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Key Design Trends

Interior fashions change almost as fast as clothes on the catwalk, so it pays to keep abreast of trends. We’ve picked four of the hottest looks, with tips on how to interpret the key looks at home.

We’ve become a design-conscious nation, addicted not just to the vagaries of fashion, but to what’s hot, or not, in the world of interiors. That’s no surprise. There’s a wealth of home-style magazines and books constantly on tap not to mention entertaining TV makeover and home design programmes. Added to that, we can choose to visit beautifully designed boutique hotels, restaurants and bars for inspiration. We’ve never been better informed on what looks good.

Yet while it’s fun to be fashionable, and tempting to choose from the high street’s constantly changing collections, there are practical issues to consider. Buying cheap fashion accessories one season, wearing them to death, then discarding them for the next new look, is easy to do. But when it comes to decorating interiors, you must think differently. It’s expensive and time-consuming to put together a good-looking, tranquil and hard-wearing home. Few of us can afford to make mistakes: buying a sofa or having a room re-decorated is an investment.4

Gathering Inspiration

It pays to take a good look at what is available in interiors shops. Even if you can’t afford designer furniture, checking out trends is an excellent start. Ideas can always be adapted. Consider getting a local joiner to build a piece of furniture to match a designer original, for example. Many high street stores launch seasonal home collections. What appeals to your personal sense of style? If you’re still not sure what to go for, take a look inside your own wardrobe. Do you like classic clothes, with crisp white and neutral linens? Are you a Boho-chic girl, with a mix of satin and velvet? Your interior style will tend to match your clothes choices.

Interpreting Fashion Trends

These days interior trends have all but caught up with fashion’s lead, but it can be fun to do some trend-spotting of your own. The skill lies in “getting your eye in”, and looking at clothes and accessories in a new way. Flick through fashion magazines, paying particular attention to the round-ups of the next season’s catwalk collections. Is there a common theme: a particularly trendy colour, say, or a preponderance of prints, like big florals or Fifties motifs? How might this be interpreted at home? You should be adapting a trend, rather than adopting a look wholesale. How about one wall painted in the favoured colour? Or a fresh set of cushions, made up in an appropriate fabric?

Establishing a Framework

Always aim to establish a good mix of classic, simply styled furniture for each room, then use cheaper, trendy accessories to update on a regular basis. Quality upholstered furniture can last a lifetime, but can be re-upholstered to create new looks. Staples like a good timber kitchen table can be updated with different ceramics or tablecloths, a classic antique bed revamped with a change of bed linen. To these larger pieces, it’s easy to add a quirky designer chair, coffee table or rug. Such pieces will firmly stamp the room with a new trend, like a designer handbag for a classic wool suit.4

Mood Board

Copy fashion and interior designers, and put together a mood board. You can use large sheets of white card, group ideas into an A4 notebook, or even add swatches to a metal pinboard. Start off by amassing tear sheets of looks from magazines, then gradually add fabric swatches, paint samples, trimmings and so on. Cut out pictures of possible furniture from catalogues, or add Polaroids of pieces you like. Do a rough sketch of the room showing your preferred colour scheme. It doesn’t matter if you’re no good at drawing – the visuals will give you a sense of how the final room will look.

The Power of accessories

Just as the fun part of getting dressed lies in accessorising, the same goes for interiors. Here you really can go to town with trendy extras, from vases to cushions. Provided you buy inexpensive things then you can pass them on to Oxfam once they’re out-of-date. Look out for wonderful ethnic buys, when you’re on holiday, or add in the children’s artwork. These days, in fashion and in interiors, the best looks are about creating an individual finish.


For all but the most committed, the stark squared off silhouettes and pure white tones of the minimalist look are difficult to live with. So, too, is the philosophy that all possessions must be stowed away behind cupboard doors. Yet since minimalism came into view a decade ago, a softer version has emerged. It’s still modern and fresh, with clutter at arm’s length, but it’s easy to live with, perfect for a contemporary family home.

Soft minimalism still has its roots in a white-on-white colour palette, but is accessorised with colour. You might consider pure white walls, but teamed with loose covers in a pretty pastel, or a large artist’s canvas, painted in a bold shade. Or choose tonally, using creamy or grey-whites instead of pure white. Instead of acres of stainless steel or limestone surfaces, use such materials sparingly. You might mix a pure white kitchen with a pale beech worktop, or in a bathroom white sanitaryware with a translucent sand-blasted glass for a more mellow look.

Soft minimal furniture should have clean lines, with square, rather than curved contours. Think of a refectory style table, teamed with benches, a rectangular sofa for the sitting room, or a Japanese-style platform bed. The soft touches come in the form of touchy-feely upholstery fabrics, from faux suede to 100 per cent wool, or in adding slippery satins and crunchy linens on the bed. To take the hard edges off square furniture, add in a curvy side chair, or a slouchy beanbag. Accessories should be added sparingly. A hand-made wobbly platter, bright vase or giant black-and-white framed photograph will add charm.


Anyone who began snapping up Fifties, Sixties and even Seventies furniture from junk stores a decade ago will be laughing now. There has been an extraordinary resurgence of interest in mid-twentieth century furniture, and now we all know our Eames from our Jacobsen. Yet the key to doing the new retro look is not to copy vintage styles too faithfully. Furniture all from one era, combined with faithful copies of contemporary textiles, will make your home look more granny flat than cool pad.

The key is to invest in a few, recognisably vintage pieces of furniture, then build the look around them. Good choices include a long, lean sideboard, a set of plywood dining chairs, a leather armchair or a Sixties chandelier. Look for pieces that are recognisably of their period with quirky decorative details. It’s increasingly difficult to find the real designer pieces cheaply, so hunt out similar styles from junk stores, or invest in a new designer re-issue. New retro is all about mixing your key pieces with some twenty-first century accessories, from a leather beanbag to a glitter ball.

Vintage furniture looks best with plain painted walls. Choose unusual colours that will act as an effective background to show off the contours of the furniture. Off-beat shades such as olive, deep turquoise or strong yellow all look dramatic with wood veneer finishes or vintage white or coloured plastics. One wallpapered wall can also be a smart option: try retro-inspired Seventies circles or a large-scale damask design. For flooring choices, sanded and waxed or painted floorboards, or stone flooring, gives an edgier finish than conventional carpet. Keep accessories simple: vintage glassware, or an abstract oil painting, are perfect choices.


Lush, colourful and (almost) over-the-top, the zany Bohemian look is the perfect antidote to twenty-first century modernism. If you love sparkly ear-rings, velvet coats and satin dresses, this is the trend to follow. With its roots half in Seventies retro, and half in theatrical stage sets, this look is comparatively inexpensive to put together. Furniture such as basket chairs, crystal chandeliers and vintage fabric cushions are easy to pick up at car boot sales or charity shops. The stars of the show – floaty curtains, or well-trimmed lampshades – can be custom-made at home.

Colour and texture are the watchwords here. In the same spirit as Boho-chic fashion, fabrics to aim for are velvet, satin, silk, and lace. Think of romantic, boudoir-style colour schemes, from aubergine and old rose, to coffee and cream, spiced with leaf green, lilac or gold. In a sitting room, you can add unlined silk “dress” curtains (add a plain roller blind for privacy), and pile a mix of satin and velvet cushions on the sofa. The bedroom might be spiced up with a satin eiderdown: you don’t have to spend out on the real thing, as there are many man-made fibre versions that look just as good.

Concentrate on detailing. Lamps should be adorned with satin, or pleated silk shades, and trimmed with crystal beads or faux pearls. Curtains may be trimmed with fringing on the leading edge, or a Roman blind customised with a tightly frilled edging. Look out for furniture with mirrored detailing – the high street now has fabulous interpretations of Thirties-style mirrored dressing tables – or side tables with pretty, delicate legs. And go heavy on the ambience. Low lighting, and a sensual scented candle, tube rose or spiced orange, will set the scene.


Grown-up and slick, the tailored classic look is perfect for those who like a neutral colour scheme, elegant furniture styles and a chic finish. This is the interiors version of the classic fashion wardrobe: the crisp white shirt, black coat, and a decent pair of leather shoes. Think Ralph Lauren meets Saville Row, and you’ll get the picture. It’s not as expensive as it sounds. Money should be spent on quality surfaces: a decent wood floor, white walls, and good upholstery, and accessories kept simple, adding flashes of plain glass, silver and discreet leather.

Focus on upholstered furniture. The sofa and armchair should be smartly turned out in tailored loose covers, featuring box pleats or inverted corner pleats, button detailing or crisp ties. An upholstered stool, and a set of dining chairs, may be covered to match. Curtains should fall in crisp, sculptural folds or Roman blinds pulled up into soft pleats. Choose fabrics wisely. Linen, crisp cotton, denim and wool all keep their shape and look smart. Mix plain, textural fabrics with occasional pattern: a pinstriped wool stool, for example, with a biscuit-coloured linen sofa.

The key to the look lies in a subdued, sophisticated colour palette. Stick to mostly neutrals, teamed with one dark shade, with flashes of white. Good dark choices will include plum, chocolate, navy or graphite. You don’t have to banish colour altogether. Think of the red silk lining of a trendy man’s suit jacket, and use that as a prompt to add a leaf green velvet throw, or a scarlet glass vase into the classic mix. Surfaces should be good quality. Instead of painted shelves, consider a version in wood veneer, and stain pine boards a sophisticated dark mahogany.


1 The catwalks are awash with cool belts, from leather ethnic styles, to narrow silk scarves for tying around jeans. Snap up bargain high street buys, then use as curtain tie-backs

2 Embroidered and sequinned detail is still big news. Raid the haberdashers’ section in your local department store, and adorn cushions and lampshades with appliqué fabric or sequinned flowers and butterflies

3 Safari prints are perennially popular. Check out the shops for animal-print extras to jazz up a neutral interior, but just one accessory will do: add a faux zebra rug or chair to an all-white sitting room

4 Copy the Boho-chic style of layered, brightly coloured vest tops. Use a multi-track curtain pole to layer colourful voile curtains, in pink, yellow and leaf green

5 Try the gypsy look. Take the newest ruffled and multi-pattern long skirts as inspiration for patchwork quilts, or pile a modern day bed with cushion covers in vintage prints

6 The fashion for bejewelled bangles and charm bracelets easily translates to lamps. Buy stick-on “jewels”, beads, and shells from a bead specialist, then stitch around the rim of a plain linen lampshade

7 Interpret the ever-popular white cotton shirt and denim jeans combination. A mix of denim curtains, teamed with white cotton slipcovers and white-painted floorboards, is practical and fresh

8 Get crafty. Fashion’s love affair with the natural world looks just as good at home – visit local craft fairs for creamy ceramic bowls or wood-carved platters

9 Fashion is addicted to all things floral, the prettier the better. Get the look by adding a couple of sprigged cotton pillowcases amongst your white bed linen

10 Eighties glamour – think satin and sparkle – translates well in the bedroom. Team a mirrored dressing table with a satin-upholstered stool, and pleated silk lampshades.n

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