Why Do We Care About Trends?

October 23, 2017



Every year one of the areas of influence all designers have on their radar (even if we don't actually follow them as such) are the key trends for the coming year. Trends affect the colours, shapes, fabrics and raw materials we will see and increasingly use in the field of design in the coming year. These trends can be influenced by the most diverse of factors from Blockbuster films, (successful period costume dramas often revive interest in a period's colours and fabrics) to political climate and physical climate change. Like radio waves ideas exist as energy in the ether.


 Dulux Colour of the Year 2018 Heartwood (on foreground walls) and accompanying palette.

It is the job of trend analysts to assess the amount of energy behind a particular zeitgeist and from it predict key trends for the coming year so designers and big companies don't go getting it wrong and pissing us all off with their individuality (go figure). The result is actually a reflection of the influences we are all feeling and Trends are a physical projection of how we think those influences will play out; in colour, fabrics, shapes and materials. With interior design this becomes quite important, after all our field is in the work places and domestic spaces of humans and what we do there has a direct influence on how our clients live and  feel.


'There's a spike in interest about the psychology of colour and how to use certain paint colours to inspire different moods, from joy to productivity.'
- Sara Tardiff, Elle Decor


 Cherished Gold, 2016


So to break it down a bit let's look at one of the main areas in interior design affected by trends - colour. Here one of the loudest voices in the market is Dulux Colour Futures. Ten years old, the yearly DCF predictions are deliberated on by a team of independent design experts commissioned by Dulux to look at urban environments, social and economic factors as well as global interior and architecture design trends. From the research of these areas they formulate a collection of colours and shades they believe will have the most impact during the coming year.

In 2016 they chose Cherished Gold as the stand out colour of the year because it exemplified an overarching theme of 'Looking both ways'. All the key trends for 2016 had an element of gold in them. Dulux chose a golden yellow, almost ochre; still bright enough to attract attention while subtly referring to the past and the colour of the earth. Cherished Gold was felt to combine both the traditional and the modern in our colour schemes and combined well with other tones.


 Denim Drift, 2017

In 2017 their hero was Denim Drift; a smoky blue grey the bods at Dulux felt reflected our need for simple, restful colours that could be easily worked into a home design scheme. The overarching theme in 2017 was for 'things that make life worth living'. Which was borne out of the idea of societies collectively searching for real and essential things in life and the need to feel rooted. This was at the beginning of the year that strongly advocated bringing the outside in, using houseplants and foliage in interior design, and specifying living walls and botanical wallpaper (the greener the better) in our schemes. I think we all naturally expected the colour of the year to be some sort of green to tie in with that but Dulux chose Blue instead, (green is, I'm going to admit, a difficult colour to get right) which is after all the colour of the sky and of water and because, practically speaking, it works without effort, and is versatile enough to be both classic and contemporary....And, of course, everyone loves denim!

This year Dulux have announced a pinky shade as the colour of the year 2018. This time, shock! It is nothing like the light sugary millennial pink that we all LOVED (just me?) it's a much deeper, more grounded and rootsy heather mauve-pink called Heart Wood. A colour that reflects a tendency towards a need for comfort and is 'an essential element for creating the welcoming environments we desire'. It is 'A colour that reflects our growing concern over world events and instability' they say, and our need to hunker down in our homes. Dulux's trend predictions for 2018 sit under the theme of 'A Welcome Home' – the idea that our homes are becoming a place to shut the door on the outside world and step into a space that is uniquely ours and Heart Wood channels a real sense of calm and warmth during such times of uncertainty.

Now it's not as if we, as interior designers, are bound by these predictions, having built loyalty and appreciation for the limited palettes and superior pigments of specialist paint companies such as Paper & Paint Library, Little Greene and Farrow & Ball (man do they make our job easier sometimes). But what the Dulux colour of the year announcement really highlights are the factors that lead to the trends and that is something we do care about. It is also important that we are aware of the sort of colours we can expect to see more of in accessories, materials, fabrics and wallpaper. Knowing this puts us ahead of the game, or at least right alongside the game with a ringside seat. It's all very well if we want to go massively off piste and walk our own line when it comes to specifying colour schemes for a job (and we all love finding gems and vintage pieces to accent our themes) but the truth is we are constrained by what is actually available at the time from the manufacturers and designers we use...and yes you guessed it, when they are planning their new collections for the year guess where they look? At the trend forecast. This is why when there's a vogue for something, there's tonnes of it. Anyone noticed warmer woods such as walnut creeping in all over the place? Well yes, the warmer woods, wools and metals are 'in' because they compliment the current trend towards cosy, safe, hygge homesteads. Just like Dulux said.

So back to my first question. Why? What are the trends for?

Quite simply they are a mirror, an indication of how we (and our customers) want to live, what we care about, what concerns us and crucially what we think will make us feel better. This is actually the crux of interior design and always has been. From the day when one of our ancestors placed a woolly mammoth hide in front of the fire because after a hard day fashioning spears it made a more comfortable seat than bare rock, we recognised that the true purpose of interior design is not simply to make our structures look pretty, but to make our experience in our homes, and in the places we socialise and work, feel better.  We are sentient beings and right now, according to the trend forecasters we want to feel connected, safe and cosy. Because this is a crazy, mixed up muddled up world. So that's what the trends do, they communicate the zeitgeist for a human need. In this case Cosyness. Got it? Now go out and make that happen people!


Many thanks to Yarah from YMMD Design for a brilliant analysis. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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