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It is said that design trends are cyclical — as with the rise of minimalism following the (first) Great Depression and the inflow of plants into buildings amid growing environmental concerns — changes in design tend to appear in the wake of economic and cultural fluctuations. In order to gauge where decorative preferences will be headed, you only need to look at the state of the world today.

Expressing Wealth in Reserved Taste and Reverence

Even during the Great Depression, the affluent had to continue shopping — and understandably, generic brown paper packaging and subtle imagery became more popular than the highly visible shopping bags and recognisable logos that were the norm. Here at the beginning of an uncertain decade, amidst an ever-widening wealth gap, homes will be decorated with wealth expressed in more soft-spoken terms — with brass, bronze, and other copper alloys in place of gold or silver.

The familiar forms of terracotta pots, reimagined in brass and contrasted with wood, seem to magically bridge the divide between luxurious and rural. Photo by Kaufmann Mercantile on Unsplash.

Perhaps we just got tired of all the stainless steel and chrome, or we wanted to pay homage to an earlier time when prosperity was celebrated rather than abhorred — whatever the reasons may be, there has been a noticeable resurgence of brass used in decorative fixtures and accents. Expect to notice more fixtures resembling the works of Tom Dixon hanging around eateries and boutiques.

Brass looks enigmatic even when left outdoors to be affected by the elements. Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash.

Brass is less ostentatious than most other valuable metals but arguably far more expressive. It can be made ornate, as with antique door handles, or simplistic, as with flower pots or watering cans; it can be left to tarnish and develop a patina that vintage-seeking personalities find appealing; it can be polished to a mirror sheen to affect a restrained dose of glam; and for some reason, it looks especially attractive next to natural greenery or a spread of navy blue.

Photo by Paweł Bukowski on Unsplash.

Repurposing and Upcycling to Soothe the Conscience

That combination of brass and blue seems to work alongside upcycled materials as well. Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash.

On the other end of the scale, our growing collective need for environmental conservation will inevitably result in an abundance of distressed materials juxtaposed against fresh coats of paint within our interiors. Instead of throwing old furniture out, environmentally conscious decorators are increasingly repurposing pre-loved objects and giving them new life with a fresh coat of paint.

It takes minimal effort and creativity to completely revamp an aged piece of furniture. Photo by Linh Pham on Unsplash.

An already prevalent sight in minimalist bathrooms, and perhaps the most common example of this expression, is perhaps the wooden (non-weight-bearing) ladder dipped in white paint and repurposed as a towel rack. Other variations include diminutive Scandinavian stools and antique side tables dipped or sprayed in striking shades.

Vintage pieces dipped in white paint seem to complement and lend a retro vibe to Scandinavian interiors. Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash.

This popular expression has also led to the rise of a cottage industry on platforms such as Etsy, where creators use colourising methods such as wet transfer printing to put alluring swirls of colour on ordinary household objects with oil, acrylic, or vinyl paints.

While you certainly could purchase hydro-dipped objects online, you could also make your own. Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash.

Collecting Tropical Features in the Name of Escapism

Homeownership rates have hit all-time lows, and the accepted explanation is the widespread preference for experiential purchases — such as for vacations in photogenic locales. Even here in the tropics, short-haul vacations would have most of us escaping to beaches, where we would be saturated in palm fronds and rattan furniture.

And many of us are understandably compelled to bring some reminders of that fleeting serenity back home. Photo by Taylor Simpson on Unsplash.

Judging by the prevalence of these tropical features in trendy restaurants and cafés, in addition to the kind of images that typically inspire the travel bug on platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest, rattan and palm fronds, as either physical materials or visual motifs, will be increasingly common sights in our own homes. 

Diverse varieties of palm leaf patterns have been printed on everything from dresses (in the 1920s) to wallpaper (in the 1970s), and they’ve made a reappearance in fashion recently. Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash.

Searching for Authenticity and Innocence

Chalk it up to nostalgia — or anemoia (nostalgia for a time not experienced) — a few design features are returning to a simpler time. Typefaces such as sans serif, seen throughout the 2010s on things like those “Keep Calm” posters, have reached a saturation point and will likely be fading out in favour of more stylistic font families that were in widespread use between the 1960s and 1980s.

We’re probably all sick of straight lines and skinny fonts by now. The loopy and expressive lines of vintage typefaces will likely be appearing on our walls more often. Photo by Josh Hemsley on Unsplash.

The same era of groovy typefaces is also the domain of the lava lamp, and the iconic symbol provides other appealing decorative motifs such as colour gradients and globular forms — which has resulted in breathtaking renderings on walls and the proliferation of household items in amorphous forms (such as bean bags).

Admit it, you can’t help but stare at it. Photo by Martin Engel - Grafiker Hamburg on Unsplash.

While neutral colours have been overwhelmingly the norm in the first decade of the new millennium, the events of the last ten years have perhaps inspired a search for meaning in colour. Lines have apparently blurred in the world, and in our interiors, solid blocks of colour will be making way for gorgeous gradients evocative of sunsets.

The blending of two shades subtly marks separate zones and creates a sense of motion. Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash.

Where will decorative trends go from here? Just take a look at the world, then let emotion and the most memorable events of your life paint the interior.

See properties before and after interior design here, then check out some examples costing under RM100,000.

(Contributed by Giselle Markaz, Edited by Kevin Eichenberger, 2nd April 2020)


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Thanks, very informative

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NICE sharing.

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Interesting photos as always. 

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How much it cost?