Around the House, Design Trends 2008

2007 was the year that brought us some tough stuff including the subprime mortgage mess, oil trading at $100 a barrel, a seemingly endless quagmire in Iraq, and the slowest residential real estate market in 10 years.

Is it any wonder that in this election year pollsters report that voters want to hear a message about change and hope? In spite of a challenging economic environment, people will continue to hope and to change their lives for the better. Being an interior designer I am a great believer that change begins at home, so go ahead — don’t wait for results in Washington — make a new year’s resolution that includes some changes of your own. Here are a few of the general trends I see happening in 2008.

Remodeling and Redecorating vs. moving

The good news for designers is that when people feel that selling their homes is not a viable option, they will be looking for ways to make their current homes more pleasant and livable. After all, whether the real estate market is strong or weak, people’s lives continue to change: couples get married, children are born, grown children move out, people retire, and people still want to freshen up tired living spaces. designers can help! A designer will often bring a fresh eye into a house and help the owners figure out how to make it work to meet the new requirements of a change in lifestyle.


This is a trend that has been entering into every sphere of our lives: cars, houses, clothes, food — and it’s here to stay. Almost every product imaginable now touts an eco-friendly adjective: natural, organic, non-toxic, energy-efficient, fair trade, recyclable, and the list goes on. I suspect it will take a long time before these labels are truly meaningful and the recycling process really works, but I’m all in favor of supporting the trend. It only makes sense to cooperate with our natural environment.

With oil prices skyrocketing, consumers are now seriously interested in requesting energy- efficient renovations as well as everything "green" — paint, fabrics, and even industrial processes that respect the environment, such as recyclable carpet.

Tradition reigns

Uncertain times — for example times when the stock market is fluctuating wildly between record highs and record losses — tend to bring out the risk-averse nature in most of us. So it is in decorating: styles that allude to "old money" become the comfort food of decorating, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see nods to the great decorating styles of the past incorporated into 2008 living rooms. 18th Century French neoclassical styles may have a resurgence; somehow it feels safer to quote styles that were originally served up for the famous trio of French Kings (Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI) and later co-opted by well-heeled Park Avenue dwellers. Not that people will be literally recreating old world interiors, but I expect they will be incorporating some tried and true pieces from the past. Antiques are likely to be sought after in 2008 as people try to literally "invest in the past."

Some designers are predicting that Baroque-style furniture, featuring elaborate handcarved wood details, will be popular along with other kinds of special hand-finishing techniques — especially decorative painting. Perhaps evidence of the touch of the human hand is reassuring in a down market.

I wonder if this "back to our roots" design trend will extend itself to include some of the artisans of the 1970’s — another period in recent history when we were very concerned with things natural and organic. At the recent Art Fair in Miami, I was surprised to see some of these hand-hewn rustic type furniture pieces from the 70’s going for very steep prices. Fifteen years ago in the early 1990’s I had some clients who wanted to sell some furniture of that ilk and we couldn’t give it away. Maybe its time has come.

Eclectic Zen

Zen, as in minimalism with an oriental flair, is still going to be very big, but the spare look will be tempered with touches of luxury. Think streamlined upholstery coupled with a luxurious rug and a fabulous Murano Glass chandelier.

Say goodbye to any thoughts of "themed’ interiors — eclecticism is in. Like the scions of the British empire who collected artifacts from colonies around the globe, now all of us have the opportunity to collect exotic furnishings and art; even if we are not widely traveled, if we can travel as far as the "home goods" store, all kinds of worldly treasures await us. Moroccan lanterns, Tibetan Buddha heads, African Kente cloth, Indian textiles, American folk art: many of us want interiors where all of these treasures can peacefully co-exist. I currently have three clients that have wildly eclectic tastes and collections to prove it! My approach to designing for them is to create a consistent "envelope" for each room using color and architecture elements in order to create a harmonious unifying backdrop for the disparate elements. A few large upholstered pieces with matching fabric can also do a lot to anchor an eclectic mix. Color is your best friend when it comes to creating unity in a space.


Color forecasting is big business; professionals who really know their color get paid big bucks to divine what colors are going to appeal to consumers in the near future. This is what I am noticing — there are a few palettes that seem to be popular. Pastel hues like spring green and soft blues are fresh and appealing. Aqua combined with neutral off whites and beiges also continues to be popular. Earth tone palettes are showing up with less browns and beiges and more terracotta and deep sage greens. In general I’m seeing a preference for brighter, clearer colors while the faded look seems to be fading out for the moment. Yellow has been a favorite living room color for my clients this year. I am embarking on my fourth yellow living room since last year at this time. The unanimous verdict on yellow is that it is cheerful — literally sunny — and it lifts the spirits on a gray day.

Hmmm, can’t we all use a dose of yellow?

Barbara Sternau is an Interior Designer with offices at 37 Main St., Tarrytown, NY

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About the Author: Barbara Sternau