What's New in Home Design for Cape Ann?

Lean into a non-neutral this year.  Jen Coles like jewel tones, like this.
Lean into a non-neutral this year. Jen Coles like jewel tones, like this.

Spring is finally starting to be sprung.  Those brave spring bulbs are sticking their skinny green necks out, and so far, all I’ve wanted to do is wrap a scarf around them—but they are determined.  Good for them.  I love the newness in the air.  The expectation of change. 

And it all gets me thinking about where we are going with design these days.  Which is worth talking about because I think we are in a really interesting transitional phase.  Design is slowly ushering out some rigid adherence to everything gray, including the carerra marble, quartz countertops, and white kitchens associated with that period.  And that’s a significant shift because the gray period has been with us for the better part of 15 years.

So what are we ushering in?  Well, lots of things - which, as a designer, I find both interesting and also somewhat liberating.  Because in this transitional space, there aren’t as many rules to follow or preconceived notions of what a home should look like.  There is more room than ever to let you-do-you, which is frequently the beginning of the most inspired design in my opinion.  

I do recognize, however, that some may feel frustrated by the loosey-goosey nature of this transition.  I mean, what if you just finished painting the last room in your house gray?  You would be understandably resentful if you now felt you were expected to incorporate… well, what??  What is it exactly?

I hear you.  But here’s the first thing to remember.  It’s you-do-you, right?  So hang on to those grays as long as they are serving you.  There is no timeline, or design police.  You will not be arrested.  And a warm home that reflects the joys and challenges of its inhabitants doesn’t really care what color it’s painted.  Plus, design trends don’t so much change as they evolve.  You’ll find plenty of ways to add a pillow here or a duvet cover there to keep up with it all.  And you can assess more lasting changes when you next need to paint or replace your couch.

But that said, it’s also a good time to educate your eye toward what’s new.  Because why not?  There’s no pressure, and it’s kind of fun to know what’s out there.  Organic is a word that comes to my mind when I try to encompass the changes that I’m noticing. Where the grays were about coolness, smoothness, straight lines, and expansiveness, the " organics” are about warmth, texture, natural curves, and cozier spaces.

And to this end, I celebrate the undeniable fact that natural wood is officially IN.  Architecturally, much of it is currently blonde and in a matte finish, but that may change.  But you’ll notice it being used for kitchen pantries, or in tailored Scandinavian style beams, or in the shelves of a built-in bookcase.  Or in all three places so that warmth is balanced throughout.  I’m also noticing the increased use of one-of-a-kind furniture pieces - which is a niche industry I’ve been supporting for years.  These “bespoke” pieces make great coffee tables or bedframes, but I also incorporate them into my built-in features by using them for vanities, counter tops, or kitchen islands.

Wider planked, light-wood floors in a shine-free finish is a trend I’m guessing we will see for a while.  And if you are in the market, it’s worth going to a high-quality flooring store to review the options.  There really are some amazing alternatives to traditional wood out there—some of them with a lifetime warrantee.  I frequently use these products in basements, but the quality has gotten so good that I think they may be ready for prime time.  Not to say natural wood floors aren’t amazing, because they are (and will never go out of style), but as I get old and crotchety I get more and more attracted to maintenance-free.

Color-wise, the neutral warms are starting to make their way back in as the cool grays, well, cool.  But remember, light neutrals seem to defy categories.  A warm gray may pull towards green in one light and then pull towards tan in another.  If that’s not your thing, then use a color that’s a bit darker.  In general the more pigment the color has in it, the more stable the color is in different lighting.

At the other end of the color spectrum, I am loving bold colors like earthy greens, or terra cottas, or purpley-browns.  Or yes, some of those rich jewel tones.  I’ve had great results painting a whole room the same dramatic color - walls, trim, built-ins, ceilings - all of it.  (Just watch your pets because I’ll paint them too.)  Or sometimes I just hit the ceiling with color or maybe just the window trim.  Conversely, you can get your drama by pulling the trigger on that velvet couch you’ve been eyeing in raspberry.  It’s you-do-you after all!  But remember, In some ways you need the courage to go all-in, but in other ways it’s still all about balance.  So proceed with some caution here.

You may also be noticing some changes in the catalogs in your mailbox.  The upholstered furniture used to be square and clean, sitting on metal legs and covered in crisp fabrics or leather.  But now we are seeing the introduction of the curve.  You’ll notice the upholstered furniture is sort of round and bulbous and molded.  The new ones tend to sit low to the ground and are covered in fabrics that have lots of texture.  It’s really a dramatic change in that furniture industry and I’m curious to see where it all lands.  Although I must admit that some of those pieces remind me of the bubble letters I used to write my name in as a kid.

Another way I’ve seen the curve that I really like is in the introduction of crescent-shaped sofas.  They still look fresh to me, and it can do wonders to cozy up the conversation area in your family room.  You do need some square footage to make this look work though; I think those couches need some room to breath.

And one last “curve” ball is that many people are saying the open floor plan is out and that people now want enclosed spaces with some privacy, especially with the work-from-home push of late.  

I tend to land in the middle on this one.  I mean, I’ve always enjoyed some closed-in spaces, especially in rooms specific to a task, like working.  But I’ve also always really appreciated what an open floor plan, with its expansive sightlines, can accomplish.  So I think you need to carefully pick and choose on that front and not overthink the trends.

And there you have it.  I just said it.  Pick and choose what works for you.  It’s nice to be aware of what’s out there, but you-do-you, because that’s where the most inspired design originates.