Wallpaper or faux finish? New entertainment center or complete overhaul with smart-house electronics? When you embark upon a home redesign, the number and scope of decisions to be made can seem overwhelming. But whether you’re adding a patio, redesigning your family room, or making the first floor of your home wheelchair accessible, it pays to know about the latest design trends.
At our January luncheon with the members of New Jersey Monthly’s 2007 Design Advisory Council—all award-winning interior designers whose work covers everything from pieds-à-terre to mega homes, from emergency rooms to credit unions, from pergolas to conservatories—we asked for opinions on what’s hot in design today.
Here’s what they had to say.
When asked to identify significant hallmarks of the decade, the smart house was on everyone’s list. Total-home technology can control everything from security to home theaters to the climate indoors, from shade and drapery operation to lighting solutions. The technology eliminates the need for a wall of switches or separate remotes for TVs, DVD players, audio systems, and more. And it is becoming more affordable, with new solutions created with small and mid-size homes in mind.
Green design is the buzzword of the decade. “It’s our responsibility,” declares Ramsey-based Diane Durocher, “to encourage clients to consider how to best use natural resources.” Although all the designers agreed that we have a long way to go, there is increasing use of easily renewable natural materials such as cork and bamboo, of nontoxic paints, and of wall-to-wall and area rugs made from wool, sisal, coir, and sea grass.
Comfort with a Zen-like approach—using features designed to alleviate stress and promote calm—is another hallmark of this decade. Using fountains and waterfalls indoors, including in conservatory areas—which can be niches or entire rooms—is part of this trend, which extends beyond residential design into the commercial and healthcare fields. “Patients can choose their hospitals and want to have a welcoming environment,” observes Linda Potter, of Montclair. “As a result, the trend in hospital interiors, particularly waiting rooms and support offices, is more hospitality focused so it feels more like the lobby of a lovely hotel than the usual sterile hospital environment.”
Baby boomers are swelling the ranks of empty-nesters and retirees, and that is affecting their housing decisions. Our council reports that many clients who are ready to downsizewould prefer to stay in their current neighborhoods. But smaller homes have become almost impossible to find, because the trend to “bash and build” means that older, smaller homes are typically replaced with much larger ones. One solution for such people is to add a downstairs master-bedroom wing to their current home. The upstairs then becomes a guest suite for visiting children and grandchildren or living quarters for caregivers. “If your existing home has a main-floor bedroom, that makes it very attractive to this market,” says Marilee Schempp, of Summit.
City living has become hot for others in the 60-plus market who are leaving the old family homestead and heading for urban centers, where raking, shoveling, and lawn care are becoming distant memories. Moving into townhouses, condominiums, and apartments are all gaining in popularity—just look some of the residential buildings now going up in Jersey City, Cliffside Park, Edgewater, Wildwood, Collingswood, Newark, and East Orange (see related story, page 102). Their appeal is their low maintenance and close proximity to amenities.
Caring for parents at home has become a small but growing trend among 50- to 60-year-olds who can afford to build homes that are big enough to include an extended family and live-in help for aging and ailing parents. “This is becoming a bigger issue because of the high cost of healthcare,” says Franklin Lakes–based Camille Waldron.
“Clients are concerned with doing specific things, like addinggrab bars,” says Marilee Schempp, “but in general, they either don’t have the foresight or are reluctant to project themselves into a situation where other accommodations will be required.” But interior designers who become involved in projects at the blueprint stage can gently nudge clients toward decisions that will have future benefits. Modifications such aswider hallways and doorways, a ground-floor bathroom that ishandicapped accessible, and a ramp entrance from the garage are easy and inexpensive. Others, such as adding an elevator, are less costly when incorporated into the original plans—adding them on typically costs $18,000 to $22,000—and make life easier for those who prefer to age in place or who have elderly parents come to live with them. Once exposed to these possibilities, clients are generally receptive to them.
Natural elements, such as grass cloth and bamboo, are popular aswall treatments. The appeal of faux finishes is waning, and wallpaper is on the rise (see related story, page 108). Council members are discovering that using wallpaper is a novel idea for their youngest generation of clients, who grew up in the era of painted finishes. “They often have no concept of how beautiful and exciting wallpaper can be,” says Highland Park–based Barbara Littman.
“Commercial wallpapers are beautiful and wonderfully durable, which makes them an excellent choice in high-traffic areas, such as staircases and landings,” says Diane Boyer, of Verona. “Custom wallpaper muralsthat incorporate personal photos or artwork are also a great way to bring a personal touch to a room.”
When it comes to indulgences, what’s on today’s homeowner’s must-have list? For starters, it’s televisions in every room. Flat-screen and behind-the-mirror technologies mean that any vertical surface, flat or reflective, can be home to a television.
Bathrooms have become mini-spas, according to the panelists. “Rain” shower heads, which emit a soft, gentle spray, canopy headsthat bring waterfall ambience into the shower, multiple jets that can be aimed at every part of the body, waterfalls and fountains that soothe as you bathe—all are part of the spa experience. With smart-house electronics, these water features can be equipped with a thermostatic memory to maintain optimal water temperature. With an elaborate system, every member of the household can have his or her own setting. And in the category of things we never knew we needed, smart houses can even have toilets with lids that rise automatically as someone approaches and close as he or she walks away.
Wine cellars continue to rate high on the list of amenities. But even where room is limited, says West Caldwell–based Karen Alessi, “clients are asking for a special space”—perhaps a small den or a corner of the family room—“where they can kick back and enjoy a glass of wine.” Wine refrigeratorswith glass doors to showcase a wine collection are available as built-in or countertop models and can be installed virtually anywhere in the home.
Kitchens still rock for homeowners who love gadgets. Look for new styles of drawers in refrigerators and microwaves, tandoori ovens, double sinks, ovens, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Not to be outdone by the kitchen, the coolest laundry rooms have two washers and two dryers—or a washer and dryer on every level of the home.