Ask a Designer™
What’s Really New and Where Do I Find It?
Q. I’ve been shopping for my new condo at national stores for items that I saw in ads I liked. I love designer things and am not worried about things going out of style. I’ll be moving every three years with my job, so I’ll redecorate anyway. A friend of mine told me that the big stores have merchandise that has been around so long it can’t be cutting edge design and that everybody has it. Is this true? What really is new and where would you suggest shopping. —R.P.
A. I think it is true that large retailers attempt to appeal to a broad audience, but many large stores have the ability to drive the trends by themselves. In the past, wholesale and retail were distinctly separate and often linked by middle men.
Now, some retailers contract directly with manufacturers. New merchandise may be launched by in-house or contract designers. Just as the music industry features songs rather than albums or even the artist, the home decorating industry pushes a look without far reaching commitments. With the internet and inexpensive international travel, the time between product launch and the first knock-off is typically six months, so the key to driving trends is no longer simply innovation; it is the ability to change.
Trendsetters tend to be local design boutiques, celebrities, retailers with powerful advertising ability, and retailers with their own manufacturing. I can describe current trends with one word (for the first time in two decades): novelty. We are no longer fascinated with machined perfection or authentic antiques. We want curiosities, working parts, and things that seem truly new.
Three design themes pervade most new industry offerings: Art Deco, France (high style but simplified in clean lines rather than country cottage), and Industrial (especially mechanics). You may find a mahogany pie table at your local store, but look closely: it probably has artistic inlays, carving, or other detail that make it different from period pieces. If you have kept up with magazines, you have probably seen new designs within six months of their release. I think that’s good enough for any home owner. When it comes down to final decisions (especially color), go with things that inspire you or give your home the mood you want it to be.
Q. My husband and I recently bought a home which was previously a bed and breakfast. We love the historical aspect of the home, but our most important reason for choosing it is the number of bedroom suites it has. My husband has a demanding job which requires being on-call at a moment’s notice. Consequently, our relatives come here to visit. Our children are in college or grown with the first grand child on the way. Even with numerous bedrooms, we have more guests than rooms, so they can’t be decorated for each person or couple. I have ordered custom draperies for the living rooms and am ready to start on bedrooms. I was prepared to purchase ready-made bedding, but didn’t because it looked too trendy. I can afford custom bedding, but I don’t want to throw my money away with all the use it will get, and I don’t know how to choose styles to please everybody. How would you suggest planning the bedrooms?—W.S.
A. Historical homes have so much character that packaged products rarely seem their equal. Whether designing for a college dorm or a fine home such as yours, appropriateness is always the key to long term satisfaction.
Your bedding ensembles should be made primarily of durable fabrics so that they will withstand occasional cleaning or a suitcase thrown on them. (Place racks just for that purpose!)
It isn’t necessary to use period-perfect or exclusive fabrics. Recognizably traditional motifs are good enough. A little use of trends here and there will no doubt impress the younger members of your family. Rather than designing for individuals, assign each room a general style or color scheme. For instance, one room can be of bright colors and include some manufactured quilted coverlets and matching pillows to coordinate with your choice damasks or other historical motifs.
The solid pieces can be replaced sooner than the others making it ideal for younger, more active guests. Make one room masculine in color while still keeping traditional motifs. Consider interchanging a few elements. You could plan a room that is elegantly traditional which can go either feminine or masculine with the change of two pillows. In this line drawing, the ruffled shams can be exchanged for ones with clean lines or with leather, wood buttons, etc.
If you have four rooms or more to do, choose a color to repeat in one pair of rooms and another color for a second pair of rooms to get more wear and versatility out of the ensembles. Most draperies outlive bedding, so you might want to use coordinates rather than a key fabric on the windows that could coordinate with a new scheme later.
Another strategy is to use gorgeous, durable fabric everywhere such as this Scottish Highland bedding of thick chenille which happens to be soft enough for bedding. Locations and cultures can help influence the style of room too. Your guests will love visiting and enjoying the wonderful environment you have provided! u
Editor’s Note: We welcome all questions related to home design—ask us about color, room arrangement, planning for a new home, selecting furnishings, lighting, flooring, and more. Questions are answered by Tanna Miller, allied member ASID, a well respected designer who has operated her award winning interior design practice, Trends & Traditions, in Nashville for 18 years. Contact Tanna at www.shopdesignnashville.com or call 615-601-0552.