Residential Interior Design Trends - November 2012

By Sonya Jennings


Brown to grey, light to dark, traditional to contemporary—some interior furnishings trends cycle in and out and others fade away. We spoke with three upper-end, residential interior designers in three different regions of the country. There are interesting similarities and differences in their observations as to what is trending in the design world and how we got here. 

Joe Tice of Memphis based Joe Tice Interiors, Robert Wright of San Diego’s Bast/Wright Interiors and Jennifer Dumoulin of Cincinnati’s Jen Dumoulin Designs each offer unique regional perspectives on current home interior fashion, including which flooring products are popular with the contemporary consumer, which colors are fashionable now and the mindset of today’s residential client on budget and quality. 

Robert Wright, Bast/Wright 
Interiors, San Diego, California
Robert Wright of Bast/Wright Interiors has spent 21 years helping his clients keep their homes current with the latest styling trends. His firm of seven employees serves higher end clients mainly in southern California, although he has completed projects in other places like Hawaii and Boston. He is seeing a contemporary modern style trend with open and airy spaces featuring natural materials like wood used in a clean, modern way. His clients are remodeling for a different purpose in this climate of low home values. It was popular in the past to have a “Flip This House” mentality of lower quality, lower cost, sell and make a profit. However, clients are now investing more upfront because they plan on staying in the home long term. They want to create quality environments in which to raise a family, entertain and grow old. Quick fix products that look good but won’t last are not part of the equation for his clients.
The challenge is always to put a home’s square footage to its best use, so Wright tries to connect to the outdoors and visually extend the sight line by unifying flooring. From the outdoor flooring surfaces to the interior, color is unified to create the illusion of a much larger area. He prefers using flooring materials that perform outside, like stone and wood, on the main floor. For tile, Wright leans toward natural stone tile or porcelain. The tumbled edge tile is moving out and being replaced with tailored, tighter edges and square edged looks. This trend is part of the transformation toward a modern, cleaner look.

In the kitchen, Wright is using a lot of cork flooring. It provides comfort, particularly for older clients. He notes, “If a client is dealing with any type of health issue, for instance, I recently had a lady with osteoporosis, a softer gentler cork floor will help with comfort level.” People spend a lot of time in kitchens, and cork provides that underfoot comfort.

Wright is seeing the industry move to a greyer palette, with bleached woods like oak becoming more popular. Planks of wood are becoming narrower after a widening trend, and typically 2” or 2½” planks are chosen. He adds, “The contemporary mid-century modern oak floors have been rediscovered, again, in a move toward a sleeker look.” 

Approximately 85% of the flooring Wright uses is hard surface, with carpet typically used as an accent with a bound broadloom or carpet tiles. Occasionally, he will use carpet for an entire room. When placing carpet, Wright likes the low pile and tight tailored look of commercial carpet. He sees an opportunity for manufacturers to bring more of this look into the residential arena. Clients like commercial carpet for its sleek look, and it is perceived as better for those with allergies as there are fewer places for dust and germs to hide. The palette is a bit dark in commercial carpet for the West Coast, but he still uses it in select rooms. He would encourage commercial carpet manufacturers to bring this style of carpet into the residential market with a lighter color palette. Wright comments, “The hospitality market influences commercial and commercial influences residential, and so on. We are all borrowing the best from each other.”

Using carpet tile to create area rugs has become a popular practice for Wright. On wood floors in art studios, children’s rooms, and even master bedrooms, carpet tile allows him to create a custom design. Also, the ease of replacement, particularly in the art studio or children’s rooms, is another advantage of carpet tile. Spills and stains that cannot be removed are easily remedied with a replacement tile. He has used traditional carpet in a home theater or study, and in those cases he prefers a nylon or wool fiber. Wright notes that wool is not as cost prohibitive as it used to be.

Joe Tice, Joe Tice Interiors
Memphis, Tennessee
Serving Memphis for 29 years, Joe Tice designs for local clients and many outside his zip code in places like California, New York, Florida, and many states in between. His clients are mostly high income, and located and in the middle to older age group. Most of his new business comes from referrals—friends of current and past clients. These clients have enough experience to choose wisely, having lived long enough to have made expensive design mistakes in the past. Tice sees a transitional, contemporary trend and a shift toward less cluttered, simpler spaces. Due to the economy, there is less money to spend, so the investment items are neutral and the color trends are seen in accessory items that can be replaced at minimal cost. 

To find current colors, Joe Tice looks to women’s fashion for the upcoming season. He studies the runway looks in Milan during the spring and fall fashion weeks to find the colors that will be trending. He usually travels to Milan to be in attendance, but when he cannot, he sifts through the main fashion highlights and assumes the same colors will be trending here in the U.S. “It used to be that it would take a while for America to follow the Italian fashion trends,” says Tice. “Now it takes place almost immediately.”

Tice adds, “During a booming economy, there is a lot more color; in a down economy, neutrals are everywhere. You’d think it would be the opposite, more color to bring some cheer in a down economy, but clients look to make their dollars go farther and last longer, so they choose neutral colors for investment items.” Neutrals are moving away from a brown palette to greys and silvers, and he is seeing a lot more cream than true white. For pops of color, chartreuse is gaining in popularity.

For living rooms, dining rooms, master bedrooms and even kitchens, Tice is placing mostly hardwood. He’s seen a shift to American hardwood from exotics. Colors are going darker with few natural looks, and higher gloss wood flooring is becoming more popular than matte finishes. Cork flooring is trending particularly with environmentally conscious buyers, but he likes to place it in rooms with no exterior opening because a lot of sand or dirt can wear down the floor. It’s suitable for interior rooms, especially in environments where a soft, forgiving, soundproof floor is needed. Cork is water resistant and does not stain easily if a spill is cleaned quickly, so it’s great for children’s rooms. Bamboo is also popular, but not in places like Memphis because of the humidity. In Tice’s experience, bamboo tends to curl when damp, so he only uses this flooring in drier climates. He generally uses area rugs or bound broadloom rugs over hardwood flooring, and in terms of design, he’s noticed a shift away from traditional Eastern designs to a simpler modern look.

Tice uses carpet in upstairs bedrooms with a focus on wool and nylon. He has noticed cut and loop texture becoming popular because it shows less wear and can offer patterns and textures. Tile is used in some kitchens and most bathrooms. Porcelain and natural stone tile are featured with glass or metallic tile accents. In large rooms, he has placed a wood and tile combination floor with wood bordering a large tile area in the center of the room. Larger tiles like 18”x18” or 24”x24” are more popular than smaller sizes, as are tiles that look like slate or limestone but offer no maintenance.

Jennifer Dumoulin, Jen Dumoulin Designs, 
Cincinnati, Ohio
Jennifer Dumoulin has spent 25 years in the design business. After working for a larger firm for many years, she went out on her own as a designer earlier this year. This proved to be a great decision, because she has been busier than ever helping clients transform their spaces. Many are remodeling to stay longer in the home, and Demoulin has noticed her clients gravitating more towards prudent choices and taking the time to think through design decisions. Large ticket items like furniture and flooring are mostly following a neutral color palette with splashes of trending colors. She says, “In good economic times, you might have had clients looking at that big splashy sofa, but now they will choose a neutral sofa and add the same splashes of color in a lamp, vase, or artwork.”

Like our other designers, Dumoulin is noticing a more contemporary look with quiet, clean lines. Mixed in are big, bold, bright accessories like pillows, lamps, sculpture and fabrics. With the contemporary trend, the shift is away from yellow-based colors and toward a grey palette. She says, “Grey has a new life because of the advances in paint and fabric. There is a subtle luminescence to it, letting light reflect and keeping it from looking flat. There is a lot more dimension happening with grey.” 

Dumoulin is impressed with the technological advances in carpet, making it an attractive flooring choice for her clients. The new designs, textures, depths, friezes and comfortable pile looks have offered a reinvention of carpet as we know it. She’s finding that wool is more affordable than it used to be, and therefore it works for people with a budget. The same depth and light reflectiveness in paint and fabric is showing in new carpet products as well.

Most of Dumoulin’s clients are choosing larger rather than smaller tile flooring. Natural stone or porcelain that mimics natural stone is very popular. In kitchens, she’s placing wood or tile, but she encourages the use of wood because standing a lot in the kitchen calls for a more forgiving floor. In family rooms, she is placing mostly wood or tile with a large bound broadloom rug. Distressed hardwood and reclaimed wood are popular with greyer stains like driftwood. Darker stains are still more popular than light or natural, and larger 5” planks are trending with her clients. Carpet is still king in bedrooms. 


I scope trade shows and evaluate the latest in fabrics and other interior furnishings to see which themes are emerging. It is important to distinguish between a fad and a true trend that will have some longevity. Being involved with product development for 25 years, I approach trends in a practical sort of way and try not to complicate the overall design direction.

Today, I am seeing the most gorgeous products since I have been in the industry due to the sophisticated technology and various machine capabilities available. Consumers are welcoming this broad selection of floorcovering because their exposure through different made resources offers many opportunities to see a wider range of styling.

Economic factors definitely influence and affect trends. With the inconsistent economy, the consumer is looking to get back to the comforts of home. Softness to the touch is a key ingredient for residential carpet. The consumer is looking for comfortable products with longevity, offering more features and benefits to simplify our lifestyles and living spaces, and this is filtering into product introductions. The visual aspects of flooring textiles are becoming more simple, a less-is-more, not overdone type of styling, though in actuality the constructions are highly complicated behind the scenes. The combining of different yarn sizes and twists, multilevel pile heights, and luster levels are important in creating a great sense of depth and dimension for the floor.

Handcrafted and intricate elements are intertwined throughout today's constuctions, offering current fashion and easier maintenance. Textures, friezes and patterned cut and loops are the top consumer choices, with textured products being the most preferred. Sophisticated textures also include color play adding visual interest by using striations, subtle shading, tone on tone, flecking of color, faded and distressed looks. Organic patterns and geometrics are increasing in popularity and coordinate easily with patterns in other furnishings. Some of the geometrics stem from the 1920s designs and have been given a fresh perspective that yields a totally modern look. Coordinating products within a collection are available to help bring a custom look to any interior.

The color direction offers a modern mixture of both contemporary and traditional tones. The neutral colorations are always the stable color family for the industry and continue to stay down to earth, moving toward more saturated shades. Greys blanket the palette from light to rich tones and can be used as an excellent backdrop for the more energetic accents. Interesting metallic details are also influencing the neutral palette, such as oxidized pewter and aged chrome. Interior schemes are using black details either for a focal point or as a secondary coloration complementing the new splashes of bright hues. The rich, velvety dark brown continues its importance while lighter brown tones are emerging. Greens and blues fit into nearly every style and remain strong, shifting both to the cool and warm side of the spectrum. Orange is energizing the color story from citrus tones to deep, earthy shades, providing warmth to any room setting. Red tones are exciting and add a vivid dimension, ranging from a soft camellia with beige undertones to a deep Tuscan red with some of the newer reds having a slightly bluer cast.

—Sherrie Anderson of Anderson Associates has worked in residential product development for 25 years. She has developed products for Shaw, Mohawk, JMish and more. Anderson is experienced in every aspect of developing new residential carpet products including color, yarn and design.

Copyright 2012 Floor Focus