2016 is heating up. The snow has melted, the sun is working its way back to the top of the sky, and another Fashion Week is on the books. With spring officially rounding the corner, we can pretty confidently say which design trends are going to stay popular and which ones are going to fizzle out.
So what are we most excited about?
All things vintage and gold. Our top fabric trends for 2016 honor the past in a big way, putting elegant patterns, precious metals, and intricately woven fabrics front and center.
This year the big design trends highlight some of our favorite fabrics, and they include a richness of color and texture that we haven’t seen in a while. Best of all, modern fabric technology allows these once-delicate textiles to be used in family friendly environments, so a family room or den can now get the royal treatment with performance cushions durable enough to last through years of spills.
But first, let’s look at the big picture.
Throwback, Retro, and Vintage (Oh, My!)
These words get tossed around so often in the design world that they sometimes feel meaningless. Throwback, retro, and vintage are often used interchangeably to signify a vague sense of “old-fashioned but still cool,” but, for our money, there are meaningful differences:
- Throwback: “Throwback” is the newest of these terms, having shot into common usage only in the past decade or two. A throwback refers to past trends recent enough for some of us to remember: Think about the throwbacks to 1990s grunge or 70s disco fashion seen on the runways lately.
- Retro: “Retro” is short for “retrograde,” which means moving backwards. Retro design can span a broader time period, but these days the term is especially attached to Mid-century Modern design. Call it the Mad Men effect; retro chic has had a grip on interior design for years now.
- Vintage: Hearkening directly to the lure of a fine wine that has been aged to perfection, “vintage” design speaks of things that have truly stood the test of time. The word brings to mind delicate antiques, rich hardwood, and fine craftsmanship. We think of vintage as referencing design that’s 100 to 150 years old: the Victorian Age to the pre-World War I Belle Époque.
So, which version of heritage design are we talking about in 2016?
Out With the Modern, In With the Vintage
We adored all those clean lines and solid colors that Mad Men and the Mid-century Modern revival taught us to love again, but living with all those hard edges and straight lines gets a little fatiguing. It’s restful for the eye, but not the body.
For real comfort, we’re definitely looking forward to vintage trends that focus on curvaceous lines, plump cushions, and softer light reflected back by gleaming gold and shiny silk. Downton Abbey has usurped Sterling Cooper as the model for gracious living.
In particular, here’s what we have our eye on for interior design trends in 2016:
All That Glitters
The queen of precious metals is resuming her rightful position as ruler of the design world. After decades of chrome, brushed nickel, and the total domination of stainless steel appliances, gold is making a comeback. It’s important to note that this isn’t the brazen brass of the 1980s nouveau riche. Gold is making a comeback because designers are highlighting its natural tonal richness: rose gold, deep yellows, and a mellow look are all adding a gentle sheen to today’s biggest looks.
Gold faucets and hardware are turning bathrooms into luxurious little jewel boxes instead of empty Zen spas. It’s also a major feature in today’s lighting, where it glints and gleams to enhance the glow of electric bulbs. The trend comes to a head in dazzling gold and crystal chandeliers with swooping, elegant curves that would have made any Victorian lady swoon.
Vintage Pattern Preferences
The Victorians loved their plants, and their horticultural prowess spilled over into every aspect of their design. Wood furniture was carved with leafy accents, floral patterns quite literally covered fabrics and wallpapers, and flowers themselves were given places of honor in the décor, even inspiring a whole secret language to express repressed feelings.
All of these patterns are back, especially quatrefoil, large-format florals, and intricate damasks. The colors traditionally skew towards jewel tones, but we’re also seeing these patterns rendered in airier pastels and mid-range ocean hues that breathe modern energy into what could otherwise feel like living in a museum. The Victorians and Edwardians were most definitely not afraid of mixing patterns, and vintage trends include plenty of blending eclectic prints and themes for an utterly unique final product.
Plump and Plush
All those flowers are the antithesis of modern design’s obsession with straight lines and hard edges. Nature doesn’t know a straight line, after all: the curves of a leaf, petal, or bird’s wing are all organically designed for their purpose. It’s only manmade efficiency that loves right angles; designs of convenience for the barons of the Industrial Revolution, not the comfort of living creatures.
Curves, therefore, are where it’s at in vintage design. Look for armchairs to echo the swoop of a classic wingback and couches to provide rounded arms and plump cushions to sink into. A tufted settee? Yes, please. Seating is where vintage design really comes into its own, as it provides a luxurious place to settle in for conversation and connection.
Courtesy of Sunbrella®
Performance Fabric Trends for 2016
The best way to incorporate the vintage design trend into a family friendly room is with careful upholstery selection. Almost any fabric can be rendered suitable for high traffic use these days, with manufacturers like Sunbrella leading the way to expand the possibilities far beyond plain canvas and stripes.
The very best choices for creating a vintage look? Our top three picks:
Damask can mean two different things, depending on the context. As a process, it refers to a method of weaving perfected in ancient Damascus in the Middle East. The designs were typically floral and full of vining lines, with long, silk threads creating a subtle sheen against a darker background. The fabric was also reversible.
Damask also has come to refer to the most popular design on damasked fabric: the repeating diamonds made up of highly stylized flowers. Damasks and related florals can be remarkably modern and fresh when given breathing room in the great outdoors. We also love the look of layering damasks with more subtle patterns for a collection of pillows that all work together for a rich, vintage appeal.
Jacquard and damask are another pair of words sometimes used interchangeably, but technically jacquard is a method of manufacturing woven fabrics. The technique was invented in France during the mid-1800s and revolutionized the production of luxurious fabrics. Whereas once it was only possible to weave fancy damasks on a handloom, they were first made in factories in the 19th century, making them widely available to the rising middle class of Victorian England. No wonder, then, that the floral look really took off in homes, as bankers and merchants rushed to get their hands on what was once the realm of the upper crust.
From a current design standpoint, jacquards are any fabrics with the pattern woven directly into the textile rather than printed on. It’s a high-end look, and the result is more visually interesting and longer lasting. Everything from zebra skins to chevrons and sunbursts can be rendered in the weave, making jacquards a fantastic choice for adding texture to outdoor décor.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the home front of Victorian England, but another major aspect of vintage design comes directly from Britain’s holdings around the world. In the age of Empire, many Brits spent years away in hot, humid locales. They, by necessity, had a more pared-down sense of style (though it must be said that British Colonial décor can also be quite posh).
The number one concern was keeping cool in the heat of India and South Africa. Enter linen. Made of flax, this flexible woven fabric was lightweight and wicked away moisture like a dream, keeping its wearer cool and collected in the heat of tropical climes.
Linen does the same for family friendly decor today, providing muted tones (historically due to the way linen absorbed dye, but today a style choice) and soft, cool comfort. The textured weave is subtle and hugely popular, as it offers a smooth transition between vintage and modern pieces for a uniform look.
Making Vintage Trends Work
The key to creating a livable vintage look in 2016 is to use a restrained hand. Few people want to live in a museum, and great designers blend vintage accents with transitional furniture and lighting to keep the look fresh. A crystal chandelier over a tufted silk couch with all four walls in damask wallpaper would be too much for most people, but judicious use of patterned upholstery and gold accents along with more contemporary pieces always works.
For family friendly spaces, furniture that includes a nod to the curvaceous lines of the Victorian period, extra cushions in coordinating performance fabrics, and rich, textured accents will create a luxurious space that will rival any formal parlor or dining room for the attention of dinner party guests.