Interiors Blend Past Comforts, Future Optimism

LAS VEGAS - Texture and dimension, neutralized colors and Indonesian influences as well as consumers' desire for realism and sophisticated design are driving interior design trends and new product introductions in 2004.

That's the view of design experts at Formica Corp., a leading manufacturer of countertop and other surfacing materials.
Formica released its "2004 Design Trends Forecast" to the trade press in conjunction with several recent trade shows here. The forecast detailed the latest design themes, color tendencies and ideas for residential settings, including consumer preferences for the kitchen and bath.

"Today, consumers are blending the comforts of the past with the optimism of the future and, further, are more willing to express their creativity and personal style, while choosing the latest in advanced technology and convenience," said Rene' Hytry, v.p./design for the Cincinnati-based Formica Corp. "We'll see products in 2004 that replicate textures and finishes of real stone and granite, yet are easier to maintain."

Citing a recent report issued by the Color Marketing Group, Hytry noted that consumers "have purchased items with unexpected sophistication."

"Today, they are looking for durable home products with brighter colors and home fashions that focus on innocence, freshness and elegance," she observed.

In the year ahead, architects, designers and consumers will be asked by their customers to specify "new, more sophisticated building materials to create interiors that blend comfort with creativity, past with future, and luxury with practicality," Hytry commented.

According to Hytry, texture is becoming increasingly important as an element in interior design, as colors blend and neutralize.

"With the popularity of outdoor living, there's also a craving for realism, or using materials that look and feel like those found in nature," she explained. "And, as people customize their spaces to express their individuality, they're incorporating exotic, spa-like motifs from faraway places like Asia, representing a therapeutic and nurturing environment."

In the prosperous 1990s, many homeowners cultivated a taste for high-end materials such as natural granite, stone and expensive woods only to face a new, uncertain decade that caused them to restrict home spending, Hytry pointed out.

"However, new technological advances in man-made materials now make it possible to mix luxury and sophistication with practicality and realism," she said. "For example, honed stones have been a popular choice in real stone flooring, and now homeowners want that look on the countertop. [But] while this type of finish is desirable, real stone is difficult to maintain," Hytry continued, noting that Formica recently introduced a realistic honed finish in laminate, as part of the company's "Etchings Finish Collection." The laminate surface features subtle clefts and crevices that mimic softly brushed stone.

Solid surfacing materials also remain popular in the kitchen and bath, and engineered stone "is growing as consumers' expectations for realistic-looking man-made products increase and costs are lower compared to natural products," according to Hytry.

New Formica Solid Surfacing introductions have been targeted as a response to a demand by consumers for "even more choices in granite and stone looks.

"Translucent looks and glass tints with subtle pearlescent shimmers continue to be popular this year," Hytry said. "Retro smoked glass, striking cobalt blue and green citron are incorporated in the new 'ice' patterns we're introducing that lend a sophisticated look to contemporary counters or vanities."

As the newest interior design trends blend the comforts of the past with the optimism of the future, "consumers will continue to expand their creativity and embrace the new technologies and opportunities being introduced," Hytry added.
In keeping with these trends, the 2004 Formica laminate and solid surface introductions fall into seven basic color families:

  • Warm, Usable Grays. "Extremely usable and fresh, this color category is a blend of gray, blue and green," Hytry said. These include warm grays with "just a hint of cool blend with natural and man-made materials alike."
  • Rich, Earthy Browns. Inspired by stone, wood and metal, these gold- and red-influenced browns are rich and sophisticated a natural progression of the popular gold of last year, Hytry reported.
  • Soft Blacks. "Using real granites and slates to color style this family, blacks become softer, warmer and naturalized," Hytry noted
  • Deep, Saturated Blues. "Spa-like colors and complex yellow-based blues indicate our need for calming influences," Hytry pointed out.
  • Yellowed Greens. Consumers' desire for renewal makes itself apparent with the influence of yellowed greens, which signify regeneration and rebirth, Hytry explained.
  • Sophisticated Golds. "Golds appear softer this year as yellow influences the entire palette," Hytry noted, adding that sophisticated golds are quieter and softer than in the past.
  • Shades of White. Hytry also said that she sees many shades of white lightening and brightening up the palette, from crisp linen white to yellow-infused white.