Technology has made it easy for consumers and designers to keep up with trends — by scrolling through Instagram and prowling influential design blogs, it’s easy to get obsessed with an of-the-moment style or color (like the Instagrammable millenial pink trend that has refused to fade). In fashion, runway trends translate quickly to fast fashion from lower-priced retailers, and dated clothes are discarded with the changing seasons or pushed to the back of a closet. It’s not as simple to transform your interior architecture and decor whenever a trend slips from popular to passé.
Most people spend at least a few years in their homes, meaning that designers still think about timelessness when crafting stylish interiors in a world oversaturated by shifting trends, where what’s “in” is over as soon as it overpopulates Instagram, much less the several months to years that it takes to build and design a home. To get a sense of how our designers address mainstream style in their work, we talked with several Dering Hall designers about how and to what extent they incorporate trends in their projects, and how trends influence their design visions.
ROBERT PASSAL INTERIOR & ARCHICTURAL DESIGN
As consumers become less interested in objects and styles that feel mass-produced, interior design has reflected these cultural changes in its methods. “One of the current movements in design is truly personalized spaces that suit and represent the lifestyles of clients,” says Robert Passal of Robert Passal Interior and Architectural Design. Passal doesn’t follow trends, though he notes, as do other designers, that it’s hard not to notice them. “I consider myself a trendsetter not a trend follower,” he adds.
While not necessarily trendy, the above space reflects a popular interest in dark interiors. The eclectic artworks and textured curtains feel contemporary, and also unique. In his spaces, he often encourages his clients to try the wallcovering trend, as they add “warmth and rich layers to spaces, and can transform a room.”
Owner and principal designer at Kate Maloney Interior Design, Kate Maloney likes to follow trends; however, she doesn’t let them define her interiors, and she values her clients’ personal style. “It’s helpful to understand what my clients are seeing [on social media] so I know where they’re coming from,” says Maloney, “but I also encourage them to go against trends so their home feels more unique to their personal taste.”
“No trends here,” says Maloney about the room featured above. Instead, the space is grounded in unique pieces that fiend little correlation with mainstream trends, according to the designer. “If a trend overlaps with the client’s style, then we are happy to incorporate it, but it’s never the driver,” she adds.
To keep up with trends, Catherine Austin of Catherine M. Austin Interior Design attends design fairs and markets, and she also follows both the fashion and art worlds. “Artists are typically the first to creatively express themselves as they respond to the world around them,” says Austin. “Fashion follows suit. Interior design trends follow what is happening on the runway and in art studios, so it’s usually a season or two behind.” According to Austin, social media has played a role in the degeneration of trends, as people keep seeing the same ideas and regurgitating them with little creative innovation. “Once a trend hits the mass markets, it has run its course,” she says.
When designing the room above, the only trends Austin obeyed were “quality over quantity, customization, and wallpaper.” She designed the room around antique pieces the clients had acquired for a previous home and set them against an organic wallpaper by Allegra Hicks. When she couldn’t find a chandelier that was the right scale for the space, she had one custom made that also complements the surrounding antique furnishings. “There is a reason these antiques have survived for so long,” Austin comments — in contrast to trends with shorter lives.
President of Alene Workman Interior Design, Alene Workman pays attention to trends. However, as she points out, while some styles are popular, such as casual homes that feature wood details, they’re not necessarily trendy. “Trendy is a big negative in my world since that is about being fashionable or ‘of the moment,'” she says. “It is a dangerous path for a designer, as no client wants their home to be labeled for a specific year or a certain color.”
In this particular waterfront project, Workman focused on trends that last, including “clean-lined contemporary design, comfortable furnishings, and inviting spaces that coordinate in this open home plan where spaces flow visually from one to the other.” Featuring mixed materials like wood, stainless steel, and marble, this space is trendy but tempered, ensuring that it doesn’t feel like the product of any one era.
Carolyn Rebuffel of Carolyn Rebuffel Designs coaches her clients to get outside their comfort zone if they’re nervous to try something new that they love. Rebuffel also suggests ways that they can try a trend without sacrificing the home’s overall style for years to come. “Millenial pink paint can be easily changed, but a millenial pink sofa is going to be dated and dirty fairly quickly,” she says, and offers another example. “Brass hardware in the right context is beautiful, but brass hardware for the sake of popularity may not be the best choice.”
In this bedroom for a young girl in New York City, Rebuffel included trends that were also practical — such as the white lacquered furnishings that could be easily wiped clean. “Knowing the client’s daughter as I did, I felt that it had to be comfortable and practical as well as girly and current,” she says.
Henriette von Stockhausen of VSP Interiors is not a fan of trends. Instead, she prefers to choose the style and furnishings based on what’s right for the client’s space. Trends often tend toward excess, as extremes stand out more on social media, and von Stockhausen particularly dislikes over-the-top “pattern mixing for its own sake.” When she looks at an overly maximalist room, she sometimes thinks, “that would drive me so mad that I couldn’t live there.” She adds, “The eye needs to find a place to rest in an interior rather than endlessly wander, in my opinion.”
That said, von Stockhausen isn’t shy about splicing together styles with restraint. And often, a designer’s style may align with trends; as the designer notes, the wall-hanging green plates in the above room seem trendy, but “this was a collection of plates that we hung together for some fun,” not to follow a trend.
“We observe trends in order not to be too trendy,” says Jeff Schlarb of Jeff Schlarb Design Studio. “Our designs are meant to have a life, meaning, and feeling of their own.” Like other designers, Schlarb moderates the trendiness of his designs by paying careful attention to the clients and their needs. He doesn’t believe that social media positively influences the direction of design, at least not now; according to Schlarb, algorithms have made it harder to discover original designs because users end seeing only the most popular posts. The algorithms are “sort of democratizing design… and ulimately offering fewer unique inspirations,” he says.
In this eclectic, art-filled space, Schlarb tried to round out the client’s existing artworks with complementary furniture. The living room seems driven by the client’s interest in art, rather than specific trends. “We worked hard to select many show-stopping, artistic furniture pieces that matched the artistry of the sculptures and fine art in the home,” he said.
Dana Lyon of the Refined Group notes that technological innovations impact design trends, as accepted design practices evolve and as certain materials became more available. To follow trends in technology and otherwise, “you have to be a voracious reader and look for creativity from media you trust,” she says.
For the space featured above, Lyon used a trending lighter palette and minimalist decor, paired with European antiques. Other trends, such as heavy printed fabrics and dark colors, didn’t work with the clients’ style. Her favorite part of the room is a five-foot-tall custom chandelier that layers harmoniously with the vaulted ceiling.
For Scott Sanders, social media can allow individual users to have an outsized effect on global design trends. “One post that goes viral can start a new trend instantly,” Sanders says. Like many designers, he suggests trends to his clients that he thinks will improve their lives and spaces, and he tries to dissuade them from fads that burn out as quickly as they began.
In this particular project, trends played a role in the overall design. “I had begun seeing a resurgence of nautical design, so we created an entire hotel in a nautical feel.” Although inspired by larger trends, the design still breaks with mainstream trends in the pool’s porthole windows, which are unique to this design, as far as the designer knows. “It’s so fabulous,” Sanders says — which is, ultimately, all that trends claim to be.