Fiery colours to rule Year of the dragon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 January, 2012, 12:00am


The new year is a perfect time to experiment with new looks for the home - even if it means revisiting old interior designs and giving them a fresh twist.

So what styles will dominate 2012? American designer Ronald Redding is betting on 'neo-traditional', where classic motifs are re-imagined on a larger scale and unexpected colours give each room a more modern look and feel.

Redding, described as one of the most designers of wall coverings in the United States, takes inspiration from melding the classic and contemporary.

'Take damask as an example. The motif can be the size of the palm of your hand, or it can be rendered oversized on dramatic upholstery or drapery fabric,' he says. 'One might expect to see damask in a muted colour in a living room or dining room. But in a bright, cheerful colour, it is lovely in a girl's bedroom.'

This season, says Redding, traditional prints and florals can be paired with modern furnishings or natural fabrics such as sisal and grasscloth. 'This results in wonderfully unexpected visual richness,' he says.

Forget the muted shades of grandmother's sofa. 'Bold colours can open up a small room. Or the same colour scheme used in adjoining rooms helps achieve an open floor-plan effect,' Redding says.

He also predicts the popularity of 'chameleon colours', where neutrals take on a subtler hue, making them richer and more sophisticated. 'For example, neutral grey may be infused with purple to give it more life and personality,' he says.

How closely will Hong Kong keep in step with these trends? Ross Urwin, creative director of home and lifestyle at Lane Crawford, agrees that classic designs with fresh takes on size and colour will be a big part of this year's ruling aesthetic.

'Apart from trends such as colour themes of the 1950s or 1970s [that] we have seen of late and [which] may last for a season or two within home and lifestyle, our collections include a little of many design eras and movements,' he says.

Urwin says Hong Kong homeowners tend to follow global trends, but keep space limitations and local weather in mind when selecting merchandise. With the majority living in relatively small homes or high-rise units, and with Hong Kong's weather 'extremely hot' for most of the year, Lane Crawford never buys heavy textiles or woollen upholstery.

Still, damask may be a hot item, as Redding predicts.

'There are companies using damask in a new way, as well as other, more traditional prints being tweaked and re-coloured to create a more contemporary look,' Urwin says.

In keeping with the old-meets-new trend, Urwin says Lane Crawford will be working with The House of Hackney, a newly opened wallpaper and linen store based in Hackney, London.

'They are producing fantastic reworked wild prints and interpretations of classic print textiles for upholstery, wallpaper, linens and china. The UK's Observer newspaper called them 'utterly of the moment' and we believe our customers will love their work,' he says,

But steer clear of brand-new or mass-produced looks, Redding warns. 'Weathered, textured and tactile surfaces give home furnishings an artisanal look and feel that isn't expensive to achieve,' he says. 'Handcrafted items have sentimental value ... They are loved today and will be for years to come.'

Continuing from 2011, metallics are 'definitely on trend for 2012', Redding says. 'Metallics add instant glamour. Gold is the universal metallic and silver is contemporary, whereas bronze and copper are earthier options. Metallics work beautifully in combination with each other.'

Redding also sees a departure from stark, minimalist interiors. 'Today, homeowners want rooms with personality. Thoughtfully chosen interior design elements - upholstery, wall coverings, lighting, artwork and more - help express personal style.'

A perfect match isn't necessary, as 'clever mixing and matching adds interest to a room', the designer says.

Urwin adds that vivid, fun and eclectic prints or patterns ('a celebration of colour', he calls it) will take their cue from the 2012 forecast of Pantone - the global design world's 'authority on colour' - which will have clients 'dancing into spring' amid a riot of tangerine, purple, maritime blue and tallow green.

These bold colours will best be partnered with natural neutrals like driftwood (an adaptable blend of beige and grey with a slightly weathered feel), according to Pantone. 'Consumers look to spring for renewed energy, optimism and the promise of a brighter day,' says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute.

Urwin believes these palettes will edge out the all-white scheme, although the minimalist look will always have a place in design because it's a great foundation for one's personal imprint. 'I see this look now not being about everything in white or taupe, but [having a] main background for adding colour and excitement. Colour is surrounding us for 2012.'

Be on the lookout, too, for 1940s- inspired elegant shapes and fixtures such as the Fritz Hansen couch. 'We will see great designs that stem from the human need for function, beauty and comfort,' Redding said.

Craftsmanship will be another watchword this year. In Hong Kong, it's a fair bet we'll be seeing lots of dragon motifs to usher in the Year of the Dragon. Shanghai Tang, for one, has come up with a dragon coffee machine under its limited-edition Nespresso collection. Celebrating Chinese heritage and the coffee craze, the luxury package includes a set of dragon cups.

And it's not all looks: the CitiZ coffee machine's brewing system has won a Red Dot design award.

Shanghai Tang chief home designer Millicent Lai Ho-yee, who has overseen the design of homeware, including the new dragon collection, says bold colours and oversized prints on smaller accessories will be well received in the city's typically neutral environments.

'Due to generally tight household space in Hong Kong, interior design will continue to be ergonomic. The Nespresso CitiZ machine was the perfect model to use for the dragon collection, as it is slim and streamlined, which is great for small homes,' she said. 'I specifically designed the collection with strong colours and patterns to stand out, while being simple and elegant as to stand the test of time.'

Indeed, bold-coloured kitchenware will 'definitely be hot in 2012', Lai said, citing Le Creuset's candy-hued, enamelled, cast-iron pots and pans.

Altfield Gallery, meanwhile, has a collection of rare Tibetan rugs in dramatic dragon designs. In Chinese mythology the dragon is a powerful symbol of courage, able to ward off evil and protect wealth. These rugs were owned by the Tibetan elite, who used them as mats to sit on or cover their luggage on long journeys.

The interior design experts believe we have good reason to be excited about 'the look' for 2012.

'We are witnessing the transformation of design as we know it,' Urwin said. 'The last time a major shift occurred was post-industrial revolution in [the] 1920s to 1940s. Technology was the motivation then; technology is the motivation now.

'This movement shocked society but has paved the way to design and our home decoration as we know it today,' he said.

Urwin said the design world would enter a 'new era by revisiting the idea that design is a mix of art, poetry, emotion and functionality'.