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Roundtable: What is driving current trends in colour and texture?

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Luxury vinyl flooring specialist Karndean Designflooring recently gathered together a panel of design experts at Material Lab to identify the key trends currently informing colour and texture choices in interior design

What are the current colour and texture trends in interior design?

Laura Perryman: For domestic interiors, and maybe commercial, there is a real shift toward a more crafted aesthetic – inherent textures and patterns. Older materials are being specified – things like solid woods and slates are being looked at again. There has been a move towards materials that are more refined, crafted and considered. Even in retail spaces this is apparent. Brands like Aesop are really crafting their stores. Environments, whether they are in New York, London or Melbourne, are being engineered with a very personal feel.

Gwenda Jones: Social media is making the latest trends more accessible.

Paul Barratt: We are finding clients are becoming a lot more discerning. Some are looking for a more aged, distressed look. We’ve certainly noticed a trend towards this. We have to adapt our products.

Ian Cowell: Only in certain sectors though.

PB: We’re seeing it in retail and in office.

LP: Offices and workspaces are moving towards more flexible environments.

IC: In workplaces, trends are now more driven by what you can take with you.

GJ: It is about being able to pick up materials and move them, rather than their being fixed down; this adds that level of flexibility. It’s because companies don’t really know how they are evolving, whether they will expand or contract.

LP: It is more about a store’s ‘story’. It’s about creating a brand experience. There’s a move away from the cookie-cutter approach – a bespoke element is coming into retail. Consumers are driving that by looking for something that is much more tailored to their needs.

GJ: Retail has become very much about portraying a brand and making it recognisable. In stores that aren’t high fashion, what you design may not get replaced for 10 years. It needs to be able to be adaptable, with the possibility of introducing new brand awareness and marketing without ripping it all out and starting again. The budgets are just not there. The design has to be very considered. It has to be the whole package.

Rhiannon Oxley: Colour is massively important. It is different for different sectors. In residential, it is completely down to individuals’ tastes. Pastel colours are in. It has taken six months for them to filter down from the fashion industry. Greys and beiges never die.

Helena Howcroft: Clients want a story to tell their guests and this is part of the trend.

PB: Yes, we agree. We’ve recently responded to this trend by introducing new travertine, marble, slate and limestone designs – all inspired by original inspiration destinations located throughout the world.

How do designers get clients to specify something out of the norm?

GJ: I think they want something different.

Diana Celella: That is my brief every time, especially in the healthcare sector, where the clients are big groups and each wants to distinguish itself from the others. They want something different, something very new. Clients are thinking outside the box much more now. In healthcare there’s a lot of competition. The brief is almost: ‘do something totally different’. We’ll also often send clients pictures of things being made so they have a form of interaction [with the design] and feel they are a part of it.

Is there an increased focus on sustainability in interior design?

IC: It is moving up the agenda. The industry as a whole is less wasteful now. It is not just about budgets but also about sustainability. We now offer a SKA Bronze environmental rating as a minimum on every project. While clients still aren’t willing to put their hands in their pocket and pay for SKA Gold, they are immensely proud if they get a Silver rating. Whether or not it is seen as a gimmick from their point of view, the sustainability side of things is very much in our minds.

DC: We have a design responsibility. We have to think about the carbon footprint.

GJ: Clients are now penalised if they are >> not thinking about sustainability. There are tax incentives. It is also becoming more affordable. But for clients, sustainability must cost no more.

IC: Often clients would rather spend the money on mechanical services than up-speccing flooring, for example. Clients are making a choice between, say, a stone floor on the one hand, or something that is more sustainable, costs less per square metre, needs less preparation and has less dilapidation further down the line. That is where the research and development departments of product manufacturers are having to work much harder – to make sure they are one step ahead.

DC: In healthcare, if we use fabric-backed wallpaper on the walls, it will last five years, and will not chip like paint. Over five years the wallpaper would be cheaper, but you are working with two different groups.

You have the set-up part of the company with its set-up budget, and they are not interested in what happens in a year’s time – that is not their budget any more. If they can save money by painting, the fact that you can save money over five years is irrelevant to them. That is where the difficulties lie.  Companies only look at set-up costs at the beginning, rather than looking at the sustainability issues over the lifetime of the scheme.

GJ: I very rarely use paint now. It doesn’t last. It discolours and it needs maintaining.

Daniel Heath: I work with materials that are salvaged, and very obviously so. What I found is that, during the recession, clients were commissioning me to do installations within a space that was going to say something about their brand and its intentions by using an obviously salvaged material as the focal point.

Rory Macpherson: I agree that sustainability is very budget driven – and tax incentives are pushing it. But I also think it takes a few years for things to trickle down. Clients are generally driven by budget and aesthetics rather than decisions about sustainability.

Typically, sustainability is very low on the [client’s] list of priorities but this is beginning to change. Initially there was a sense that it was being rammed down peoples’ throats. Now people are becoming more aware. It is driven by cost, but also by an awareness of responsibility.

LP: There is a spectrum of sustainability.

PB: It’s about what you specify and the longevity of the materials.

LP: It is also about re-educating people. It is about understanding the idea that we could live with materials for longer and that wear might actually add an aesthetic value that could be embraced in interior design. We still have a way to go to shift ideas here.

What part does lighting play in colour and texture design?

GJ: Lighting is so important. There is no point specifying products with amazing colour and tone if your lighting doesn’t actually show the true colour or any texture. If it is not lit right, it doesn’t matter how great the colour or the texture – it just won’t be rendered appropriately.

IC: Lighting in particular has a massive bearing on colour and texture.

RO: Lighting is so interesting. Natural light differs depending on where you are. The only way you can tackle it is by doing site visits and, when you are there, seeing what is around and the textures and tones.

GJ: The European palette is very different but that’s down to light and how it renders colours.

The panel

  • Chair, Paul Barratt, managing director, Karndean Designflooring
  • Ian Cowell, head of design, Tetris Projects
  • Rory Macpherson, founder, Play Associates
  • Rhiannon Oxley, account manager,
  • Samuel and Sons Passementerie
  • Helena Howcroft, senior interior
  • designer, March and White
  • Diana Celella, director, The Drawing Room Interiors
  • Gwenda Jones, director, Gwenda Jones Interiors
  • Daniel Heath, founder, DH Wallpapers and Bespoke Furnishings
  • Laura Perryman, lead designer, Native Design Ltd
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