Greg Alexander

Bold colors team up with black and white in 2008

Baltimore Sun, March 30, 2008

Whenever you’re redecorating or furnishing your home, everyone wants to know what’s “in” for this year. Whether combing through the elegant – yet unrealistic at times – ideas from the pages of Metropolitan Home or gaining inspiration from Oprah’s more practical home décor guru Nate Berkus, we’re all looking for ideas to transform our home into a showpiece that’s sure to be included on the next neighborhood home tour.

It’s hard to cover the trends for every room of the house in one article; however, while talking to home décor trend forecasters, one reoccurring theme did emerge – color. “We’re seeing a resurgence of blues in interiors,” says Michelle Lamb, senior editor of “The Trend Curve” and international trend forecaster in color and design of home furnishings, whose clients include retail stores, buyers, interior designers and even automotive companies. “It’s not like blue ever went away, but new shades are emerging and different shades of blue are being used together in new ways. A lot of the popularity of blue is tied to a trend toward the environment. When people think of blue, they think of water and the sky, so blues work in this area. Plus it’s a color liked by both genders.” In fact, blue has is becoming so popular that Pantone, Inc., the provider of professional color standards for the design industries, selected Blue Iris, a mix of blue and purple with blue being the dominant color, as the “Color of the Year” for 2008. “In 2008, watch for a strong – and I mean strong – return to grace of the color blue,” concurs C. Davis Remignanti, lead design consultant for

As further evidence of the trend toward “eco-colors,” Debbie Zimmer, decorative paint and color trends expert with The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute, says that she sees the color green – in all its different hues – as a big color right now. “Green is so wonderful in a living space, as it helps bring the outside in,” says Zimmer. “Another great aspect of green is that the current sophisticated green hues are neutral in tone, so many other hues can be used with green beautifully, including aqua blue and neutral colors like tan. Green works well with any home furnishing, and it’s a lot less tricky to work with than yellow. The problem with yellow is that you want a butter feel, and you end up with a school bus blasting through your living room.”

Zimmer does caution about using green in the bathroom. “That can be tricky if not sure what you’re doing. Depending on the light you have and the tone of green, it can cause your face to look green, especially in the morning, which no one wants. If you have the right light and it’s a small space, it can work,” says Zimmer, who painted her small bathroom green. “Green is also flexible in that it works well with vibrant, trendy tones like purple, as well as classic, sophisticated colors like black.”

Speaking of black, Zimmer says to look for a lot of black this year. “Black appeals to traditional-styled people, as well as high-tech homeowners, who are often looking for something new and different. Black is especially great for chair rails and moldings; it really sets off architectural details and is great in historic homes. Black and white together is very glamorous and sophisticated, especially when paired with silver metallics. Also, I love black chandeliers – and not just in the dining room. They’re perfect to add drama in expansive spaces like those two-story entrances you see in newer homes,” she says.’s Remignanti adds that while previous years saw the minimal use of black in a room – subtle use via wood finishes and upholstery, for example – he sees black and white being used as focal colors to create a stylish room. Remignanti cautions, though, not to balance black and white evenly, as this can “muddle up the look of a room pretty quickly. When care is taken to let one or the other dominate, the results can be refreshingly and maturely chic,” he says. Like Zimmer, Remignanti likes the use of silver metallics, especially in accent pieces. “With an increasing use of darker tones, it becomes more and more important to consider how light complements décor, which explains the trend of accent materials that reflect, refract and bend light. Materials such as silver, chrome, mercury glass, mirrors, crystal and Lucite are part of this key trend, and are being used as decorative accents as well as being incorporated into furniture pieces themselves. Color in metallics and glass is out of favor – clear is ‘the new pink,’ so to speak.”

Another color trend to look out for interiors is the acceptance – and now embracing – of neutrals, according to Lamb. “Neutrals used to be a dirty word during the recent riot of explosive colors. I especially like colorful neutrals. Use different shades of khaki like green khaki and tan khaki. These work great with other colors.” Lamb adds that painting a room a different color is the easiest and fastest way to change the look. “And don’t worry if you think that the color you use is just a temporary phase. You can always change it later.” Lamb notes that as recent as 2000, the average life cycle of a trend was four years; however, in 2006, the life cycle had shrunk to three years, and insiders predict that by 2010, the average life cycle of a trend will be just two years.

While black and white, as well as neutrals, dominate the scene, some Americans still strive for that “warm and homey” look. With this in mind, Zimmer says that many busy people want their home to be a restful place, so she is seeing a resurgence of what she calls “crewel colors.” “Crewel is a type of needlework that uses saturated hues with the yarn – the colors are heavier and meatier. More and more Americans are returning to crafts, so crewel colors are making a comeback. You’ll see this look in historical homes in Williamsburg, Va., and when people see these warm, friendly and ‘family-esque’ colors, they want to recreate the feeling in their homes.” Zimmer says that crewel colors are perfect in the kitchen and family room, and some of the colors in this palette include cranberry, pumpkin and warm browns.

Like the glamorous effect of combining black and white, Remignanti also forecasts a return to glamour for furniture in a trend he calls “Luxe Redux.” Borrowing some cues from the post-Deco movement of the last half of the 20th century, Remignanti says “Luxe Redux” borrows the lines and geometric influences of Art Deco but without the exaggerated extremes and with a gentler sweeping feel. “The silhouette is high and delicately legged with strict limits on embellishment, letting each piece’s architecture be the defining characteristic,” says Remignanti, adding that upholstered pieces will have a tight finish, void of skirts, pillows and cushions. He also likes case pieces with curved fronts, gently sweeping lines and jewelry-inspired hardware.

Other furniture trends Remignanti sees include downsized furniture – no more overstuffed chairs with shoulder-height arms, huge sofas and 35-pound dining room chairs – and the decline in popularity of microfiber, which “started spilling out of the living room and onto dining chairs and upholstered headboards. But interestingly, while silhouettes shrink, decorative patterns are growing. Large-scale prints are being found in fabrics, floor and wall coverings like never before. Upholstery with large repeats gives added visual weight to even the most petite frames. Watch for large-scale, graphic black and white prints to dominate the look,” he says. No matter what your style is, Remignanti says, “Remember that however well put together a room may be, it’s meant to be used. If a room isn’t comfortable and inviting for those inside it, it’s a design failure, no matter how stylish it may be.”

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