Design trends: what, why and how |

Design trends: what, why and how

Modern living-room interior.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

What is a trend?

A trend occurs when a style or item becomes increasingly more common in a short period of time. The style or item is then so widespread that it is (or at least seems to be) in every store, magazine and neighbor’s home.

Trends are created by mass purchases, requests and displays. Fashion and clothing trends are readily recognizable but changes in interior design are far more subtle.

So let’s take a look at interior design trends during the past couple of decades:


For many years, silver was the only available color for metal but gold-colored metal is making a comeback after a long hiatus. People seem to like the rare and unique look of gold.

• Wood

The popular choice for wood color seems to change like the wind. Over the past 20 years, the trend in wood color shifted from light to dark to extremely dark. Honey-colored wood is the current rage.

• Upholstery

Upholstery tends to be very trendy. Fifteen years ago, most sofas and chairs had oversized arms. Today, the arms are slender, straighter and more vertical.

• Kitchens and bathrooms

Kitchen and bathroom design has undergone more of a permanent shift, with a move toward making these spaces larger. It was thought to be a trend 20 years ago, but the practicality of larger kitchens and bathrooms has become very popular.

Through the years, the kitchen has developed into an important gathering and entertaining space that requires more room. In addition, our increased consciousness of health and nutrition has become important, so our kitchens became more important, too. Small bathrooms also grew, representing a greater interest in fitness and well being.

Trends serve a purpose

Trends are neither good nor evil. They merely reflect the times.

They keep design interesting and exciting, maintaining curiosity and awareness. Trends are the impetus for new ideas and motifs.

There is, however, a downside to trends. They date things that we own and make people uncertain about what to buy. Is our stuff passe?

It’s expensive to change our homes and spaces. Keeping up with the latest trend requires time, desire, finances and energy. There’s also a risk of becoming a slave to trends, not trusting our own inner style and design sensibilities. We can wind up wasting money on things with which we have no connection. Items seem more disposable.

Be aware

The first priority is to protect your investments. Be aware of current trends; if you want to buy items that seem to be very popular, try less expensive versions that can be changed out more frequently. In general, the more popular a style is, the more quickly it will replaced by something new.

It’s a good idea to work with a designer who knows the difference between fad and fashion. It’s equally important to develop trust with a retailer who sells quality merchandise, not one who stocks items that will fly out the door for a short period of time. That is a warning sign that this might be a short-term craze.

Most of all, though, trust yourself and be true to your own design sensibilities.

Nancy Sanford, owner of Nancy Sanford Interior Design, is an award-winning interior designer who has been transforming residential and commercial spaces in the Vail Valley for the past 12 years. For more information, visit or email Nancy at

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