So Cool They’re Hot – Design Trends for 2009

Color of the year - so says Pantone, so reports
Color of the year – so says Pantone, so reports

Oh, I know this design trends post is late in the season. Well, actually it’s kinda late in the year to mention trends, but I suppose better late than never…

You have to wonder about this notion of interior design trends.  Where do these trends germinate and who sets them?  For the latest word on anything, I visit Ryan Kerby’s  I’ve made notes of several of the posts presented there earlier this year for your convenience but to get a sense of a bigger picture, go for a visit yourself.  There is always something quite interesting there to see/learn about.

If there is any harbinger of things to come home decor wise, then it’s the High Point Furniture Market.  It’s the largest furnishing industry trade show in the world and is held every six months in High point, North Carolina.  This is ground zero for the serious retail home furnishings buyer.  It’s been said, “If you can’t find it in High Point, it probably doesn’t exist.”

This year, not surprisingly, the emphasis continues to be on Eco-friendly products, sustainable and recycled materials, and energy efficient lighting.  Designers continue to look for and develop more unusual ways to incorporate green design.

There is however a notable difference in attitude and direction. There is a sense of conservation, with an eye towards organic forms as found in nature and away from more minimalist transitional approaches.

Wooden furniture is finished to age well with hand planning and distressed surfaces.  Gone are the formal lacquered finishes that required your best behavior, as they were easily scratch and marred.

There’s a kind of blending of styles too.  Modern upholstery, so straight-lined and spare in the past, now comes with the softer cushioning and curved edges one associates with traditional styles.

Small is beautiful, when you invest in decorative accents.  The general idea is to update your home with a few gestures and bold accessories rather than with a complete design overhaul.

To that end, the economic downturn has not resulted in a downturn of spirits in the interior fashion world.  An historical corollary might be the 1930’s.  The worst years of the Depression were the golden age of Hollywood musicals.

As in the movies, where “over-the-top” seems normal, rich colors and patterns, glitter, glitz and even fur, create a sense of luxury.  Though interior colors still tend to be based in neutrals, think exuberant flamboyance…in small enough doses to incorporate glamour into the real world.

To execute these flourishes, fashion design and interior design have linked and crossed over in some areas.   Some of the trends seen on the runway showed up as fresh ideas in home décor fashion by way of accessories.

Here are a few of the majors:

  • Sophisticated neutrals continue to rule the day with a rich variety of grays leading the pack. However, the overall effect is ramped up with vibrant colors such as purples, oranges, and yellows, for snap, pop and sizzle.   According to Pantone, the global authority on color and professional color standards, Pantone #14-0848, Mimosa Yellow, is the color of the year.  The company states, “The color is a warm, engaging yellow and deemed perfect for this year of change – hopeful optimism that the economic and political atmosphere will clear and provide utmost re-assurance.”
  • Carrying the optimistic point further, gold is used everywhere possible: on small items, flatware, candlesticks, gold thread etc.  It’s a symbol of prosperity and represents hope, in the form of a good luck charm.
  • Bling isn’t what it used to be – iridescent wallpapers, textiles dressed with sequins and/or metal beads and shiny threads abound.  Metallics are big, as are mirrored inserts.  Anything shimmering and reflective goes.  In fact, mirrored anything from a box to a side table is a good and bright (literally) idea.
  • Sinuous, organic shapes define large tabletop sculptures and make for very effective focal points.  “Expense” isn’t the key word. “Interesting” and/or “Unique” serve better.
  • The themes of “back to nature” and “bringing the outdoors in” are seen with leafy motifs on fabric, as well as wood chunks or wrapped stems used as lamp bases.  Small accent tables with tree trunk bases are such an example used on furniture.
  • Feathering your nest takes on new meaning.  Feathers (yes, really) are used on tassels and trims, pillows, table skirts.  Think decadence, but don’t over do it.  Use Peacock feathers.  They offer the best color and quality.
  • Fur, faux or the real deal, is very big this year.  Use wherever possible, on pillows, seat cushions, throws, rugs, bedding.  Fur still represents luxury.
  • Here’s where you can throw your clothes the furniture.  As decorative touches, embroidery and ruffles are used to fluff up the scenery by adding more texture in an uncommon way.  Speaking of “fluff”, do be careful with the ruffles.  They are best used on small pillows.

Though moderation and flamboyance don’t naturally belong in the same sentence, do your best to proceed with these two words in mind.  Exuberant style packs a powerful punch even with just a small gesture.  One or two of these ideas may be all you need to give your rooms a fresh new look.   This is one area where “less” is definitely “more”.

Related Posts

Seasonal Decorating: Spring Break

Decor Aid: My Home Needs A Do-Over: Where Do I Start?

Photo – Pantone – courtesy of

This article recently appeared in the 40-page supplement of Dan’s Papers’ (of Southampton) on this year’s annual Hamptons Home and Garden Show. It’s included here are a basis for further updates on style and trends at a later date.
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