Solutions: Neutral spaces create peace in today’s homes

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

A number of industries have evolved over time and interior design is no exception. Just ask Patricia Warner, owner of Patricia Interiors in Shelby Township, who has been in the business for more than 25 years. During that time, she has seen many shifts, like the current demand for durable surfaces and natural textures in fabric and flooring.

Kitchens have come a long way in recent years. “In the ‘90s, I was eliminating peninsulas, which had still existed from the ‘80s, and replacing them with large islands with seating space for a quick breakfast,” she says.

Laminate gave way to granite, especially as it became more affordable, while natural stone became a popular choice for backsplashes.

Kitchens have increased in size and efficiency, with a proper workspace, eating area and room to entertain. “Many homeowners prefer an all-in-one space instead of a separate formal dining room,” says Warner.

Built-in wine coolers, double refrigerators and even double dishwashers are among the growing trends.

Paint applications have also progressed. While accent walls in bold colors were once popular, now a tint of color in a single tone is more common.

Though paint descriptions have changed, the colors are basically the same. “Beige is neutral, brown is chocolate and dark red is deep raspberry,” Warner says.

Their quality has improved with eco-friendly options and a better selection of styles and textures.

Today, Warner often begins with a soft color throughout, letting furniture and accessories play a starring role. “Building a design around a special piece of art, an antique table or a custom contemporary rug is a good place to start,” she says.

Because most people are busy with family and work, she says a neutral space creates a sense of peace after a long day.

Window treatments have toned down, too. A decorative rod with finials acts as a focal point when paired with pleated fabric panels. And spacious showers are replacing the standard tub in the master suite. As Warner’s clients often say, “Who has time to soak in a tub?”

Big TVs are a big deal. “Although they’re mounted on the wall, they still seem to become the focal point that designers just have to work around,” says Warner.

Today’s wish lists often include hardwood floors, granite countertops, pendant lighting in the kitchen, bigger laundry rooms, playrooms and additional storage. “Clients want comfortable furniture that is also stylish, yet time-tested,” she says.

Casual lifestyles make the family room more important; the formal living room, not so much. “People are less formal in most every way in 2016,” Warner says.

Because the amount of information that’s available online can be overwhelming, Warner helps her clients narrow the choices for their personal space. One request that never gets old: Clients still want a room that’s beautiful, functional and comfortable.

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Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at