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2020 Design Trends: Color, Materials + Finish

08/30/2018 Carolyn Ames Noble

The year 2020 all at once seems so futuristic and yet just around the corner. As we approach the next decade in design, we look to both the future and the past to conceive new products and methods. 

To disseminate color, material, and finishes for 2019 and 2020, three key themes were defined: the engineered environment, organic emotion and colorful collaboration. From these three leading macro themes, several indicators of a staying trend emerged. As part of this quest, design leaders throughout the interiors product category space weighed in on the direction.

Throughout the three trend stories, the pursuit to preserve nature is omnipresent.

Engineered Environment

In the first trend, engineered environment, nature itself is seemingly created or enhanced from the technological lab and placed back into earth. Science becomes symbiotic with design. Sustainability is a straightforward baseline to any good design solution. Designers incorporate science and new methodologies to create solutions that are long-lasting and perseverant.

In that vein, we have seen much material attention paid to recycled plastics and new composites. Ecobirdy created a children’s furniture line of 100-percent recycled plastics from used and discarded toys. Further, it has even penned a children’s storybook based on its practice as an early introduction to the circular economy. Terrazzo will continue to be an important material of color and pattern forward experimentation. We will also see a rise of new and interesting resins made, such as Laurent Peacock’s Piper, which features peppercorns or Himalayan salt.

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Photography by Laurent Peacock

Wood is thoughtfully transformed. Yael Reboh was inspired by layered combinations and the exploration of merging existing materials to form a new one with its own set of characteristics and properties. Her Primavera armchair, a 2018 Lexus Design Award finalist, is exemplary. Says Reboh: “I was fascinated by the aesthetic that the layered combination created, the versatile expressions achieved from each material, like soft versus hard, cracking versus incomplete, flexible versus stable.” ​ Genisher

The color story imitates and engineers nature. Finishes are tactile and speculative, from highly lustrous to innate, unvarnished surfaces. Blue is bright and saturated, together with a true yellow set against taupe, forest green and deep teal, highlighted by pure white and soft petal pink.

Photography by Nimrod

Organic Emotion

In our second trend story of organic emotion, nature is rooted and still and empathy is profound. Similar to the design community’s embrace of sustainability in the early 2000s, health and wellness finds a central place of meaningful planning. Smart or wearable technology is human-centered and beautifully designed. Water conversation is paramount. The immersion into nature is physiological.

Clean water filtration becomes both experiential and approachable in alluring vessels. Pratik Ghosh uses live plants and fauna to filtrate water in Drop-by-Drop.

Megan McClendon is the commercial design leader at Formica Corporation, and describes an intersection of humanity and technology. “Digital dominance is challenged by embracing sound, sight, touch and taste,” McClendon explains. “Immersive building environments focus on our primal needs by mimicking our circadian rhythms, improving the air we breathe and cocooning us in sensorial comfort. There is a dreamy quality, a softness and introspective feel that allows us to put aside busy thoughts and access our emotions.”

Biophilia in Design

Biophilia is the human’s intrinsic need for interaction with nature and we nurture ourselves.

Jayson Simeon, Global design leader, Moen and The House of Rohl, considers what he sees as “macro trends, wellness and biophilia, being influencers promoting revitalization through organic elements that are crafted, not molded.”

Photography by Stylus Inc.

“Bath spaces, in particular are transforming into microcosmic destinations in the home – a space of solace, reflection and rejuvenation as opposed to the hallmark catalyst of your daily routine,” Simeon says. “In the bath, we are seeing new materials like volcanic limestone and others that are naturally warmer to the touch than traditional enameled tub or sink surfaces, making the bath experience more relaxing right from the start, while using less hot water to heat and maintain bath temperatures.”

Benjamin Pardo, Knoll design director, describes how commercial office furnishings featuring natural soft touch materials, including veneer and cork, will continue to be popular for open plan and private office spaces.

Colors in this palette include distilled off-white, khaki and jute brown, and infused with sundrenched gold, grayed blue-violet and jade green. Metamerism, the apparent shift in color, will be embraced as an authentic design quality. Finishes appear cloudlike, layered and interesting, streaked with metallic threads against medium-toned wood grain.


Positive change is on the horizon in the third and final color forward collaboration. More than an age categorization, Generation Z is the new multicultural face of America. As they enter the consumer space, they bring a dynamic and inherently inclusive mindset, which largely influences the third trend story and its new collaborative spirit. The women’s movement celebrates 100 years of voting in the United States. The global viewpoint is also at play as the new middle class economies in China and India continue emergence.

Fatigued from the noise of the past several years, design seeks to construct cadence out of the chaos.  Art Deco-like colors and forms were on full display at the 2018 Salone de Milano. When Art Deco originated in 1925 Paris, it was reactionary to what was seen as elitist and overly ornate design. Art Deco’s clean lines were relatable, able to be mass-produced and accessible to all. There is a striking commonality to today’s reintroduction.

Geometry and synchronicity are on full display in this trend. At long last, commercial carpet design will break out of the square. Shaw Contract partnered with Form Us with Love and launched Inside Shapes at Neocon 2018. Explains Reesie Duncan, vice president of global design at Shaw Contract: “Working with Form Us with Love has been a rewarding, highly collaborative process. We began with a lengthy design-thinking exercise to look at the way flooring is installed, how different product surfaces come together and how designers express a spatial narrative with flooring. We were constantly asking, ‘How do we change this? How might we do things differently?’ It was a challenge we were all inspired to pursue together, and having a design partner who did not come from a flooring background was especially exciting as it brought new perspective to the table.” Duncan also mentioned an early mantra for the design development: “Unique shapes working together collaboratively.”

Upcoming Color Palettes

Of color, Emily Kantz, interior designer at Sherwin-Williams, projects the use of Inventive Orange SW 6633, Seawashed Glass SW 9034 and Bora Bora Shore SW 9045. “Inspired by the global community, these colors are bold, uninhibited, optimistic and carefree. The colors are ageless, have a good dose of humor and playfulness and are not overly complicated.” Kantz says of the colors, together with finishes “pairing great with the lighter blond wood tones and matte black. Look for these colors in statement walls, fabrics, furniture and interior accessories.”

Rounding out the color palette, we’ve added bold red, pastel rose and inky indigo. Color and finish work in harmony with pattern, which is graphic and orderly.

Photography by Shaw Contract and Form Us with Love

In 2019 and 2020, there is a shift. Designers have the platform to create meaningful change through a multi-pronged approach of sustainable, resilient and WELL project practices. We look forward to this near and optimistic future – seeing forecasted color, material and finish trends unfold and evolve.

Carolyn Ames Noble, ASID, CMG, is an interior design leader and color + materials enthusiast. She brings an expert assessment through extensive experience in interior design, color marketing and industry trend research.

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The Home Decorating and Interior Design Trends to Look for in 2017

When it comes to home décor, 2016 was the year of everything from woven wall hangings to Scandinavian-inspired interiors. And as the year winds down, soon enough your thoughts will most likely wander to a home refresh. So it’s worth exploring the top decorating trends that will likely be on repeat in homes across the country—and possibly in your own abode.

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These 1960s Kitchen Design Trends Are Actually Coming Back

Home decor trends are cyclical,but a mid-century modern revival always seems to be on the horizon. You’ve probably seen the trend in at least a few stylish living rooms. There, it takes the form of low-slung couches, statement-making chairs, and sidebars stocked with all the makings of classic cocktails. However, 1960s trends and mid-century modern designs sound like they’d look more than a little outdated in the kitchen, where most people want the latest appliances and technology. Yet surprisingly enough, midcentury decor trends seem to be having a moment in the kitchen, too.


Check out the 1960s kitchen decor trends that are actually back.

1. Formica countertops

Put on an HGTV show — any HGTV show — and you’ll quickly deduce that most people think of marble and granite as the gold standard of kitchen countertops. But as Apartment Therapy reports, an unlikely 1960s kitchen trend has started to come back: laminate countertops. “While some of us may cringe when we think of this countertop choice for the kitchen, it’s changed a lot over the years,” the publication promises.

In the past, laminate countertops came in bright colors and very specific patterns. That often limited their versatility. Formica itself still makes a line of retro countertops perfect for a mid-century renovation. But if you want something that looks, well, a little more modern, you have plenty of options. Apartment Therapy reports that you can now find laminate “that replicates the look of granite, marble, and butcher block so closely that it’s often impossible to tell the difference until you’re close up.” Sounds like a pretty impressive comeback to us!

2. Colorful cabinets

Many people want solid wood cabinets, either stained or painted white. But HGTV reports that one very 1960s cabinet trend is increasingly turning up in modern kitchens: colorful cabinets. “Popular painted cabinet colors in the midcentury would have been pale blue, green and yellow,” the network notes. But homeowners today can, of course, choose any color that appeals to them. (So long as it coordinates with their design for the kitchen!)

However, HGTV does have a few words of advice for people considering this risky design move. “These cabinets are best accented by a muted backsplash and wood floors in order to keep the design unique rather than overdone,” the network explains.

And if you really don’t like painted cabinets? Then don’t paint yours! As Apartment Therapy notes, wood tones began reappearing in kitchens in the 1960s, so plenty of people had wood cabinets that were stained, not painted.

3. Space for entertaining

HGTV stars and design-savvy homeowners alike install giant islands and go for open-concept living spaces in the name of one activity: entertaining. People love to have the space to have their friends and family over. (It doesn’t matter whether they’re cooking up a storm for a dinner party or just ordering pizza as everyone watches a football game.) But as House Beautiful reports, the desire for a kitchen designed for entertaining would have sounded familiar to designers in the 1960s.

“The kitchen was deliberately planned as an entertaining center,” the publication reports. “It makes the most of the modern, and easy-to-clean technology.” Many mid-century kitchens were open to other living spaces, as home design shifted from closed floor plans to open concept spaces following World War II. However, House Beautiful reports that homeowners in the 1960s were still often willing to keep the kitchen behind closed doors. (The very doors that people tear down today when they want to convert a closed layout into an open concept home.)

4. Statement-making pendant lights

Are you renovating or installing a kitchen island? In that case, you might want to consider another 1960s trend that’s making a comeback. Mid-century modern pendant lights make a major statement above an island, peninsula, or breakfast bar.

Popular lighting designs in the 1960s embodied a variety of different styles and aesthetics. You could find organic forms as easily as you could find futuristic shapes. Pendant lighting first appeared in industrial settingsin the 1920s and the 1930s. And, like many other design elements, it made its way to the home only a few decades thereafter. From glass globes to metal pendants, the 1960s gave homeowners plenty of eye-catching designs that wouldn’t look out of place in even the most modern kitchen today.

5. Retro refrigerators

A refrigerator in a home on HGTV's 'Fixer Upper'

For at least a few years now, your stylish neighbors and your favorite HGTV stars alike have been springing for cool retro refrigerators. (The kind you would have seen in anybody’s kitchen in the 1960s or (shhhh!) in the 1950s.) The name at the center of the craze? SMEG, an Italian company that  became an American design darlingwhen it first imported its Fab28 model to the United States in 2007, The Boston Globe reports.

“Just under 5-feet tall, the Fab28 has retro, rounded edges like a piece of Chiclet gum, and is made from high-gloss plastic enamel in colors like creamy mint green and navel orange,” the Globe reports. “It features a simple interior — with a built-in metal wine rack — and a drawer-size freezer compartment. It is, indeed, underwhelmingly impractical.” But, as Apartment Therapy puts it, they add plenty of “personality” to your kitchen, in a way that a sleek, stainless steel fridge just couldn’t.

6. Colorful appliances

red stand mixer mixing white cream, kitchen

As The Boston Globe reported in its piece on SMEG, another retro-chic appliance features prominently in tastemakers’ kitchens. “The KitchenAid stand mixer remains the staunch status symbol of domestic bliss,” the publication explains. But as with that refrigerator, you don’t have to settle for black or white when you chose a retro-styled appliance. The ubiquitous stand mixer comes in an array of bright colors reminiscent of cheery 1960s kitchens.

As The Kitchn explains, “There are so many options to choose from that it can be an overwhelming task. Do you go with something classic or fun? Decisions need to be made.” Of course, fans of colorful appliances don’t have to limit themselves to a statement-making stand mixer. As the Globe explains, “SMEG offers toasters, electric kettles, and even their own version of the stand mixer,” each in bright colorways.

7. Plentiful houseplants

We can’t talk about mid-century modern style without acknowledging the prevalence of houseplants. And we probably don’t have to tell you that no design magazine editor, HGTV star, or home interiors blogger would dream of designing a kitchen today without room for at least a few small plants on the counter. Everybody loves houseplants (even people who find themselves without green thumbs).

Houseplants first became fashionable in the 1960s,and many of the species that were popular back then are still easy to find at home improvement stores today. Look for pothos vines, variants of philodendron, umbrella trees, and even orchids — all of which enjoyed wide popularity in the 1960s — for an easy way to channel the trend.

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Continue reading These 1960s Kitchen Design Trends Are Actually Coming Back

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