Tracking design trends with an eye on tomorrow

Elaine Markoutsas
Universal Uclick

There are interior designers who shudder at the word “trend,” dismissing it as conceptual spam. Yet, sometimes they inevitably are caught up in it with a proposal that just happens to fall squarely into the prevailing design zeitgeist, whether in color, style, pattern, material or attitude.

Tracking trends is a major global business, touching on every aspect of design. It embraces the home, kitchen and bath, surfaces, paint, textiles, wallcoverings, furnishings, garden and outdoor spaces, automobiles and even food. Everything from fragrances and makeup (scents, colors and packaging), the retail experience and shoppers’ habits are tracked and analyzed for the next big thing that bloggers will rhapsodize about as soon as it is introduced.

Internet accessibility and social media have expanded the base of available information and ideas, as well as measuring what connects with consumers. Accordingly, their buying habits contribute to profiles of what is going on currently and what lies ahead in the months and years to come.

One of the most impactful arbiters is the Pantone Color Institute. Pantone color is a universally understood language, used by everyone from graphic artists to auto designers, and its forecast of groups of hues that will prevail is made two years out. It’s the source of the much buzzed about Pantone Color of the Year (Ultraviolet for 2018), although paint companies and many others now launch their own stars. While the selections sometimes stir debate (like the color Marsala, a few years back), the influence is so pervasive, that once announced, you seem to see the hue everywhere. It even surfaced in a garden trend report that showed purple foods gaining traction.

Advertising agency JWT Global identifies emerging trends in lifestyle, tech, health, culture, food and wine, and retail throughout each year. Among recent topics: how the internet of things is shifting to the internet of eyes and voice. To wit: the iPhone X facial recognition for unlocking the phone, and Google-owned Nest’s Cam IQ with built-in facial recognition to distinguish family members and strangers. Voice tech now is available in TVs, toasters, lamps and even a talking waste bin displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2017. At EuroCucina, a massive biennial kitchen show in Milan, Bosch showed off Mykie (short for “my kitchen elf”), a robot you can talk to, which has a built-in projector that can screen recipes on your kitchen wall.

On a smaller scale, the Garden Media Group, based in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, follows trends that affect the home landscape, interior plantscaping, health and growing food. There’s actually a science associated with a new look at purple foods — antioxidants or anthocyanins, which are health-promoting chemicals that help protect cells, reduce inflammation and lower the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Some trends overlap — in home design, the term “wabi-sabi” is used to describe interiors that are a little serendipitous. There’s a movement in garden to adapt this Japanese practice of embracing imperfection — especially not obsessing about weeds, deadheading flowers or perfect lawns.

Each year, those who travel to Heimtextil, an international textile exhibition at Messe Frankfurt in Germany, look forward to the annual trend report. This year’s theme was Urban Space, and one of the conclusions of the research is that though the world is becoming more urban, its city inhabitants are becoming more nomadic. Millennials, in particular, are delaying the time when they put down roots and changing homes, cities, countries — and jobs — more than ever. This trend, along with one to smaller living spaces, makes modular design most desirable because of its flexibility.

At last month’s EuroCucina, many of the kitchen displays focused on modular components, sliding counters and pocket doors, which could even hide full kitchens. A mix of materials that more closely resemble furniture showed a clearer connection to the rest of the house for a more homelike look.

Another urban trend identified by the NellyRodi agency, which has offices in Paris, Tokyo and New York, is urban farms springing up between city buildings. One near Paris is in a chateau formerly occupied by a toothpaste factory, attracting those interested in agri-food practices, co-working spaces, shared kitchens and chefs in residence.

NellyRodi also identifies an emerging experiential trend in retail. In London, for example, John Lewis has created a fully furnished in-store apartment called The Residence. Customers can even spend a night — with private use of the space from 6:30 p.m. to 9 a.m., including an hour of private shopping time and a catered dinner, if desired.

The popular Pinterest platform, where consumers post their favorites images in multiple categories, has its own Top Trends to Try in 2018, backed by global data. Included in travel are one-day vacays, desert escapes and living la vida local — i.e., getting authentic experiences in non-touristy neighborhoods. In the home, large-scale wall art, statement ceilings and mixed metals are among the popular votes.

Michelle Lamb, director of the Trend Curve, has been traveling the globe to spot new directions for 30-some years. On her radar: “A return to tradition,” a neo-traditional movement that she says will appeal to millennials who may be starting to settle down with a home and children. “Art deco continues to build. Its lines are just as clean as mid-century modern, which now is mainstream, rather than trend.” At the same time, Lamb sees a countertrend of maximalism.

In palette, Lamb has reported from Maison and Objet on pink morphing into a neutral, and warm reds like Bordeaux emerging with nuances of other reds. A move to more earthy looks and a definite new wave of American West and Southwest appears to be on the horizon. Additionally, “space is a big consideration for a lot of people,” so modular furnishings and multifunctional pieces will be in demand.

So what to do with all the trends? Don’t be seduced by current fashions — unless that Ultraviolet really is a personal fave. Whether it’s color, style of a chair, you can’t really go wrong if you buy what you like.