Feature Stories

Home & garden trends

Heed Nature’s call to reawaken

By Jennifer Dodds Fox
Being trapped inside during these frigid, dull months has its benefits … no, really. Now is the time to take a good look at your surroundings. What’s your home missing? What feels or looks tired, bland or boring? Zero in on the rooms that just aren’t working for you and your family, and take the idea of spring cleaning one step further. Whether it’s brightening up your walls, switching out fixtures or reconfiguring the furniture, there are many options and resources at your fingertips — and there’s no time like the present to tackle these projects.

Take inspiration from what you might be craving these days: more sunlight, fresh surroundings, a renewed sense of home and comfort. Just as a different shade of lipstick can reawaken your face, a new coat of paint or set of pillows on the couch can have the same impact on a room. The idea that just a few tweaks can make a world of difference is a comforting thought, especially when embarking on a home project can feel overwhelming or daunting.

The world outside is bare and a little drab, but Mother Nature is getting ready to redecorate with budding greens, vibrant florals and textures along with a beautiful soundtrack of chirping birds. Do the same for your little slice of this world. With the freshness of spring just around the corner, read what local designers and experts have to say about how you can make the biggest impact in your home this spring.

One of the biggest emerging trends for Spring 2013 is a nod to the organic— natural shapes, elements and textures. Cindy Friend, one of Fort Wayne’s premier designers, says interiors are leaning away from being too stiff and coordinated. Instead, design elements are inspired from nature with the use of renewable bamboo, organic fabrics, woven wall coverings and repurposed woods. Perhaps a large-scale reed display would add drama to a blank wall or even act as a room separator in a large space. On a smaller scale, a soft woven or wicker ottoman might be just what’s needed. Your organic update could be as simple as a coffee table display of smooth river pebbles or as involved as sustainable window shades. Either way, infusing a room with these organic touches will bring natural texture to the space.

Another trend on the rise is the Midas touch. While consumers have favored stainless steel or brushed silver
when it comes to accents or fixtures, designers have noticed a sharp return to warm metallics, this time ranging from antique gold to polished brass. Carma Reincke, the principal designer behind Choice Designs, says to add a metallic object d’art to a mantle, side table or bookshelf for a flash of personality or a substantial sculpture to a foyer, porch or at the end of a hallway. Reincke has noticed that dog sculptures, whether small or large scale, are another popular trend, so why not combine the two and add a brass (insert your favorite breed here) to a room for a touch of high-style whimsy?

For more contemporary spaces, geometric prints and graphic patterns are at the top of the trends. A bold new rug, throw pillows or even new lampshades can amp up the space in minutes flat. For a more complex project, use modern wallpapers to create an accent wall that will add a sophisticated vibe without having to paper the entire room, which can be costly and time consuming. If wallpaper isn’t your thing, a large piece of geometric artwork on one wall can be a great substitute. Graphic patterns, like the classic Greek key or more recently popular chevron, have been working their way into mainstream design and can be found on everything from pencils to serving platters and slipper chairs to curtains. The pattern can be a small print or a thinly lined design for a subtle take or blown up for a more bold look, and either scale can be found in muted tones and bright hues alike. Either way, a graphic or geometric print offers a sophisticated pop of pizazz for modern interiors.

Shatter the mold! Remove your preconceived notions about what purpose each room is supposed to serve. Rethink each room, its furniture, artwork and accessories, for inspiration and renewal. Friend and Reincke both suggest removing every last stitch from a room to gain a new perspective. Your fresh eye will allow you to reimagine the space, to play with color palettes, new configurations and perhaps adjust the very function of the room. Only put back what really works and shop the other rooms in your home to find pieces that fit within your new plan. Just because something has always lived in a particular room doesn’t mean there isn’t another spot in which it can serve you as well, or in some cases, better.

Sara Kruger, of Sara Bella Home Staging & Redesign, uses feng shui principles when reconfiguring a room for her clients. “Good design is good feng shui and vice versa. A well designed room is a meaningful room and the placement, flow of energy, the meaning of the things that surround you, should be in alignment for good design.” Kruger suggests removing preconceived notions of value or predetermined labels to reimagine what each room or even each piece can be. Homes should be nurturing and inspiring, but homeowners sometimes become slaves to “stuff” and forget to edit their rooms. Place treasured objects in conspicuous places so they brighten your day whether it’s the first thing you look at in the morning or last thing at night.

Just like an outstanding outfit flatters your body, a room greatly benefits from thoughtful accents and accessories, what Friend calls “the jewelry of the room.” In addition to one amazing piece like a work of art or a spectacular chandelier, smaller touches like vases, textiles such as pillows and throws, objets d’art and even well placed coffee table books help to round out the overall look and feel of the room. On the other hand, many homeowners display way too many knickknacks and personal picture frames all at once. Store some pieces while enjoying the others, curated into collections. This way you’ll always have treasured favorites in rotation and you’ll keep the room fresh — not every surface needs to be covered.

Mixing vintage or antique “room jewelry” with new is a great way to inject your unique personality into the space. Kruger suggests working from a well thought out color plan and using descriptive “style words” to refine how you want any given space to look and feel. Choosing these style words such as quiet, zen and peaceful or vibrant, drama and energetic, along with your well-thought-out color plan, will make combining past and present a piece of cake. If you have a collection of mirrors or frames that don’t necessarily mesh, painting them in the same hue or range of shades can pull them all together to become a collection. Says Kruger, “Great design is about principles, not rules. Rules are constraining. True expression can’t happen when you’re following all the rules.”

The benefit of using a professional designer is not only their resources and experience but also their understanding of these principals and their “fresh eye.”
Friend recently worked with clients who had never used their formal dining room but through conversation about their interests, indicated they hosted lots of wine-tasting parties. Friend revamped the room to better serve this interest by infusing the room with various shades of deep wine hues and creating an attractive yet functional wine bar with varied vignette seating. Says Friend, “What a home should be doesn’t always apply to you. Not all homes are created equal.”

One of the biggest mistakes made, says Reincke, is choice of paint color. Oftentimes, homeowners will have picked a color that’s just one or two shades off what it should be or they’ll choose a bland color instead of something more inspired. When choosing a paint color, you can’t simply rely on the lighting of the paint or home improvement store and how that shade will then blend with your current furnishings. Invest a little money in the sample paint can, paint a section of your wall and live with it for a while. It might take a few rounds before you get it just right but in the end, you’ll spend less time and money than if you end up with a shade that just doesn’t flatter the room.

If you have renovation on the brain, designers agree that kitchens and bathrooms provide the biggest “wow” factor as well as one of the biggest returns on your investment. Kitchens are becoming less about utility only and more of a gathering space. Family members and guests gravitate to kitchens, so the trend is an open living style with comfortable seating options in the space, including couches and even fireplaces. Another kitchen trend is to go high-tech with TV’s, iPad docking stations, high performance appliances and built-in coffee/wine stations. Refrigerator doors and other large appliances blend in with the cabinets for a seamless feel. Small appliances can be easily tucked away, leaving countertops free of clutter for a cleaner look. Everything is organized and has its place.

Many of the modern updates found in today’s kitchen have also made their way into the bathrooms. Granite countertops with under-mounted sinks, beautiful but water-saving fixtures, custom lighting (even chandeliers) and clutter-free storage options are among the highest priority when renovating the bathroom. Some second-floor bathrooms also feature walk-in linen closets and adjoining laundry rooms. These updates are not only luxuriously convenient but also add to the value and function of the home.

Another large-scale project to consider is proper lighting, a commonly overlooked issue. In dining rooms, homeowners tend to rely on one chandelier to light the space, which leaves the corners of the room dark and dull. In living rooms and bedrooms, the mistake is not enough overhead lighting. Too often, floor lamps are placed around the rooms instead of considering other options, which have come a long way in recent years. Homeowners should consider just how much illumination they’ll need in each room, based on square footage and function of the room, and then plan on integrating multiple ways to achieve that illumination. Between sconces, recessed lighting, track lighting and fixtures like chandeliers, lighting can be considered just another form of texture. Need a quick way to update your lighting? Reincke says to “switch to LED bulbs, where applicable, which are more brilliant and also come in different color tones.”

Whether focusing on a garden or a well-manicured front or back yard, when it comes time to tackle your exterior spaces, local landscape experts agree that having a visual plan is a must. When drafting your initial design, don’t feel pressured to live and die by the plan, as flexibility is key when dealing with the natural world. Alec Johnson, owner of Contour DesignWorks, says he uses the basics of design when embarking on any new landscape project. Figuring out the desired “balance, form, color and texture” will help dictate the “hardscape or bones of the space — the walkways, paved patios, walls, fences, basically anything that’s permanent, which is where the majority of the money will be spent,” he said. Sticking to this general plan will make the execution much easier and the final result more cohesive.

Once your hardscape plan has been determined, it’s time to consider the plantings you may already have in place or what still needs to be added. Laura Stine, owner of Laura Stine Gardens, believes “February is the perfect time to look out your windows, from all floors, angles and sides of the house, to see where the holes are. The bareness of winter allows you to envision where new plantings should be placed.” As you walk your property, what do you want to see? Maybe tall or significant trees are in order to help minimize a neighboring house or yard. Stine also says there are many plants native to Indiana that retain their beauty during the winter months such as shrubs with berries, trees with peeling bark and flowering shrubs that hold dried petals through the winter. She suggests an ornamental grass called Prairie Dropsy, a small and manageable grass that gets about 2-3 feet tall. The seed heads have the highest fat content of all the grasses so you can leave it up in the winter for the birds to enjoy. Stine also notes how important the view from the kitchen window can be. “You need to have something beautiful to look at while you scrub your pots and pans clean.”

Once spring arrives and it’s time to plant, trees and big shrubs should come first. These larger plantings will fill in those holes and also help to shape the space before adding in ornamental grasses, flower beds, smaller shrubs or gardens. Stine recommends working within native plant communities for ease of maintenance. Plus, “these plant communities are more naturally pleasing to our eyes because that’s how they come together in nature.”

In the meantime, Leslie Ewing Kitch of Bruce Ewing Landscaping, recommends sprucing up entryways by adding topiaries or other potted plants, especially in these colder months. These small touches will add interest and color to your exterior while waiting for the lush new growth of spring.

THE Outside in
With the organic trend on the rise, bring in elements of nature to add vibrant texture to your rooms. If a large window looks out onto a lush garden, bring some of those colors indoors for a continuous feel. If the window looks out onto a bird feeder or bath, create a cozy viewing station. Also, bring in houseplants to add color and life as well as purify the stale air inside your home.

THE Inside out
Outdoor living spaces have been a huge trend for years and one that shows no sign of stopping. It’s a great way to carve out additional living areas for your home by furnishing the spaces with weather-appropriate seating areas and grills or fire pits built into walls or natural rock formations. Reincke notes that she’s taken the outdoor living room one step further with weatherproof rugs, drapes, TVs and even artwork.

The worlds of fashion and interior design often collide. Here’s a quick and dirty guide to integrating the latest home trends into your closet:

Organic Elements 
bamboo bangles, raffia clutch purses, natural fiber ballet flats

Midas Touch 
metallic rinse denim, gold-heeled pumps, studded hardware on handbags

Graphic Prints 
colorfully printed wedge heels, ikat technology cases, geometric shaped earrings

Posted: Tue, 02/12/2013 - 3:31 pm
Last updated: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 9:54 am