There's nothing like a new year to spark a bout of crystal-ball gazing. Who doesn't love forecasting what we'll be wearing, eating, or bringing home to feather our nest in the next 12 months?
Here are the 2011 predictions from several leading lights in interior design:
As tipped by WGSN, a global trend forecaster with offices worldwide (including in Hong Kong), this will be the top design trend for 2011. Lisa White, head of interiors at WGSN-Home Build Life, says: 'We aspire to live in a greenhouse, an oxygen-rich atmosphere full of sunlight, comfort and growth. Here, the greenhouse enters the living room in the form of plants, cut flowers and terrariums, and comfortable home furnishings enter the greenhouse in the form of armchairs, sofas and bookshelves. A mixture of plants, pots, design and decor in a living aesthetic.'
This trend is about sustainable design on a personal level. Says White: 'Though most new products are increasingly sustainable, some look more eco-friendly than others. This is about clean mixes of technical and natural materials: Corian, glass, ceramics, pale wood and smart plastics. The colours are tinted greys and soft pastels. In texture, high-shine is paired with powdery 'tactilities', and cool, sleek softness goes with light yet thick quilting.'
Furniture can be a play on classics, such as the products of fashion brand Acne, which has expanded into home items, with reimagined designs by Carl Malmsten. Or 'thoughtful and balanced, but with an irreverent personality', as in the new designs by Italian brand Skitsch, whose asymmetry 'gives a more human feel'.
Ross Urwin, creative director of home and lifestyle at Lane Crawford, says a key story is how shapes and designs from the 50s have influenced many new designs. Expect merchandise to be 'uplifting', with Mediterranean colour palettes, and have an element of fun and energy. Urwin says contemporary design mixed with vintage and mid-century classics is also a prevalent theme.
Urwin embraces this trend, involving the global design community. Brands that have joined forces and created 'amazing designs together' include Established & Sons with Venini glassware, Campana Brothers and Venini, Swarovski and Moroso. 'When creative forces merge, amazing things occur in design,' Urwin says. 'It is about celebrating form and design. This theme also covers the importance of supporting craftsmanship and keeping traditional skills alive.'
The age of discovery
This covers the colours and materials of the ancient world, as well as their modern translations: aged leather, terracotta, copper, bronze and parchment are joined by deep indigos, mauves and greens. As WGSN's White sees it, shimmering, silky fringed cushions and leather pillows meet sumptuous throws in damask. Decorative patterns, whether geometric or organic, are updated classics. The artisanal and industry motifs and designs created by avant-garde Dutch designer Studio Job have contemporary appeal.
Global colour authority Pantone tips honeysuckle - a vibrant reddish-pink hue - as its colour for 2011, replacing turquoise, which it says is so 2010. Honeysuckle 'is encouraging and uplifting', says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute. Wallpapers in this trend include Floral Trail in Pink on Beige and Lattice in Pink from Bella Rosa by Antonina Vella Designs, Ennerdale in Rose from Shand Kydd, and Julie Damask in Raspberry from Gatehouse by Thibaut.
One of four top trends identified by imm cologne, an international interior design fair to be held in Cologne, Germany, in January, is about 'reconfiguring the world'. It involves furniture that is unpretentious yet 'thinks outside the box' in the search for personal, meaningful pieces populated by truly practical things - icons of everyday life. Even angular and simple individual structures can be fashioned into comfortable, rounded opportunities for retreat. Think natural materials, textures knitted, woven or even hand-spun, and colours from warm, rhubarb-red - radiating positive energy - to creamy-white, corn-yellow and tan shades ranging from light brown all the way to terracotta.
Another from imm cologne - perhaps reflecting the new global thrift - this trend is 'as bittersweet as dark chocolate'. The look is not ostentatious, yet despite its apparent severity, it's anything but cold. In a piecing together of old and new, designers equip classic, established forms with hi-tech functionality. The colours and materials are dominated by nature: wood, leather, felt and plant fibres complemented by technical fabrics; an earthy olive hue dominates lush and pale shades of green and is joined by powder shades from rose to brown.
A hybrid of the natural and the artificial, this trend takes inspiration from flowers, feathers, fur and insects, mixing them in wild technicolour. White describes it as 'absolutely sensorial, feeling both real and virtual: trompe l'oeil for the internet generation'. Vibrant patterns are set on dark backgrounds; strong and mid-tone brights shine on slate, old gold and earth tones. Kaleidoscopic mosaics, iridescent glass, vivid plastics and ceramics are boldly shown or hidden, like extravagant decorations on the inside of a cabinet.
More a lifestyle choice than a trend, we'll see more sustainable furnishings in 2011. If it's renewable, recyclable, and from reclaimed sources, it's hot. Says Lane Crawford's Urwin: 'People today are more aware of ethical and environmental issues. Hong Kong customers embrace this, as it's time we all started taking responsibility.'
Nicole Wakley of Tree, an eco-chic furniture store, agrees. 'The change in attitudes is apparent and now customers 'get it' [that] there is a story behind the ascetics. There's a realisation of our surroundings, and that responsibility cannot be left up to governments or corporations.'
But while introducing a new look is a great way to welcome the new year, White cautions against becoming a slave to it. She favours a hybrid look, mixing belongings from the past with style from the present.
While you do need to update, White says that, like fashion, from a stylistic point of view we want our homes to offer a certain amount of variation. 'Though we have set pieces - a designer couch we saved for, a family table we inherited - we like to modify and play with the accessories to suit our moods and the seasons.'
Her tip for a quick makeover involves lamps for new ambiance, new cushions to change the colour palette, and new linens to make the dinner table or the bedroom take on a completely different look.
Ditch the kitsch and the one-off decor
Lane Crawford's Ross Urwin says gimmicky items are out. Minimalism has also had its day. 'The only theme that is not part of the spring/summer collection is the minimalistic cool look. People should embrace colour, texture, print and graphics.'
'Disposable decor' - bought for one-off or short-term use - is no longer considered ethical. Whether it be furniture, rugs, window treatments or decorative items, longevity or re-usability will be important criteria when considering interiors purchases - just as it was in our grandparents' day.