Ideas from young designers help older stylists avoid ‘dowdies’

August 2, 2013 

Everyone over 40 needs at least one young person in his or her life to help dodge the dreaded dowdies.

Though much emphasis gets placed on the need for the younger generation to listen to those who’ve lived longer – and appropriately so (slow down to think, send a thank-you note, don’t mumble, floss) – the reverse scenario gets less air time.

If it weren’t for my tuned-in kids, now ages 20 and 17, I would still be wearing shirts with shoulder pads and tucked-in turtlenecks and wouldn’t know how to load my iPod Shuffle. Heck, I wouldn’t even own a Shuffle; I’d still be listening to cassette tapes.

In both dress and decor, we of a certain age can default to what’s worked before, not realizing that a look no longer works for us (yes, you, balding men in ponytails). Or we can ask someone younger, with fresh eyes, to steer us clear of a rut.

So this week, when I encountered a 20-something blogger and full-time, home-design-trend spotter, I couldn’t wait to tap her brain to see where my decor instincts might be more passe than present.

At age 24, Andrée Boisselle of Toronto tracks home decor trends and handles social media for Marketplace Events, a company that produces more than 30 home and garden shows in 20 markets across North America each year.

I asked Boisselle what the common thread was in today’s trends, and her first response was: “function.”

“It has to make sense,” she explained.

She followed up with these 10 fresh home trends to help roll back the years:

• Black and white. This can’t-go-wrong combination gives spaces an organized, well-structured appearance, while adding drama and contrast. DIYers especially like the trend in home offices and dining rooms to achieve a sense of order.

• Shades of gray. We’re sick of brown and beige, said Boisselle, whose last two bedrooms were gray. “It’s a more modern neutral and it’s soothing.” Plus, gray can support almost every other color.

• A light touch. Light fixtures are often the poor stepchildren in home interiors. Homeowners paint and furnish, and forget the lights. Recently, and partly because fixtures have gotten so much better looking, consumers are adding fantastic, sculptural light fixtures to rooms, where they become signature statements.

• Subtle, simple centerpieces. Gone are the formal, baby’s-breath stuffed centerpieces of your mother’s era. Today, tables are topped with something hand-done, organic and simple. “You can literally line up five green apples,” said Boisselle, “or put out three mason jars with water and a single daisy in each one.”

• Wallpaper with an edge. Yes, some wallpaper is still scary, but some is fabulous, especially big, bold patterns applied to just one wall. “Papering a whole room is out, but hitting just one wall turns wallpaper into art,” she said.

• Walls that talk. As DIY homeowners get better at expressing themselves in their homes, more words are showing up on signs or painted directly on walls. “What better way to let your home speak for you?”

• Mixing old with new. You can have a traditional look or a contemporary look, but the most current look blends the two. Boisselle is seeing more interiors mixing classic and traditional furniture with smaller contemporary elements, such as accent tables. “The combo makes an unfussy, polished space.”

• Unisex decor. As more men admit that they care about home decor, more homes are incorporating unisex style: fewer frills, more focus on function, gender-neutral colors and more minimalism.

• Orange punch. DIY decorators have been afraid of this in-your-face color, but that’s changing. “We’ve been seeing it done right, and it’s very appealing and uplifting.” Orange has been strong in fashion this year, which explains why it’s trending up in homes.

• Candid photos. Though family photo walls have been around since before the Kodak Instamatic, today’s photo galleries are different, mostly for what’s in the frames (which should all coordinate). Posed pictures are out; candids are in. “Because we have so many photos to choose from thanks to smartphones, Instagram, and digital prints, photo walls feel less precious and are more fun.”


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