Is it just me, or are people more obsessed than ever with home renovations and interior design?
Fueled by the popularity of home remodel TV shows and the endless stream of design inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest, the world of design has been heating up for years.
Then suddenly the pandemic hit, and we were cooped up in spaces that often felt unfinished, un-functional or unattractive. Unable to travel, we escaped inside by scrolling through beautiful imagery from around the word, planning our next most essential home upgrades.
All of this has caused design trends to arise and spread even more rapidly than before. One rising trend in the design world is talk of “timeless style.” But as a designer, I believe style is a language. And languages, like all living things, continually evolve. While some trends pass quickly, others turn out to be exciting new expressions of bigger, longer-lasting cultural shifts.
With that in mind, here are a few of the home design innovations and inspirations that I’m seeing in Aspen this summer.
RESILIANCE + REGENERATION
Being holed up in our homes for so long got us all thinking about how to make them more resilient to change. Home wellness spaces (gyms, spas, meditation and yoga rooms) and “super pantries” are no longer just for the super-rich. The local Aspen architects at Thrijv are developing gorgeous, fully off-grid homes that generate their own energy, water and food. And demand for air conditioners in Aspen has grown to record levels, not just for cooling but for smoke filtration during fires.
When it comes to furnishings, “eco” no longer means ugly. At the recent High Point furniture show in North Carolina, I was thrilled to find so many furniture manufacturers taking sustainable design to a whole new level. One example is the Seaqual line of indoor/outdoor performance fabrics, which are not only beautiful, soft and red-wine friendly, they are made from recycled plastics scooped out of the ocean! These are now some of our favorite fabrics for custom sofas, beds, and outdoor cushions. You can also find them on select furniture pieces at Arhaus in Denver.
When the world outside is crazy, who doesn’t want to curl up with something cozy? Upholstered furnishings, bedding, throw pillows and blankets in soft textural fabrics – shearling, mohair and nubby alpaca, for instance – up the comfort factor and add layering and warmth, especially in our chilly mountain clime. It helps that alpacas produce one of the most sustainable natural fibers, in part, because their grazing habits and padded feet make them less damaging to natural environments than sheep or goats.
Warm amber lighting has been found to increase oxytocin (the “love hormone”) and helps promote relaxation, especially in the evenings before bed. In recent years, LED bulbs have given off a gray and ghostly glow when dimmed. Thankfully, the latest “dim-to-warm” or “warm glow” LED bulbs emit a more natural light that gets warmer as it is dimmed.
For decades, contemporary design was defined by straight lines and boxy angles, but recent years have brought a shift toward curves in architecture and furnishings. Now that we have entered the Age of Aquarius, this return to gentler, more feminine lines makes sense. Curves feel more connected to nature, and are a perfect fit for Aspen’s undulating mountains and flowing river valleys.
Building upon curvy lines, organic, oblong and asymmetrical shapes have become au courant in furniture design. (Thank you, Mother Nature!) Think: coffee tables, rugs, lamps and architectural elements such as niches and countertops.
Dark brown wood stains be gone! (Of course, as soon as we say that, they’ll be back and we’ll be loving them.) But when it comes to furnishings, flooring and millwork, white oiled oak or bleached walnut provide the light and airy look many homeowners are craving these days.
There’s nothing like one-of-a-kind and hand-made objects for adding soul and personality to a home. When traveling, we always set aside time to seek out local artwork, furniture or ceramics that have so much more life-force than mass-market goods. Thanks to the pandemic, more of these makers have made their wares available online. And now that we can travel again, we have a whole new list of artisans we can’t wait to see and hug in person.
DESKS IN EVERY BEDROOM
It started when many of us were working from home, and it has stayed with us. Functional at-home work spaces are now a must-have for adults and children alike. In bedrooms, we are finding that desks are often replacing dressers. And if you don’t seem to have enough space for a desk, consider a fold down desk or floating surface mounted to the wall. Desks with glass tops can help a room feel more open.
After a year of trying to do everything outdoors, our yards, patios and balconies have become priceless extensions of our homes. But how do we make them functional, warm and inviting? Layer in screens, planters or drapes for privacy, shearling hides and pillows for comfort, strings of lights for atmosphere, and firepits for warmth. Even better, set aside these design ideas, stretch out on the grass, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and stare at the trees and sky. Nature is the best designer of all!
A Buddhist monk turned interior designer, Matthew Tenzin has been a principal at Aspen-based holistic design firm, Joe McGuire Design, since 2012.