Kitchen islands, mudrooms reconceived as "family entrances" and "shopping" your closets for home decor — those are some of the predictions that interior designers are making for 2020.
But these specific trends are part of two larger shifts in aesthetics and functionality. Warmer colors and quirkier accessories are adding more personality to the all-neutral rooms of recent years. And homeowners are increasingly rethinking how they use their spaces _ remodeling or repurposing rooms to better accommodate how they actually live, such as converting a rarely used formal living room into a more frequently used media room.
Homeowners feel more comfortable thinking outside the box and embracing daring designs, thanks to online sources of design inspiration, including the genre-dominating Houzz.com. Seeing photos of a striking paint color or fixture in other people's homes makes it easier to visualize it in your own, explained Houzz editor Mitchell Parker.
"Years ago, if a designer suggested painting your powder room jet black, it might be hard to make the mental leap," he said. "Now it's easier to understand the payoff when going bold with design."
With Houzz and other resources releasing their trend predictions for 2020, we asked three local designers to share their own insights on the ways homeowners are personalizing their spaces and rethinking how they're used, as well as which specific colors, materials, finishes and fixtures are hot _ and not.
Sandy LaMendola, principal of Twist Interior Design explains that the Restoration Hardware-Pottery Barn-Room & Board look became so popular because many homeowners who start out with a mismatched jumble of inherited furniture find that the easiest way to make sense of things is simply to neutralize.
"That's why a lot of homes look like hotels or furniture store vignettes," she said. "They don't have to think about it. It's turnkey."
While big box solutions can be easy, their proliferation means that a ripped-from-the-catalog aesthetic starts to look like everyone else's.
"When you walk into 30 homes a year that look like that, it's like, 'There's got to be more than this!'" LaMendola said. That's not to say that some of the big retailers' popular looks aren't nice _ they just tend to get overexposed. "And then they're not special anymore, she added.
Designers say their clients are seeking more character in their spaces than the popular stark white kitchens and gray living rooms can provide.
"It's really fun to see people get excited about pattern and color because we've been through so many years of everybody being very careful with neutrals _ which are lovely, but they don't necessarily have a whole lot of personality," said Keri Olson, head of KOR Interior Design.
Olson encourages clients to skip the big retailers' catalogs or shelves in favor of "real pieces that actually mean something to them." She suggests visiting art fairs or studios, not only to find more unique pieces, but to make the selection process a memorable experience itself.
"Take the time to find a piece of pottery that's local and that's beautiful that you actually selected for what it is," she said.
Chances are, you may already have some fabulous decorative items right under your nose. "I recommend my clients 'shop' their closets and cupboards because people have family things that they have put away, and they have forgotten that they own," Olson said. Often there are lovely items _ a piece of Grandma's china or even a kid's art project _ worthy of display.
"I ask my clients, 'Do I have permission to open cupboards?'?" Olson said. "Because before I'm going to go out and try and find something to suit the bill, I'd rather see what we've got."
Homeowners are putting their own aesthetic twist on the all-white kitchen trend _ adding warmth with wood-finished or colorful painted islands, for example, according to Renae Keller, head of the eponymous interior design firm . They're also rethinking how to configure their space to better accommodate how they live. Several of Keller's clients, even those who don't necessarily have huge homes, she said, have dedicated space for a "secondary" kitchen _ a small annex that might contain a microwave and beverage fridge so kids can grab a quick snack without cluttering up the main kitchen.
"Since the kitchen is such a hub where people want to be _ especially kids because that's all they want to do is eat _ it's sometimes a desire from clients who say, 'I just hate the mess all the time,'" Keller said.
The trend in new construction or remodeling is to get rid of formal dining and living rooms, as modern homeowners don't want to devote square footage and furnishing funds to rooms they'll use only when company comes over, LaMendola noted. So for clients who aren't starting from scratch or tearing things down to the studs, she likes to find out what type of space they wish they had and then "reassign" the function of another, infrequently used room.
For example, she helped one family turn their formal living room into a media room by swapping out its stiff-feeling sofa and side chairs for a huge, comfortable sectional better suited to watching movies or playing video games. (The shift created space _ and quiet _ in the family room for reading, chatting and other analog leisure activities.)
LaMendola has also encouraged clients to turn dining rooms that they use only a few times a year into a kids' study space.
"Put bookshelves in there, and let kids use the table for homework; that's a great way to repurpose the space and give a really nice ambience to a room you'd otherwise just walk by all the time," she said.
Olson has helped clients transform their mudrooms into what she calls a "family entrance," to make the typically utilitarian space feel more welcoming. Several have opened up these spaces a bit more and personalized them with expressive tile and wallcovering so that they experience as graceful a reception as visitors receive at the front entry.
"We can choose to treat ourselves the same way," she said, "to have that wonderful experience when you walk into your own home."