Design Trends Today and Tomorrow

When designers begin turning the design dial away from the familiar, it’s a good indicator of changes to come. Changes don’t happen overnight — they happen gradually. Design trends even seem to be grouped by decade. We can all attest to the ’90s being heavily imbued with the Old World look. Today’s decade seems to be well defined by modern, clean lines.

Now that we’re well into the millennium’s first decade, we can step back and more easily critique the Old World look as too heavy. It already seems like an “old” trend — one that was a little overused as well as misused. Heavy faux finish and wrought iron with curly cues; tons of carved stone; rubble stone interiors and exteriors, etc. Everyone wanted it and we certainly gave it to them in varying degrees of sophistication, depending on budget.

Currently, it seems obvious that we’re already deep into the trend of modern and cleaner designs. This trend incorporates the extensive use of many materials and products such as glass, minimalistic light fixtures and plumbing fixtures usually prescribed by commercial architects and designers, and even color combinations such as pastels and browns defining the millennium look.

Some trends come and go quickly, and some stay longer than a decade. What’s important to us is how long a life we can expect for this new trend of modernity; how deeply will it become embedded in our residential design vocabulary; and most importantly, what’s to follow and who’s creating it?

The way I see it, architects and designers fall largely into three categories. There are those original creators who come up with a new design concept. Then there are those who identify the trend early, refine it to its highest levels of sophistication and bring it into the mainstream. And finally there are those who copy it without understanding its origin but recognize the commercial demand for it.

There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about being in one group or another, but it will reflect your level of design acumen. If you’re in the first group, you’re not going to sell a lot of your designs. You will be largely misunderstood in the moment, but in the future you may be recognized for your cutting-edge contribution.

If you belong in the second group, you may become recognized as a trendsetter. People will be more accepting of your work because you will have translated something foreign into something acceptable and mainstream. You will probably enjoy commercial success by having transitioned the new with the familiar.

If you’re among the third group, you should be doing very well because you have the advantage of volume consumerism. Your client is not interested in purism so much as wanting to be in style. You will be searching for all the knockoffs that affordably depict the style without getting too involved in the specifics of design concept.

Walking the isles of the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla., in February, it would have been very easy to quickly grasp the trends of today. All the major manufacturers are showing clean, sleek, almost commercial finishes and shapes. This is a great opportunity for architects and designers (groups two and three above) to stay on top of their game, or just to update their product libraries.

I think our next design influence will derive from those designers borrowing from Art Nouveau. This 1920s movement became a design brushfire around the world almost 100 years ago when the most sophisticated means of communications were the telegraph and ships. You can say that you heard it here first.