Hong Kong interior design

2016 interior design trends: upholstered TVs, Wi-fi-free rooms, and more

Top designers in Hong Kong and abroad pick whats' going to be hot next year - softer edges, sustainability, the '70s revival - and tell us which looks have had their day: Scandi-minimal, bright neons and industrial

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 December, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 December, 2015, 6:00am

Out with the old, in with the new is the wisdom for an orderly life. So before exploring what interior designers consider as trends for the year, it’s worth knowing the looks that have had their day.

Of course, there will be dissent. Faith Popcorn, the American futurist author who talked about the term “cocooning” long before the current homemaking revival, has called an end to recycled wood this year. But it’s all a bit of fun, and maybe even a conversation starter, as we begin 2016.

Still, it;s hard to resist asking Popcorn, founder of New York marketing firm BrainReserve, what she has against recycled wood? “It just feels like lip service to the eco movement now,” she argues. “What matters more is actually giving your time or money or creativity to improve our world.”

I am tired of the rumpled, lived-in look. It is such a cop out, and shows an evident lack of personality
Geoffrey Bradfield, interior designer

Popcorn also thinks we’re ready to move on from mid-century modern (aka the retro or vintage look). “I have nothing against it,” she adds, “but people took it too far and had their homes look like time capsules where Don Draper [of TV show Mad Men] would be lounging next to his bar cart.”

Ed Ng, co-founder of Hong Kong design firm AB Concept, might also find he’s courting controversy with his prediction that the whole “Scandi-minimal thing” – a look he describes as “hyper clean and neutral spaces paired with mid-century shapes, lacking punch and layering” – is so yesterday. “I think this type of interior was overdone a long time ago but somehow I keep seeing it,” Ng says. “No more in 2016, please.”

He’s also over industrial – despite its relatively new appearance on the Hong Kong scene. “When the industrial trend became chic it was because it was authentic – lofts in New York with beautiful ceiling heights and stories that gave character to the space,” Ng explains. “As a facade, a pretend effect, however, industrial is very much over.”

Geoffrey Bradfield, a New York-based interior designer behind high-end projects in China, wants order to return. “I am tired of the rumpled, lived-in look,” he says. “It is such a cop-out, and shows an evident lack of personality. I believe we are ready to move beyond playing it safe, and to re-embrace glamour.”

Lisa White, head of lifestyle and interiors at London-based trend forecaster WGSN, says bright fluorescents and neons are out. “Since we often feel so inundated with screen colours, in interiors we are starting to reject them, preferring more subtle colour choices and sophisticated palettes that catch our eye and soothe our souls in new ways,” she said.

From a pattern point of view, chevrons are “definitely on their way out”, White adds. “They have dominated the motif market for so long and are such a visible pattern that we are craving something new, like fine geometrics that feel like jewellery patterns.”

So what will be the looks for 2016? Steve Leung Chi-tien, architect and product designer of Steve Leung Designers, thinks that eco-friendly and sustainable design will still be key. “To me, using durable, aesthetically long-lasting materials is one of the ways to incorporate sustainability into design.”

At the same time, collaboration will become a foreseeable trend under globalisation, he adds. “I believe in ‘design without limits’,” Leung says. “Designers can think outside the box with a brand new perspective, creating innovative works through the collaborations of different aspects, such as brand integration, product collaboration, cultural infusion and designers’ cooperation.”

AB Concept’s Ng sees architecturally inspired interiors as a coming trend. “Organic architecture is moving beyond the museum and institution,” he says. “As we know it, much organic architecture is not made for us to live in. But what happens when it is? The interior must respond beyond the fluid solid surface, and provide comfort, luxury, detail. We will react naturally to this type of architecture by incorporating the language of the structure and refining it for human use and touch.”

From an overseas perspective, Bradfield thinks that the use of transparency – that is, acrylic and glass, a look that began with the millennium – will continue. “It belongs in this century and is timeless,” he says. He also welcomes the return of yellow gold accents. “Although I am a big fan of the white metals, white gold, steel, and chrome, I believe we are ready to re-embrace yellow gold in interiors.”

Bradfield says consumers are “ready to start breaking the monotony of what today constitutes style”. “It’s time to accelerate the rethinking of design,” he says. “Even the most simple background palette should elicit excitement.”

White, meanwhile, says softness will prevail. “Upholstery, curved edges, soft materials that can be squishy or luxurious, and soft colours that remind us of the happy candy colours of childhood will be top of mind. We are seeing hard pieces of furniture becoming ever softer, with padded headboards for beds, upholstered storage, and even soft, upholstered televisions like the Homedia by [Dutch designer] Robert Bronwasser.”

White also believes that the ’70s look in interiors is only beginning. “We will see it catching its stride in 2016,” she says. “Think glossy lacquers, brushed velvets, handwoven wall hangings, mixed wood veneers, brushed brass, and a subdued colour palette. Mustard yellow, teal blue, avocado green and statement orange will be back. Graphic wallpapers will again look contemporary, and not for statement walls, but for an all-over look for the entire room.”

As for the palette for 2016, the influential Pantone Colour Institute has toned down last year’s bold Marsala and picked a softer look. For the first time, the blending of two shades – pink-hued Rose Quartz and tranquil blue Serenity – form Pantone’s colour of the year.

Predicting that “unexpected colour stories will be the order of the day”, Pantone has compiled nine palettes for home interiors (and given them broad-brush names), including natural forms, dichotomy, ephemera, lineage, soft focus, merriment and footloose. There’s also “bijoux” (the French word for jewel), which is a series of colours that gleams with drama and intensity across gem tones, and mixed bag, an assortment of eclectic patterns and prints, with colours like violet and florid orange.

Finally, Faith Popcorn sees the emergence of unplugged spaces – areas in the home shielded from Wi-fi and other forms of connectivity.

“This will become a trend; a space where people can truly enjoy family time without everyone staring at screens, and a place where people can practise mindfulness and meditation. It’s the new yoga.”