What says ‘modern’ now in decor?
As the weather improves and our winter hibernation ends, the urge to refresh and renew a room or two often follows.
It may be as simple as adding a few new decorative items or changing a worn-out piece of furniture. Or maybe it’s something a little more ambitious, like a new room layout or color scheme.
What’s saying “fresh and modern” now? A few designers weigh in:
“It’s a major moment for wood,” says New York City interior decorator Elaine Griffin. “Layers of wood, in varied tones for a lively contrast — think wood-framed chairs with a walnut coffee table on a paler hardwood floor. Wood-paneled walls are modern again too, this time in sleek, oversize panels, or sculptural designs.”
Wood is meeting iron in combinations both elegant and industrial. Pier 1 has a new fir and iron shelving unit with a pitched “roof,” creating a sense of place and serving as both storage and room divider. Also at Pier 1, galvanized iron and mango wood give a round coffee table personality.
And it’s not just iron. “Dark metals are modern now,” Griffin says. “Think bronze, wrought iron and almost-blackened brass. They’re super-fresh combined with other elements or used decoratively.”
For Knoll Furniture’s design director, Benjamin Pardo, what’s new is a fresh take on some iconic pieces of the Bauhaus period, which is marking its 100th anniversary. “I’m especially excited about new finishes for designs by Breuer, Mies van der Rohe, Harry Bertoia and Warren Platner,” Pardo says.
Platner’s iconic 1966 glass-topped dining table is offered now with a rose-gold wire base. Bertoia’s classic 1952 wire side chair has been re-imagined in gold, with a curly shearling cushion.
Other retailers, like CB2 and Anthropologie, are echoing the woolly trend with curl-up-and-chill chairs and sofas clad in shearling upholstery.
Another contemporary trend: cane and rattan.
These were traditionally outdoor furniture materials, but we’re seeing nearly everyone offering indoor seating and casegoods in these weaves.
CB2 has a rattan front credenza, while Anthropologie has a hutch with a caned front. At Ethan Allen , there are midcentury and island-inspired lounge chairs with woven backs. And at Serena & Lily , a tailored, textured bedframe comes in honeyed or gray cane, with brass leg caps.
To Meg Roberts of the New York-based Echo Design Group, what looks most exciting about Spring ’19 is the explosion of dramatic tropical motifs.
“From large-scale palms and jungle murals to botanical and toile-type renderings of exotic birds and animals, these patterns celebrate a wide range of gorgeous greens,” she says. “They can be classic or modern, playful or organic, but they’re always hopeful and appealing.”
The real thing is just as hot. “Houseplants look modern now,” Griffin says. “They’re the most modern-feeling accessories: live elements that bring the outdoors in, and are unpretentiously stylish. I love green plants in white, handmade, ceramic cachepots.”
Floral designers are also creating simple and dramatic vignettes, like a big monstera leaf in a striking vase, or delicate fronds in a textured basket. There are more online direct-to-consumer plant merchants as well (sites like Bloomscape, The Sill and more), offering buying and care instructions for those with less-than-green thumbs.
And statement art is making an impact, with online and brick-and-mortar retailers across all price points offering large contemporary canvases.
“Nothing looks better than a ginormous painting or print above a sofa or occupying a large, empty wall,” says Griffin.
Design today also includes a movement toward environmentally mindful production.
Cathy Bailey is creative director at Heath Ceramics , a San Francisco studio that has been producing ceramic vessels, dinnerware and accessories since the late 1940s.
“Pure, thoughtful, honest and beautiful is what I want modern to feel like now,” she says. “We’re coming full circle in appreciating the objects we use and the impact they have.”
Heath is producing dinnerware in Sausalito, California, and flatware in Sherrill, New York. The initiative “supports those communities, and has less environmental impact,” Bailey says.
Heath has also re-thought packaging to try to eliminate plastic, going instead with recycled newsprint for wrapping ceramics, and boxing shipped goods using Expandos, a triangular, recyclable filler made from recycled chipboard.
Says Bailey, “Being thoughtful in the choices we make feels modern.”