Everything Smart

What are the hot new looks for homes? New Jersey Monthly’s Design Advisory Council updates us on ten startling years.

Back row: Wendy Cruz-Gonzalez, Santiago Design Group, Lake Hiawatha; Diane A. Picyk, Diane Picyk Interiors, Park Ridge; Camille Waldron, Camille Waldron Interiors, Franklin Lakes; Karla Trincanello, Interior Decisions Inc., Florham Park. Front row: Jana Manning, Manning Design Group, Ocean Grove; Suzan Lucas Santiago, Santiago Design Group, Lake Hiawatha; Laurie F. Deliman-Burke, L.D. Burke Designs, Monmouth Beach.
Photo by Joe Polillio.

What were the top home-design trends of the past decade? And what can we expect going forward? To find out, we gathered seven award-winning members of the New Jersey chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers for a conversation on everything from technology and green design to outdoor living, bathroom spas, and the aging population. Here are excerpts from our annual roundtable discussion.

NJM: Let’s start with a look back. What new product, trend, or idea from the past decade has changed your industry or really inspired you?

Diane Picyk: My first thought is technology. In offices or residential, we needed to accommodate multiple pieces of equipment on a desk. We had to have a fax, a printer, a scanner. Now you get one piece of equipment, so therefore your workstation doesn’t need to be as big. The flat-screen TVs have an impact when we’re designing, because now we’re not putting them in an armoire. It’s a statement within the room.

Suzan Santiago: Technology was my number one, too. It’s changed so much over ten years. Just think of how much smaller everything has gotten, which is amazing. You were talking about flat-screens in the home, but flat-screen computers in the office have not only made work surfaces and the footprint for each individual, smaller but it also affects energy.

Karla Trincanello: I think automation is an important aspect. You don’t even need to be at home for automation… Everything is technology-smart and automated; you set your lights, you can be energy-efficient, you can check the grounds at your summer home.

Camille Waldron: I would say universal design.

NJM: In other words, going beyond barrier-free design and creating easily accessible spaces and products that are attractive and effective for everyone, not just people with disabilities.

CW: With baby boomers getting older, there are certain things that universal design covers. Starting in the kitchen, now we have appliances that have drawers. Dishwashers that are drawers… Same thing with the refrigerator, they have drawers. And, if somebody’s in a wheelchair, it’s easy to open, and also it’s cheaper to run.

KT: Most of my projects look for a main-level area that can double as an office, as a guest space, to accommodate the needs of a parent, or some kind of disabling factor.

CW: Look at a doorway. If you look at your own house, most of the doors are 24 inches. They shouldn’t be. They should be 36 inches. In the shower, sometimes people don’t want to have grab bars, because they’re not pretty.

Laurie Deliman-Burke: One thing I like that has been more popular in the past ten years is [the use of] outdoor spaces. They have all the comforts of indoors, with fireplaces and kitchens. I have a client who wanted a flat-screen TV, with the fireplace and nice seating, just to expand the space and get more use out of it. Plus, you can extend the season with heat lamps.

KT: You’re expanding your living space.

LDB: People like to be outside in the fresh air. I know my kids hang out and they love it. They sit out there and they talk, and it’s not like they’re in front of a computer. They’re just having some nice quality time together and having some friends over. It’s like another room for kids.

DP: Personally, I have a screened-in porch and I love it. Because if it rains or there’s inclement weather you can sit out there. We eat dinner out there practically every night.

SS: I think just day lighting in general. Now we bring more light to the interiors in designing new buildings. For acuity and just mental stimulation, day lighting is important. [In commercial spaces] we’re seeing more and more pulling offices away from the windows and allowing the majority of people to get the light.

KT: The trend in the past ten years is more awareness of energy efficiency and green products. The public is learning more, and more willing than they had been.

SS: Now it’s part of their vocabulary. It was around for twenty years, but the public is now there.

KT: Exactly. They’re more aware that the cost of it isn’t [what] it used to be. The cost of implementing it may still be, but the end result is much more cost-saving.

NJM: Is energy efficiency being integrated into design automatically?

KT: Well, lighting especially. The LED, the compact fluorescents. The tinting of windows is very important. All of these aspects are layered. But in the home, it is very cost effective. And people see this as long-term, and they’re much more receptive than they had been.

Wendy Cruz-Gonzalez:
Piggybacking on technology, but on a different aspect, would be the advancements in the manufacturing for all the different products. And that has really changed the way that people design. Green design really helps us to repurpose things, be a little more responsible, a little more conscious for future generations.

Jana Manning: There’s a sort of casualness that has taken hold. It’s the way that people want to live now. They want their home to be the place where the family comes back to share together.

NJM: So is it all about livability?

JM: Style matters. Very, very intensely. The majority of my clients are men because my designs tend to be more modern. I have single men calling me for projects. They’re embracing design. And they’re not afraid to embrace style, and maybe they’ve been broken down by HGTV or something, but these guys are not afraid to get really into having a stylish home. It’s not just casual; it’s more like lounge-inspired. They’re inspired by clean lines. Across the board they’ve wanted clean lines, not a lot of pattern, deeper colors, complexity, richness, interesting lighting, technology.

KT: It’s not just the men. It’s the younger generation…what I am seeing is very simple, clean design.

CW: Also, you have more gyms. So you have a gym, a bar area, a home theater. You never have to leave the house.

WCG: I love to see materials and how they integrate with one another. With leather, it’s leather with something else on it. Even with vinyl, we’ve seen a lot of things embedded into different materials. With glass, things are being put between the layers, looking more innovative. Different colors are coming back, getting refreshed, more upbeat, reintroducing themselves into the market in the way that they’re eye-catching again.

The wall covering that is coming out now is fabulous. You used to date a room by wall covering. It has definitely changed and it’s not all faux decorative, textured.

JM: Wall covering is where lighting was. Lighting became this huge fashion statement in your home. Now wall covering is that bright, new innovative spot.

NJM: How does all this apply to bathrooms?

In bathrooms, we’re seeing the rain showers. I’ll always put in the bigger shower in the bathroom. Personal showers, with different heights, it’s a must. We don’t have to leave the shower for days now!

KT: When people are renovating a bathroom, they really want to put the money in it now. People like a standing, soaking tub. And of course, TVs are now important in bathrooms, as well as fireplaces. These rooms are retreats. This is the spa. The whole personal luxury—that’s where they want to spend their money.

JM: It’s not so much about making a statement to other people. People used to buy a large statement piece—an item that people would notice. Now it’s different. It’s more about enjoying your home, instead of just showing off.

KT: That is where I see the trend or lifestyle going as well. More home entertaining. I’ve been invited to parties where I’ve been called or e-mailed, where they say, ‘This is the menu. We’re ordering from this place. What do you want? The host didn’t cook all day, you feel great about it. It’s much more informal.

What do you see on the horizon?

DP: One of the things that I think has improved over the last ten years and will continue to improve is fabrics. Fabrics have become much more durable. There are finishes that are applied to them to prevent liquids from penetrating it. Years ago we just had Teflon and Scotchguard. But it’s become much, much more than that and I see that expanding further. Another thing, an appliance we’re seeing a lot of is the beverage center—a glass-front under-cabinet refrigerator, that people will have in a server space in between a dining room and a kitchen or within a kitchen. Or a bedroom. Or a theater.

NJM: Do you see a change in the materials that are going into kitchens?

KT: The composites…they’re beautiful and they’re wonderful. Before, everyone was using granite. Now people are saying, ‘What other materials can we use?’ Those same products are used for flooring, too. A lot of people don’t understand that. You can order a slab for your counter, and also for your floor, and integrate with natural materials or green materials. With a composite material you can inlay, you can do a lot of things. But a hard surface is difficult on the legs; you have to bring this up so they are aware. There are other materials—resins, vinyls and laminates—that give a little bit more than stone. Don’t be surprised if in the future we’re seeing that composite material being incorporated with vinyl or something to give it more give.

NJM: It seems that in the last ten years everyone who was redoing a kitchen was always putting in an island. Is that still popular?

CW: It depends on the size of the kitchen. You have to have a triangle workspace. It’s also more functional if you’re two people working in the kitchen. Lots of times in an island you have a sink. You can have two dishwashers, one on the side and then one in the island. It really depends on the function of the kitchen.

SS: An island can also bring seating into the kitchen. The rest of the family can be involved, instead of just one person being in the kitchen.

The new microwave drawers, when people don’t want them up in their cabinets, are now put in islands. You press the button and the drawer opens. It’s a nice space-saver.

NJM: What’s happening in laundry rooms? Are they upstairs now?

LDB: Yes, so we have them closer to the bedroom, for sheets and towels and everything. A lot of people have two, one downstairs in the mudroom or someplace where kids come in with their sports clothes or beach towels or whatever. But also they’re having a larger one upstairs, because that’s where the clothes are.

DP: One of the other things is the residential elevator. We hate to admit it but the population is aging. People have to consider an elevator. Whether they retrofit and cut the elevator shaft through the house, however it is configured, or you can always create a shaft on the outside of the house to get to the first level or the second level. But I think as the population ages this is something people will be looking to do.

JM: Just to put this in perspective, the average cost of one year in assisted living is $60,000. If an elevator costs you $50,000 and it gives you an extra year in your home, you’ve come out $10,000 ahead. If there is more than one person in your home going into assisted living, you come out way ahead.

NJM: What popular green products will have an impact in the coming years?

CW: Cabinetry, flooring, tiles, wall covering.

DP: I think the manufacturers are coming around, but it’s going to take time.

KT: I think the economic climate has changed everything—how a couple thinks about how they live, how they spend their money. And that is going to affect everything from now on. They are more information-guided to see what else they can do. They’re also looking at utilizing the rooms they have, hence, a larger great room or entertainment area. Rather than a 10,000-square-foot house or a 6,000-square-foot house, people are looking at 4,000 or 3,500 and using that space much more effectively.

JM: I think the inspiration is in the selection of the materials, the artfulness of the shapes and the spaces. It’s not so much about the size of the space anymore. Now it’s about what you do with the space. I see clients downsizing from their single-family homes to a luxury condominium. They love the quality of life that an urban area gives them, the simplicity of maintenance in their home. And the size of it allows them to have a concentration of beautiful luxurious finishes without having to cover 8,000 square feet. Now they’ve got 3,000 square feet of luxurious finishes. It’s not a trade-off of standard or glamour or luxury. It’s just the more reasonable and manageable space.

WCG: We can kind of look back in history and see that every time there was a major depression a new style or new trend would emerge. I think people are going to start gravitating to things that are comfortable, things that are familiar. Things that can disconnect them from times they were stressed.

KT: A lot of people have guilt about showing off. That, too, is what I notice, that they don’t want to look like they are overspending.

WCG: Historic preservation seems to be becoming more popular. Even with green design, I think it’s [going to be] more of ‘conscious design.’ Kind of like, ‘I’m doing this because’ or ‘I’m not doing this because.’ Once you give somebody a personal factor to attach them to what they’re doing, they start to think and view things differently. Like I saw an ad that said, ‘There is X amount of plastic bottles in this carpet.’ They think. ‘If I do this, I am saving the landfill from this. If I do this, it will help to preserve my natural resources and ensure better air quality for my children.’

JM: People are realizing that they put themselves in stressful lifestyles because of the size of their home.

CW: It’s an ego thing.

JM: So now it’s come down to doing what’s right for your quality of life.

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