Design 2000

Decorators, architects and retailers look ahead to see what living spaces will be like in the future.

Focus On Trends

January 02, 2000|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff

Fifty years ago, when people looked ahead, the world they envisioned, with its monorails, mushroom furniture and personal flying machines, was not the world that has come to pass. How could they have foreseen a future where connections would be electronic, not concrete? They imagined that machines would do all the work, computers would do all the thinking and helpful household robots would be rife.

Instead, women still do a preponderance of the housework while holding down full-time jobs, computers are fast but fairly stupid, and the robots work on assembly lines.

So it's not a good idea to predict that the future will be simply a mega-version of what's going on right now. But people who work in home design can see a little farther ahead in their field than the rest of us.

When we asked 10 of them to tell us what's on the home horizon, here's what they said:

* Rita St. Clair, president of Rita St. Clair Associates Inc., designers and planners, Baltimore: "Trends occur practically every day now. But especially in residential design, people are still looking for comfort. We're seeing more and more nesting; people stay home more than they used to -- except for dinner." That's leading to more elaborate home entertainment centers with complicated sound systems, and "a real focus on natural fabrics and materials."

* Sandy Finney, design consultant at Garon's Your Ethan Allan store in Catonsville: "Everything is really neutral, with lots and lots of texture." Taupe, pea-green and gray are big colors, and velvet, linen, cotton and tweed are big textures. And florals are out. "It's just clean, neutral tones."

* Steve Appel, co-owner of Nouveau Contemporary Goods, Mount Vernon: "One thing we're seeing is a return to traditional things -- silver serving pieces, candelabras, Lazy Susans." More people are entertaining at home, "and the look of the table is very important." Animal prints are still strong, and very soft fabrics, such as chenille, are also popular.

* Jessica Schuler, co-owner of Sunnyfields shop, in Bare Hills: "We're seeing more large poster prints -- it started about two years ago, but it's really picked up. They're usually French or Italian. They're ... perfect for very large homes with very large wall spaces."

* Tom Williams, co-owner, with Robert Hale, of Hale-Williams Interiors, Ruxton: Over the next 10 to 15 years a huge amount of wealth is going to change hands, to baby boomers from their parents, Williams said. "Parents are living longer, so their children are older. It used to be the children were in their 30s and 40s, and they needed the money to educate their children. But now people are in their 50s, their kids are grown. ... Now they can spend some money on themselves. It's going to affect housing, home furnishings, everything."

* Frederick A. Hiser, managing principal of Chambers Architectural Associates, Baltimore: "The days of McMansions [elaborate houses on small lots] are over. People are looking for comfort and value. New houses will be better designed, with less wasted space. They're still going to have a rich, tactile, comforting, cocoon-like environment -- a bastion against the harshness of the world outside."

* Trish Houck, owner and designer, Kitchen Concepts, Ellicott City: "More and more men are cooking, and I wonder if [that fact] has anything to do with the trend for commercial appliances. In the kitchens I do, at least 90 percent of the situations where it's a man cooking, they go with commercial equipment." There's also more color, with cabinets stained green or gray. She's also seeing a trend to stone: granite counter tops, marble backsplashes and limestone floors. With furniture-style cabinets and appliances that "disappear" into the cabinetry, meal-preparing spaces are looking "less like a kitchen and more like a room."

*Janet Plitt, president of Morgan Truesdell Interiors, Stevenson: "People are staying home more, so they're looking for comfort, but with cleaner lines, less gobbledygook, less gingerbread." Sectional furniture is back, "but it's not the 'playpen' look anymore. It's more like a sofa, and it has more seating and takes less space than two sofas would." Built-ins are back too, especially window seating.

* Josepha Faley, president of Chatsworth Design Inc., Washington: "It's really more lifestyle" than trends affecting design these days, says Faley, who recently renovated and furnished the home of Sen. Edward Kennedy. "Everyone's world is becoming more global, so there's more eclecticism in design. As people become more traveled, the culture of other countries will become more appreciated."

* Justin Binnix, director of product development for Niermann Weeks, Millersville: (Niermann Weeks makes furniture, lighting fixtures and accessories, based on antique designs.) "We'll always come out with something traditional ... but we're going to be taking some designs we're familiar with and just cleaning them up a little." Where a typical metal chandelier might have had beading and crystals, the new version will be more simply a piece of sculpture, the shape its only adornment.

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