel, and can add interest to a tile or wood floor. Sisal is also a good choice for giving adjoining rooms a sense of continuity. Layering—topping a sisal rug with an Oriental, a luxuriously designed Swedish rug, a leopard print rug, or any unusually shaped rug—is also popular, as designers and clients aim for a more dynamic, less formulaic look.
Some of the newest, most exciting features in design today are happening in lighting. But again, the trend is all about choosing the type of lighting—whether it’s a wrought iron antique floor lamp or a midcentury chandelier from my favorite place, John Salibello Antiques in Manhattan, or a state-of-the-art LED system—that suits your home’s style.
Art and Accessories
Art is intensely personal. This year I am finding that people are seeking to find art that speaks to them, not worrying so much about matching a particular painting, sculpture, or architectural piece to their furnishings or fabric. In keeping with a new emphasis on reducing clutter, my clients are attracted to accessories that speak to them while providing functionality. A set of Lucite fire tools from 1stdibs, for example, is both functional and elegant in its clean lines.
Individualism is pronounced, reflecting a more confident sign of the times. Whether one lives in a mountain home in Colorado, brimming with modern art and furnishings, an energy-efficient condominium in the city, or a cottage by the shore, the trend is to be true to oneself. And as tastes change—as they often do—simple measures such as paint and accessories can be easy fixes because the foundation of the home is strong and timeless.
Elizabeth Brosnan Hourihan, who holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the New York Institute of Technology, is the owner of EBH Interiors in Weston, Connecticut. She also has a fine arts degree in the decorative arts from Christie’s in London and has studied architecture at The University of Venice in Italy.