A collaboration in Miami by almost a dozen top designers provides hints into the home design trends we can expect to see in the coming year.

By Camilla McLaughlin

“Brass will be back with a vengeance,” predicted Kevin Gray 15 years ago in an interview with the Miami Herald. At the time, everyone was switching out brass hardware for stainless and brushed stainless. Gray says, he “knew that stainless and brushed stainless were going to go out and that brass was going to come in.” Stainless persisted as the preferred metal for more than a decade and Gray often wondered if maybe he was wrong. Now, he says, “It’s finally back.”

The return of brass is one of a number of trends in evidence at Design House 2016, hosted by Brazilian Furnishing’s brand Artefacto, in Miami. Few cities are on the forefront of design as Miami and the rooms at Design House, fashioned by 11 international design stars, showcase what’s ahead for interiors.

Overall, designer Paulo Bacchi, Artefacto’s CEO, characterizes his style as a mix of environmentally friendly materials combined with polished styles and living areas that balance different spaces together so it has a more organic flow. “I think that approach appeals to families, especially young ones with small children, which we see more of every day in Miami,” he says.

Family as a focus is not new, but today it’s a far reaching and influential priority, touching almost every room in the home. “I strive for the feeling of relaxation and serenity in conceptualizing someone’s dream home. It’s important to create spaces that bring families and close friends together,” explains Bacchi.

Even living rooms are intended to facilitate the everyday and are furnished to accommodate a range of ages and uses. A good example can be seen in the growing popularity of indoor/outdoor fabrics, which are durable, and the highest quality have a luxurious look and feel mimicking velvets, linen, even silk. 

In cities such as Miami, where design is often defined by sleek contemporary spaces in new high-rise towers, the designer’s task becomes adding an ample measure of ease and comfort. “Usually people like large, open spaces that aren’t crowded with furniture or accessories. Large windows are a blessing — first, for the lighting that we’re always looking for, and second for the amazing views and skyline that we especially have in this city. The challenge is to work in a contemporary, modern space without losing comfort and functionality,” observes Miami designer Marisol Pinto.

A New Traditional Taking Hold

Nationally, a style dubbed “new traditional” or “neo traditional” is an upcoming trend. Christophe Badarello, industrial design director and furniture designer for the Hunter and Casablanca Fan Company, explains: “New traditional is a classic shape with cleaned up charm.  It takes classic and traditional elements and simplifies them to bring a new modernity to an old style. It also uses unexpected materials and colors to make familiar shapes seem suddenly avant-garde. By adding traditional elements to non-traditional pieces, designers infuse their modern pieces with classical style.”

Although whites and grays continue to reign as neutrals, warm brown and gold tones will be bouncing back into interiors, either in pieces of furniture, flooring or simply as an accent. “We are seeing soft browns like beige and linen emerge as neutrals. Also, medium and dark brown are being used in marble,” says Badarello.

In Design House, wood tones are used strategically in many rooms, making floors, carpeting and individual pieces of furniture important design elements. Also in evidence are gold tones in fabrics, rugs and accessories.

“Gold is back but it’s a different type of gold than we have seen in the past. We’re seeing a gold that’s more of a yellow and orange. We are also seeing some greenish-gold trends emerging that we are tracking for the future to see how they evolve,” observes Badarello.

Greening of Interiors

Organic has become one of design’s hot buzzwords, describing everything from the flow of a space to the source of a material. But organic elements, such as lush plant accents or pieces of what appear to be raw wood, are increasingly used to enrich sleek contemporary spaces.

“In the past year, I have worked with more wood, especially in wall coverings, doors and furniture with natural colors. We’re kind of tired of dark brown, and lighter woods seem to balance the room well. We have accessories and furniture pieces that resemble a piece of raw wood or roots that make a statement in a space — they act like art pieces and give us the warm look in a very modern and clean area,” shares Pinto, who hails from Uruguay.

Green seems to be the perfect complement to a neutral background, and green, whether from abundant plant accents or living walls, is in abundance in the rooms at Design House. Still, compared to the way greenery has been used in the past, today’s applications are more strategic in terms of the shape, size and hue of the material. In some Design House rooms, green tones extend to accessories and art. Badarello cites dark “dollar bill” green as one of the color accents to look for this year. He also expects more warm greens to emerge in 2016.

Everywhere, Art

Probably the strongest influence on colors in a room is art.
Although prized works are still valued most, art in many mediums and price brackets is today’s design essential. Art gives a space that unique, one-of-a-kind, “just for me” feeling. It also injects color and can be a mechanism to tie colors in a room together. The right work can bring 
a bland neutral space to life or cast a soft edge on stark aesthetics. Increasingly, it’s not just art on the wall or a collection; instead, it might be a cultural artifact on display or artistic use of materials.

Glamour is Back

Last year saw touches of luxury and glamour returning to rooms. Wallpapers often had a sheen. Metallics are once again used as an accent on ceilings or walls, but unlike 10 years ago, the finish is muted so they add an undercurrent of luxury rather than over-the-top opulence.

The Design House showrooms reflect lots of glamour; many feature large mirrors or mirrored pieces of furniture. Along with designer Debora Aguiar, Bacchi recently completed the penthouse at 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach. To take best advantage of the views, which he describes as fantastic, they placed a full-length mirror perpendicular to the main window to give the effect of panoramic views. “It’s important to place a mirror in front of something worth highlighting, like a picturesque view of Miami,” he suggests. “I also love the casual effect of a slanted freestanding mirror.”

Talk to Me

There is a new engagement in the way we interact with our homes and how we react to a room or a material can be more important than how it looks. “People want to feel their house is nurturing them as opposed to being a statement about them. The choice of the materials and the fabrics and finishes are rich and luxurious, but they are not standoffish, you want to touch them,” says Chicago architect Elissa Morgante.  

“Whenever we receive a commission to oversee the design plan for a residence, it’s very important to mix things up a bit to avoid creating space that is essentially a replica of the other; so we focus on the details and different modes each space evokes because that’s what sets apart one home from another,” observes Bacchi.

Surprisingly too, experiential qualities apply even to something as practical as floors or countertops. “I always tell clients we’re going to go out and shop for stone and shop for floors that will talk to you. It’s just like an apartment. You’ll go in and you’ll say ‘I want it or I don’t want it’,” says Gray.

More often than not, the materials Gray says his clients respond to are recycled or reclaimed. “I’ve noted more and more of my clients are going to recycled stones because they say, ‘We don’t want to chop up the earth and schlep the things across from Brazil or from Italy.’” It might be a travertine or marble or granite. “It’s almost a 100-percent recycled material. It’s the granite, but it’s regenerated and remade to look like what it was. You can hardly tell the difference today,” he says. The same holds true for marble, and there is less concern about staining or water spots. Upkeep is growing as a concern for consumers.

Although recycled wood continues to be a strong preference, many consumers are opting for laminates of all types. But don’t confuse them with earlier versions, especially floors. It’s recycled wood and “almost indestructible. It doesn’t scratch or break as easily as real wood,” says Gray.

“For any sort of cabinetry work or kitchens and baths, clients are going back to laminates. It’s the more expensive laminate. It’s a recycled material; it’s solid,” he says. Although white continues to be what kitchen designers say clients most often request, many designers are using lacquered finishes often combined with warm wood tones.

Another Quiet Revolution: Lighting

Lighting is evolving radically. First it was layers of lighting, then LEDs promised to change everything. When first introduced, LEDs were not reliable. The light was too bright or there were issues with dimming. Today, LEDs have been fine-tuned, although quality pays off here. “The better you buy, the better quality light you get,” says Gray, who uses LEDs in a number of applications, including under wall-hung vanities and kitchen cabinets. He also often includes a built-in light pocket in front of a window, in a soffit.

“You never see light fixtures anymore in the center of the living room because furniture has changed so much. There are no traditional layouts,” he says. Another trend: square shapes are replacing round and oval in lighting and sinks. Square lights fit into soffits better, says Gray, who often retrofits existing round recessed lights with square shapes. “They blend into interiors better, and the square is a whole new look.”