Put an ornate chandelier in a modern room for a dramatic, glamorous look. Photo courtesy of Cantoni
Craving a big new look, but don’t have the budget? An inexpensive, instant makeover can be as simple as adding a new rug, sofa, chandelier, paint color or piece of upholstery into your space.
Design for Tough Times
Designers share their insights on staying on-trend in today’s ever-changing economic conditions.
- by Margie Monin Dombrowski
Interior design trends reflect what’s going on in the world around us—from the catwalk to our living rooms and everything in between. Today’s hot topic is the economy, and while it seems to affect our daily lives, it doesn’t need to stifle your style. These designers show you that even though times are tough, a little design can go a long way.
A timeless design trick for any budget is to buy the best quality you can afford. Interior Designer G. Thomas Catalucci, of G. Thomas Catalucci, Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla. works strictly with high-end clients, and even they are feeling the financial crunch. “They’re buying less,” Catalucci says, because of the current economic crisis, but “they tend to buy better quality, individual pieces they want to keep for a long time.” It’s a design secret of the well-off from which we all can learn. They may purchase fewer pieces—anything from a TV or chandelier to a sofa—says Catalucci, but they choose the best their money can buy, so it lasts.
Jamie Drake, of Drake Design Associates in New York, N.Y., finds clients are looking for value most. “I explain upfront there are no fire sales going on,” he says, “especially with the luxury market.” What may seem like a costly investment at first may prove to be more value in the long run. And when it comes to creating a sensational look, a little bling goes a long way. Drake points to fabrics dusted with silver or gold; metal accents on wooden furniture; Venetian glass with metallic bubbles; reflective and metallic paints; and bronze and gold finishes. These finishes and materials inspire Drake’s high-end interiors—because in times like these he says, a little shimmer and shine is “optimistic.”
Consumers are spending more time at home, leaving them wondering how to improve their living space with limited means. Alissa Sutton, director of corporate design and media relations for Cantoni in Los Angeles, sees this everyday with her residential clients. They’re looking to add or make changes to what they currently have, instead of doing an entire makeover, she explains. So how do make an impact on a tight budget? “A new rug, paint, or even fabric on a sofa can refresh a space instantly,” says Sutton.
People still have money to spend, says Ruth Richardson, owner of Studio R Interiors in Montville, N.J.—they’re just simplifying the design. Richardson divulges that people seem to be tired of heavier looks for wall coverings, like faux finishes and wallpaper, and are skipping straight to the paint instead. “People are using color to make their statement,” Richardson said, which is an easy and inexpensive way to make a huge improvement fast.
And when it comes to simplifying, going green counts as well. Catalucci’s sees clients embracing a ‘less-is-more’ philosophy. They’re choosing energy-efficiency—a combination of their desire for both quality and simplicity. “It’s a little more stress-free,” says Catalucci. This less-is-more philosophy reflects greater global eco-consciousness and the major uptick in consumer interest in sustainable furnishings.
Dallas-based Cantoni interior architect and designer Pogir uses contemporary combinations in his projects, and likes to match dark, exotic woods with stainless steel elements to create a dramatic mood effect. Mixing dark brown with accents of black and white, and juxtaposing light woods with dark ones, are some of the designer’s favorite tricks. While dark woods and colors may add a bit of seriousness to an interior, but they can also be grounding.
When it comes to color, Richardson has recently been using a lot of warm colors in the traditional and contemporary-style residences she works on for her clients. Her clients are choosing gold and spice tones, which she says are both earthy and calming.
Today’s trends don’t box you in like those of the past, so feel free to mix it up a little. Now, you can play with various styles, and pick and choose what you like. This can mean mixing up pieces in different styles for a more eclectic look. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of introducing new pieces to old ones. Catalucci suggests using a period wallcovering in the midst of modern furnishings or placing an antique table or chest in a loft-style apartment with an otherwise stark look. “Generations ago, everything was in one scene and one look,” but that’s changing, he explains. “It’s a whole different lifestyle today.”
Sutton, who recently appeared as a contestant on the 2009 season of HGTV Design Star, likes to infuse glamour and whimsy to simple rooms filled with modern crafted pieces. That touch of sparkle, she believes, makes a room feel more alive and energizing. Her tips on how you can achieve that same magic include using mirrors, chrome accents and candles—but her favorite choice is a dramatic chandelier. “Putting an ornate chandelier in a modern room,” Sutton explains, “literally sheds a new light on the space.”