Design: Where Do We Go From Here?

If in the 1960s you had told someone that interior design in the early 21st century would bring a renewed interest in the arts and crafts movement, they would have said you had been breathing too many fumes from your hovercraft vehicle.  Still, here we are with words like “farmhouse” and “eclectic” ruling the day and most people wanting an antique of some kind somewhere in their design scheme.  Vintage furniture couldn’t be hotter and techniques of previous centuries such as needlepoint and milk paint have found their way into the most contemporary and sophisticated of designs.  But also, “modern” in the classic mid-century context has now become vintage–almost quaint really.  Can it really be that the sleek modern designs that took the world by storm over 60 years ago are now nearly antiques themselves?



Why is this?  What about our current situation has made us yearn for a connection to the past?  We must feel so uncertain of the future that foundations from previous generations feel comforting.  This doesn’t feel like a time where we want to charge ahead with “progress” and innovation but maybe retreat from the world for a while and curl up with a good book in our great grandmother’s antique quilt.  What used to be considered wear is now called “patina” and provides a greater context for our lives in this moment.  I see a water mark on a dresser and I know hundreds of hands have touched it before mine, and somehow that gives meaning and comfort–something many people are struggling to find in our sometimes frightening and always uncertain present day.  We want to move to farms and grow our own vegetables and raise our kids in meadows and sunshine.  But we also want to have smartphones and blogs and be connected everywhere we go.  Design is reflecting this very real cultural and political paradox.





We want all white kitchens so we can have a blank slate.  We want contemporary farmhouse style so we can have our laptops on our antique desk.  We want mid-century eclectic so we can remember that previous generations forged ahead after hard times and really did progress and innovate.   We are intrigued by the deconstructed pieces of Restoration Hardware but we haven’t totally given up or become that cynical yet.   We seem to have one foot in the future, and one in the past.



So where do we go from here?  Maybe darker colors will start to replace the bright and light filled rooms of the last five to ten years.  We will create our little caves to wait out the storm.  Maybe even more patina with brass becoming the metal of the day, even reforming old aged brass into sleek contemporary fixtures to complement warm woods.  Perhaps no more Italian, French  or even Scandinavian, but English design influences will become more prevalent with traditional English prints and fabrics to replace soft colors and neutral palettes.  Heavy drapes will replace airy linens and rustic will give way to elegant.



And I could see us retreating from open floor plans–we will start to want rooms.  Private cozy rooms.  Before we tore down walls but we may start to rebuild them.  Maybe pony walls at first or floating walls to just to try it out and then committing with closing off our dining rooms and maybe even building little libraries in the middle of our downtown lofts–just to create a place that doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming.

And when we re-emerge who knows what interesting design influences will rule the day?  What amazing traditions from some as yet not totally familiar culture will have seeped into our consciousness through the glow of our lit computer screens? What hot colors or traditional craftsmanship will be absorbed and incorporated like so much 18th century blue and white Chinese porcelain?  Whatever it is, people really do seek out beauty and there is plenty to find.


What are your predictions for the future of design?  What trends will reflect the cultural changes you see?




14 thoughts on “Design: Where Do We Go From Here?

  1. Amazing and thought provoking post, Lane. It’s hard for me to predict where things will go design-wise, but I will say that living with old things — things that have history and meaning — will never go out of style.

    I’m going to think on this one some more.


  2. Our family recently bucked the trend and moved from our big, suburban new build into a much smaller town house in the city. No more open floor plan and it’s really wonderful. I can really see this becoming a trend.

  3. I think ideally a home should have both types of space. some open airy and bright, others smaller, darker, richer, warmer.

    great post.

  4. Really interesting post Lane and I often think about the future of design and what’s next. As I’m walking in and out of my favorite furniture consignment store, i often wonder if these types of stores will still be going strong when our children are grown. I do think that the beauty of modern design is being able to integrate items and treasures from the past into a scheme where there’s a happy balance. Of course this look isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s part of the way we are able to appreciate items passed down through generations. It is comforting to unwrap the milkglass that my Mom had given me that was once my grandmother’s…I can only imagine what sort of plans my grandmother had put into these pretty planters and I often wonder how happy she would be knowing how much I appreciate these items that were once hers. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while too Lane – thanks for getting the wheels turning.

    • Thanks Holly. It’s good for me to remember that what I tend to design and respond to is not necessarily what everyone is into. Although you’re right, an eclectic style is definitely predominant these days. And I am very much like you–I love having things handed down to me through the generations. I love using my grandmother’s things that she left me and remembering her using them. So glad this struck a chord with people…

  5. Thank you for a well written post that helps put design in a greater perspective. I think it is easy to forget how influenced we and our design choices are by the times in which we live. Very thought provoking!

  6. Lane,
    I really enjoyed this post; it was so well written and thought provoking. For me, many of your thoughts and musings ring so true.

    • Thanks CF. I almost didn’t publish it but was interested in what others would have to say about it too. So glad people are responding to it.

  7. Lane,
    This is a really thoughtful and well written post that deserves to be in the pages of a major magazine. Really good stuff. This would be a great debate at a design bloggers conference for sure.

    I don’t have any educated answers. In my mind the increase in attention to our homes came out of September 11th. We needed a refuge that we knew was safe and wanted it to be a place that served many needs. The desire for vintage or antique pieces perhaps satisfies some desire for reflection to safer, happier and/or better times. Or as lovers of design, this electicism that creates an interior with more depth may just mean that we’re more higher evolved! I prefer to believe the latter.

    Kudos. Really, really great post!


    • Thanks Steve. I hope you are right about the evolution thing. That’s a far more interesting, hopeful and appealing answer–not just for design trends but a lot of reasons!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *