Nearly one and a half centuries have passed since William Morris, the English writer, social activist, and textile designer, issued his famous “golden rule” of interior design: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Morris’s ideas ignited a revolution in design, influencing the legendary Bauhaus movement in the early 20th century, and they still echo in public and private spaces today.
Interior design is perhaps the least often considered form of art, but for the vast majority of us, it is the art we spend the most time with. It is the art of how we live, and the art we live our lives around.
Like any art form, interior design has its flashy trends, its evergreen styles, and its seminal eras — Bauhaus, Mid-Century Modern, Art Deco. And, like any art form, it moves with the times (and occasionally against them). As we end the second decade of the 21st century, it is worth asking where those trends and styles currently stand. What do we know to be useful or believe to be beautiful today? Three interior designers in Gainesville have unique perspectives on the past, present and future of the form.
Sarah Cain, owner and operator of Sarah Cain Design, sees the current era of interior design as being a mixture of modern and rustic.
“The last several years, people have been gravitating toward a traditional environment, while pulling in a modern feel,” she said. “People are starting to embrace things that feel timeless, that are handcrafted, that have been touched by others. At the same time, we see a lot more of the smoother, cleaner lines. But you can get too cold and modern if you do too much of that.”
Cain said that the antidote for a cold, modern space is texture.
“The woods are really important,” she said. “You can feel the grain. It feels like it’s something that has been well loved. It has that patina of wear to it. The textures are happening in a wide variety of materials, too. We see a lot of warm metals, a lot of brushed brass and antiqued brass.”
Another trend currently in vogue, Cain said, was mixing metals.
“No one is doing the ‘everything matches’ thing,” she said. “You might see a brushed brass with a black iron piece. I think having a mix of pieces that come from different places that mean something to you, tells your story, it will be a little more timeless.”
Cain, who earned a master’s degree in interior design at the University of Florida and now oversees a team of five designers, said that trends in color have also changed.
“You might have a lot of lighter environments – white walls are popular – but not everything is white. That is too sterile. You’ll see bold pops of color. Blues and navies are always popular, but you’ll also see blushes now, a fleshy pink color, and camel.”
Michelle McElroy, owner and operator of MM Design & Decor in Gainesville, has also seen a move toward bold colors.
“Right now, bright and bold colors are in,” she said. “Ultra Violet is the Pantone color of the year, although it’s a funky color, and that color of the year drives the manufacturers.”
McElroy also noted that advances in technology, including 3-D drawing and computer rendering, have changed the way interior designers relate to their customers.
“I was recently working on a laundry room, and I could show the client every wall in 3-D – the washer and dryer, the cabinets, the sink,” she said. “It’s not just black and white; it will be in color.”
McElroy also noted the impact of virtual-reality goggles, which allow customers to “actually walk through the room,” as well as computerized fabric designs that she downloads and places on sofas and chairs.
“The client can get a real life view of what it’s going to look like,” she said.
In past eras, trends in interior design were driven by changes in art or philosophy. The Bauhaus philosophy held that the form of a building should match its function; Art Deco took its cues from Cubism and other modernist art. Today, McElroy said, trends are often moved by the media – especially cable television channels such as HGTV as well as the economy.
“A lot of it goes with confidence,” she said. “Confidence right now is high. When you have more confidence you tend to see bolder approaches.”
Brandi Shaw Catalanotte is familiar with television’s power to influence interior design. Catalanotte, who owns and operates La Notte Design, was a featured designer on ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover” in 2010. She sees three major trends in modern design: minimalism, eco-friendly design and color as a design element.
“Design is always changing,” Catalanotte said. “It’s important to learn what cutting edge trends are simply fads and which will be around for decades to come. I like to guide my clients to select timeless pieces for their space.”
While some pieces are timeless, Catalanotte added, others move in cycles.
“You can store an item, and 20 years later it’s going to be hot again,” she said. “You know the saying: what’s old is new again. A few examples would be the return of wallpaper on the ceiling, velvet sofas and chairs, and leather headboards.”
In fact, “timeless” is a word all three designers used when describing the ideal interior design. Each noted that while trends are important, they should be used with caution.
“I think trends are great to use in small doses,” Cain said. “They come and go. Incorporate them in small pieces. It could be pillows – find some trendy patterns on a pillow and throw it on a sofa. Find pieces that are easy to migrate in and out of your life.”
There is one other abiding trend in interior design, and in light of these three artists, designers and business owners, it must be mentioned: the dominance of female designers. In 1897, nearly 20 years after William Morris penned his golden rule, Edith Wharton – the first female writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature – co-authored “The Decoration of Houses.” The landmark book helped move interior design away from the stuffy Victorian era of heavy curtains and puffy chairs, and into a cleaner, sleeker era. At roughly the same time, designers such as Candace Wheeler and Elsie De Wolfe helped create a new, unpretentious, American style.
Today, Cain, McElroy and Catalanotte are heirs to that great tradition, even as they carry it into the future.
Like any art form, interior design has its flashy trends, its evergreen styles, and its seminal eras. And like any art form, it moves with the times (and occasionally against them).