2017 Color Trends: Global color trends for social spaces - Feb 2017

By David and Cindi Oakey

Wellbeing, sustainability, tech-driven digital and new luxury are the dominant trends shaping all aspects of commerce. For the interiors industry, these trends are interdependent; they have a layering affect. Change is inevitable, occurring at a rapid pace beyond predictions. Interiors, especially commercial interiors, are at the forefront of innovation, forcing a domino effect for the design industry.

With this rapid pace of change, the basic human need of self-preservation becomes apparent. Hence, wellbeing is at the forefront of concern, and the design industry is responding. Around the world people occupy spaces, whether outdoors, indoors or some hybrid version of the two, seemingly connected to nature. Designed spaces reflect the global trends through color and texture, form and function. 

We see nature’s influence and sustainable design philosophies abound, creating a serene sense of calm among chaos. Tonal warm greys dominate the interior landscape as concrete hues, the colors of stone and marble, driftwood, mushroom and natural linen conjure serenity. Dimensional materials are luxurious to touch, whether soft and chunky, or velvety smooth, sleek and sanded-these finishes satisfy our senses. But all is not subtle, quiet or serene.

We yearn to be surrounded by the colors in nature. It is no coincidence that Greenery is Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year. Greens explode as new neutrals, only in a multitude of diverse shades, like leaf, lichen, kale, sage and moss, all complementing the warm greys, like concrete. The commonality: all these hues reflect natural elements.

Brights also take on an earthy hue, augmenting greens as well as neutrals-if you think of flowers blooming in a garden, a meadow or a mountainside, all shades of pinks, purples, yellow, orange, reds against a blue sky take our breath away. Bright colors are upbeat, energizing us with a sensory pop, ideal for focal points or smaller spaces. In nature, bright hues can be fleeting, lasting only a short time. And like nature, brights complement all greens.

Wellbeing drives one of the most exciting and influential changes we see: people’s experiences, how they feel their very best within a space-be it home, workplace, hotels, schools or healthcare-drive their thinking, inspiring design. We see a blurring of how we define aesthetics. In carpet design, we no longer design for what was called segmentation. The most successful global product launches have been specified in all areas of market segments. Specifiers have changed what’s driving good design from architectural elements that would be featured on the cover of a magazine to focus instead on the importance of the people who work in the spaces.

The tech giants in Silicon Valley are again innovating radical change that will infiltrate the industry in the next few years. Who can forget how Google’s Zurich office in 2008, with colorful and playful vignettes, games and the infamous slide, changed the office landscape? Its goal was to attract and retain the greatest Millennial minds. Over time, they found the playful environment wasn’t conducive to productivity and creativity. During this next wave, tech leaders like Apple, Google, Facebook, Cisco and Samsung are building campuses to bring people together, designing “collision” spaces or “neighborhoods” that foster planned or random meetings to ignite innovative thinking and problem solving. It seems ironic, since these employees are the most connected technology-wise, yet these firms see the need to create an environment to connect people informally. Community campuses now resemble neighborhoods, with covered walkways bringing the indoor “office” outdoors. Gone are the plush or sterile conference rooms of old. Today’s meetings take place anytime, anywhere. Coffee kiosks, juice bars and food trucks are just some of the places where co-workers can rendezvous. Flexible work policies allow employees to work when they want and where they wish.

Wynwood Yard in Miami is an inspirational example of an organized “neighborhood” (exemplifying the trending colors, grey neutral floor, greens pop with brights), featuring a variety of healthier fare from food trucks, a center bar, DJ booth and park where families, couples, kids and dogs can be free to eat, drink, dance and play.

The hospitality industry has been forging wellbeing into design for the past decade as well. In the interiors industry, boutique hotels pushed the shift from designing hotels to look like our homes in the 20th century, to designing our homes and our offices to look more like hip hotels. We’ve seen furniture manufacturers embrace this blurring of lines, first with the Aeron chair everywhere in the aughts, to the boom of mid-century modern exploding globally the past ten years. Knoll furniture in the home, office or hotel room is a classic example. 

Along with the blurring of design segmentation, travel is the new luxury. Social media fosters a culture where sharing experiences is more important than the glitz and glam of over-consumerism. This shift started with the 2009 recession, where it became apparent that money spent on experience and memories was a better “investment” than luxury goods. The travel-inspired experience boom is creating more tribal communities. Design again serves the people rather than solely the architectural elements of a space. 

With flexible work policies, this tribal experience culture and, of course, the advancement of technology, we now work everywhere: when we want, anywhere, anytime. Over the past ten years, hip hotels, focusing on the rising Millennial demographic, shifted their attention to designing lifestyle hubs, most often in the lobby to attract a community of mixed guests and neighboring residents, not unlike the popularity of Starbucks as a community workplace. Experiential hotel lobbies connect work and home into a hybrid co-working, co-living landscape. Nomadic working fuels communal gathering spaces and co-working hubs.

Tech-driven, wellbeing and sustainability, coupled with how we feel, all drive design. How we feel in this fast-paced world brings us back to the need for peace. One common element contributing to the wellbeing of humans is nature. 

Biophilia is the study of how nature makes us feel. We feel better and more alive when we are in more natural surroundings. Biophilic design is stronger than ever. Like sustainability, it is growing more ubiquitous. Sometimes trends peak, yet some trends grow, blossoming into an ongoing movement. Caring for the Earth, along with humans’ desire to enhance their wellbeing, will continue to become more widespread. The more technology infiltrates our daily lives (and we know it will by leaps and bounds,) the more we will crave nature in our surroundings. 

The design industry has embraced biophilia for commercial interiors. Some “experts” are under the impression that biophilia is played out, that we’ve already heard about it, but humans will never tire of being around nature. David Oakey Designs has been “bringing nature indoors” via carpet tile design for 20 years, globally impacting the interiors industry within the last five years. 

Bringing nature indoors hits its stride in the “public” sphere-highlighted this year by Pantone’s Greenery-but here’s the catch: we have so much more to learn about biophilic design. It’s so much more than bringing in colors from nature or a plant, or floral wallpaper and accessories.

AI (artificial intelligence) and VR (virtual reality) dominate trend reports for consumer markets. What if our interiors were not static and instead changed to enhance our mood and productivity, rest and wellness? In design, we see haptic (touch-based) feedback through light used to reinstate a sense of autonomy. Biophilic inspired technology can change interior’s color, pattern, texture and design. If you think about nature, color changes with light from day to night. Colors change with temperature throughout the seasons. Today we see light creating dynamic movement with pattern and color complementing carpet. Futuristic floors create color and pattern based on sensory interaction. 

For specifiers, gone are the days of looking through sample books in an office library. Working remotely from anywhere and everywhere, specifiers demand to see realistic 3D floor plans through the virtual world to select product, forcing manufacturers and suppliers to update the way they sell products.

Products and environments that optimize our senses or trigger new feelings will be influential in 2017. As an increasing proportion of our lives is experienced through a screen, designers are experimenting with intuitive interactive design, more visceral rather than prescribed. In High Tech, High Touch (1982), John Naisbitt theorized that in a world of technology people would long for human contact or touch. At trade shows around the world, we see the rise of haptic touch in handmade, handcrafted and locally made goods. People want to feel tactile gratification in the touch of handcrafted furniture like the Hans Wegner Wishbone chair, or the luxe dimension of handwoven textiles. Toyota’s Setsuna wooden concept car experience at the Milan Furniture Fair was amazing. The result is a new aesthetic emerging as high-tech processes like 3D printing blends with handcraft. Treading the line between man-made and natural, these new material hybrids are founded in environmentally and socially responsible design.

We would be remiss not to address one of the most unpredictable trends occurring in the second half of 2016, creating fractioned uncertain times ahead for 2017. The result of Brexit and the U.S. presidential election made it clear that our cultures are divided into an open versus closed society, redefining “globalization versus localization.” Global citizens choose to remain open and connected to the world, while “nation nurturers” focus on their locality. How this movement will impact trade, global manufacturing and product design (possible tariffs on imports and/or exports) hangs over the world economy with unprecedented repercussions, among other things.

Finally, 2017 offers a powerful opportunity for interior design to make great contributions to our culture, creating spaces that both enhance our wellbeing and change the landscape of how we interact, live, work and play, all with consideration for sustainability of the planet.

Copyright 2017 Floor Focus