Design trends

Adventure scampers inside with a burst of color and spiffy ideas for every room

November 09, 2003|By Anne Lauren Henslee | Anne Lauren Henslee,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Gone are the days of beige.

Instead, 2004 promises a more adventurous side of home decor - vibrant colors, rich woods and an eclectic palate to please most do-it-yourselfers, industry watchers say.

Low-interest loans and a volatile economic market have made investing in one's home more attractive to consumers, according to lenders, builders, interior designers and real estate agents.

And design professionals are optimistic that a continued investment in real estate will make 2004 another big year for home renovations and construction. As they see it, the move from dull monochromatic themes toward richer colors and patterns is a sign of the times. Because homes have appreciated at a healthy rate during the past two years, industry experts said, homeowners feel more confident in their house as an investment.

"The equity has increased so much, so refinancing and pulling $30,000 or $40,000 into your home makes sense," said Chelsea Mullen, director of design for Home Depot Expo in Columbia.

The educated consumer, said Mullen, will be the driving force behind the trend to steer away from the tried and true.

"We're seeing that people are becoming more aware of the options available to them through the Internet, through the shows on TV, through coming into stores where they can actually see and touch those things they see in shelter magazines," Mullen said. "People are becoming less afraid to take chances. They are starting to make several rooms in their home several different colors, and they are trying different things."

Consequently, she said, consumers know pricing and have a better understanding of the options available to them.

That increased awareness has generated a greater interest in home decor, said Diana Van Stone, the design studio and marketing manager for Beazer Homes Maryland. Like most homebuilders, Beazer has a customer center where those who have purchased homes make their selections for carpeting, countertops, cabinets and other interior furnishings.

"The trends are going back to the '60s and '70s colors - bright oranges, greens, browns," Van Stone said. Next year's fabrics will be heavier and more natural.

Wood tones are changing, too. In recent years, maple stains have been popular, Van Stone said. But customers now are switching to lighter finishes for hardwood floors and cabinets.

"Now homeowners can have a room with a decor in it and bring in seasonal changes," Van Stone said. "For instance, they may have two sets of draperies for their living rooms, and as the seasons change they are willing to go through that little extra effort to change out their drapery panels from velvet to cotton. So their home is always feeling refreshed, without having to spend large amounts of money on the big remodels."

The future in decor has as much to do with convenience as with aesthetics, according to Mullen. Kitchens continue to dominate homes as a prime spot for families. Designs for appliances, countertops and cabinets and fixtures for bathrooms and kitchens have become more elaborate during the past few years. Increasing in popularity are warming drawers, steam ovens and built-in coffee makers. Prices can range from $700 to $2,000.

"More and more, appliances are providing the little things that make your life so much nicer," Mullen said. "People are saying `It's worth it for me to have that $1,500 ice maker, because I want to entertain. My home is beautiful; I want to bring people into it; and I don't want to have to go to 7-11 to buy a bag of ice.'"

Speed-cooking ovens are becoming a preferred item, Mullen said. Several vendors offer ovens with a speed-cook option, which involves a combination of halogen lighting, microwave and convection heating.

"There is one manufacturer that can cook a tray of cookies in 14 minutes, 7 minutes or 3 1/2 minutes, depending on the oven you select from them," Mullen said.

Trash compactors are going away, replaced with under-the-counter pull-out bins for wastebaskets. And as 2004 approaches, more homeowners are opting for energy-efficient appliances, she said.

Next year's decor will involve bringing the outdoors in, say designers. Sea-inspired accessories and colors, as well as increased open space in living quarters, will replace the monochromatic tones and more cluttered look of the past few years.

As much as people are making their home more in tune with nature, they also are spending more time in their basements. Mullen expects that basements will continue to be a hot spot for entertaining, as homeowners convert them into home theaters, bars and secondary kitchenettes.

As marketing director for window-treatment manufacturer Levolor/Kirsch in High Point, N.C., Beverly Kastal heads a design group that forecasts trends for the home decor market. Some top picks she expects next year: painted, carved and woven woods; pewter; wrought-iron; and mosaic tile.

"We are looking at whole rooms, the entire house, because a lot of that influences what we create," Kastal said. "For example, if furniture is moving toward a darker wood, we will develop blinds and shades and drapery hardware in darker wood tones."

Kastal's team studies European trends (which are considered to be a year ahead of the U.S. market), walks trade shows and consults with other industry experts in the home market.

As do Mullen and Van Stone, Kastal believes that consumers will continue to take chances next year with their home designs. And she expects decor to incorporate a blend of cultural influences from all over the world.

"It's blending it all together and making your own comfortable home environment from that," Kastal said. "It falls along the lines of American consumers feeling the need to relax when they're at home."

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