I’ve long believed that if you want to know what people are truly thinking and feeling about the world, you look at their homes. The ‘four walls’ we live in are an expression of our individual personalities, a reflection of the aspirations we hold for ourselves and our families, and a place we retreat to at the end of the day to rest and recover. They evolve as culture around us evolves. They adapt to suit our needs as we grow older and our personal lives change.
So if you want to anticipate how people are going to think and feel in the coming years, interior design trends are a good place to start. And walking around 100% Design last week, I would say things are about to get a lot quieter.
The last few years, crafty do-it-yourself industrialism dominated every sector from booze to bold colour blocking on the front of Elle Decoration. Paints became brighter and more saturated. Iron, steel and concrete showed up on every blog. Rough-and-ready exposed wiring in every colour imaginable dangled bare lightbulbs in coffee shops and hotel bars, as well as the most ‘fashionable’ homes. New, novel and understated quirkiness were enough to get you noticed. In hindsight, it’s no surprise, given the newfound freedom the internet brought to the world. Millennials shunned corporate ladders in favour of their own start-ups. We’ve turned from traditional media to blogs and vlogs, in search of independent voices. We’ve even bypassed banks, using platforms like Kickstarter to fund our wildest aspirations.
But now, new and novel is no longer enough. We seem to be craving a de-clutter, and it’s manifesting itself in a design aesthetic that is calm and reflective. Marble, velvet and brass shimmer against moody, ornate patterns. Polished and lacquered wood in deep, luxurious finishes brings gravitas and slowness. Sleek, organic curves whisper in the background. Indulgence is there, but it is an understated indulgence. One that gives you space to breathe and enjoy a bit of privacy, both physically and mentally.
What does this mean for brands competing on supermarket shelves and online shopping trolleys? Time to consider a tidy up. Individuality will always be important, but perhaps we don’t need to shout so much to be seen. Understated luxe may resonate more than understated casual as people look to get more value out of the purchases they are making. And as for portfolios, I believe the over-excited churn of mindless innovation may finally be coming to an end; 10 brilliant SKUs will perform better than 100 ok ones. Especially as voice-activated devices like Siri and Echo take over the chore of household shopping. (Can you imagine listening to an automated voice recite 20 different options of black tea? No thanks.)
Given the events of 2016, it seems we have enough of the unexpected in our lives. It’s time to embrace a calmer, quieter, more refined way of interacting with the world, or risk becoming part of the white noise.
Anna Hamill is a Strategy Director, based in our London Studio.