Buying a home is probably one of the biggest investments we’ll make in our lifetimes. It takes time to decide what the best investment for our budget will be, what house and location will be most suitable for our lifestyles and for our families. But what happens when it’s time to furnish? How do we ensure that the decisions we make regarding how we decorate and what furniture and accessories we purchase will have lasting impact?
No one wants to feel that they’ve wasted money. Bending to every interior trend that comes our way can mean expensive and frequent redecorating projects, sapping not only our bank accounts but our time and energy. We want to choose items, colors and materials that have staying power and that we’ll continue to love for years whilst also feeling confident that our home feels fresh and current.
HOW LONG WILL A TREND LAST?
It’s important to talk about trends first and how they work. Despite the fact that magazines and websites will authoritatively proclaim one trend ‘over’ and another as fresh and current doesn’t mean that trends actually work that way. While home trends do come and go more frequently these days than they did in years past, most trends work on a bell curve and their actual lifespan can be anywhere from a couple of years to a decade or more.
This is essentially how trends work on a bell curve (based on EM Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Theory) – that blue line above in the graph: Designers, innovators and trendsetters (~2.5% of the population) will begin using a specific material or color or finish which is then embraced by early adopters (~13.5%). Early adopters are the folks that like to stay in the forefront of the design world. These are the ones who are at the various design trade shows or who pore over new ideas and want to stand out as different amongst their peers.
Then you have two groups which make up the bulk of the population – in fact, around 68% of people will fall into these two categories. The first group, called ‘early majority’, will adopt the trend when it begins to become more mainstream. Maybe they see their favorite bloggers adopt it or they are starting to see it take off on their favorite Instagram accounts. Once the trend hits its peak, you’ll see it adopted by what is called the ‘late majority’. These are the people who are now seeing the trend everywhere (from across their Pinterest boards to their local Sainsbury’s) and decide to invest in it. At the very tail end of the curve is the ‘laggards’ (16%), for whom trends are mostly ignored and so it’s only once the trend has completely saturated the market and prices begin to fall that they will consider investing in it.
This is kind of important to know because how much time this takes from the beginning of the curve to the end (i.e. the full lifetime of the trend) varies considerably. Normally (and this is a generalization), I find the faster the trend reaches its peak (i.e. the higher the gradient of the curve), the faster it will fall out of favor. At the same time, the longer it takes to be adopted by the majority, the longer it then takes for something to fall out of fashion.
This is why you may hear someone proclaim ‘Millennial Pink’ is ‘out’ when in fact, it has simply hit the peak and is now moving down the other side of the curve. You’ll still find it in stores and you’ll still see people buying up blush pink items. It’s not ‘out’ at all. It’s just those early adopters have found something else to love or get excited about.
HOW TO INVEST IN TRENDS
The most important question to ask yourself when you are looking at investing in a trend is how much you personally love it, how long you’ve loved it for and why. Is it because you’ve seen it 1000 times in various guises on Instagram and simply want to enjoy something that is fresh and current (and honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that!)? Or is it because you truly love the idea or product and have done so for a long time?
As an example, I have loved handwoven Tonga baskets– baskets woven by the Tonga women of the Southern Province of Zambia, who are renowned for their basket weaving– for many years. Long before they became the big trend of 2017/2018, I had several collections of Tonga baskets on my wall. When the trend reached its peak and the market was saturated with handwoven baskets, I invested in a few more pieces. Then, as it began to fall out of favor, I saw many people remove the trendy baskets from their home. However, mine remain. Why? Because I’ve never seen it as a trend, simply as something I loved. For me, they are timeless and rooted in history, despite what the magazines may say is ‘in’ or ‘out’.
I’ve also always loved milk glass for years and years. I’ve invested in plenty of milk glass pieces over the decades and will probably buy more. I know it’s not a huge trend at the moment but I also know that for me, it’s a timeless material and one I’m not going to quickly tire of. So, when eventually the magazines declare milk glass is old and not relevant – I really won’t care. I’ve loved it far too long to view it as just a trend.
So, if you love something and or have always admired a specific color, material, finish or motif, then you are no longer investing in something that is here today and gone tomorrow (or next year). If something you have always loved suddenly becomes fashionable, feel free to invest in it whilst the market allows you to indulge because you’ll continue to love it even as everyone else has moved on to the next big thing.
That’s not to say that if there is something you have discovered because it’s become trendy, you shouldn’t spend money on it. If you do want to dip your toe in a new trend, resist the urge to invest large sums in something that may not be around for long and choose a few inexpensive pieces or accessories to indulge instead.
WHICH COLORS ARE TIMELESS?
While paint companies have become synonymous for choosing a ‘color of the year’, this is one area where you probably don’t need to worry quite as much about choosing timeless colors. A couple of tins of paint is a relatively small investment and if you tire of a color on your walls, it can be changed in a weekend or two.
However, when you are considering larger, more practical and more expensive purchases like the color of your bathroom tiles, your sofa, a set of curtains, dining room chairs or a fabric headboard, then practicalities and timelessness will become more important. No one wants to buy a new sofa or re-tile every two years and we hope our higher end purchases have staying power.
Grey shades have been going strong for the last decade and while there are many to choose from, I don’t think they’ll be considered ‘out’ for a very long time. As a neutral, it marries well with nearly every other color – from strong bright to soft pastels as well as warm organic finishes and textures.
Warmer beige tones have become less popular over the last decade due to grey’s stronghold on the neutrals market, but they are another solid and timeless neutral and definitely have begun to come back into favor (it’s going to be a big trend for 2019, I’m sure) and slowly replace colder shades of grey as the new neutral ‘go-to’. Investing in neutral shades may feel safe or boring but the truth is, you’re less likely to tire of them in the long term and you can easily change up your less expensive accessories around them to keep everything looking fresh.
If you do want to invest in a more colorful piece, pay less attention to what’s trendy and look more at what colors you love. Check your wardrobe to see what shades you are naturally drawn to and enjoy being surrounded by. If, for example, you’ve loved merlot and pink colors for the last 15 years within your wardrobe, then investing in a pink statement piece or even artwork with both colors may be a great choice for you because you’ll probably love it for years to come.
HOW TO CHOOSE FURNITURE YOU’LL LOVE FOR YEARS
The good news about furniture is that their ‘lifespan’ in terms of trends is normally a lot longer than most things. Most people will hold on to larger investment furniture for at least 5-10 years but if you are currently on the market for something with lasting power, consider what’s come before.
When we look at a trend like Mid Century-Modern (still going strong nearly a decade on), it’s a resurgence of a popular look from the 50’s and 60’s. We already know it had staying power then and the vintage pieces from the era are recognized as design classics now. Investing in vintage design of nearly any era is always a good idea as it creates a timeless look in your home.
We’re now seeing a rise in Art Deco style furniture and designs – again, popularized in the 20’s and 30’s, this is a classic design style that rarely dates. Looking out for furniture that takes its cues and inspiration from previous styles gives it a more classic look and will thus be more timeless.
If you are more a fan of rustic or traditional design, look out for pieces that mimic the way furniture was built in decades past. Details like dovetail joints, natural stains and solid wood or classic design elements like shaker-style doors give a piece a timeless quality that will likely never really go out of fashion.
MATERIALS THAT ARE BOTH TRENDY AND PRACTICAL
Natural materials like marble, stone, wood and concrete have been big trends for the last few years and because they connect us to nature, are likely to move from ‘trendy’ to being considered classic design elements that we’ll love for years to come.
We are also seeing a focus on more sustainable materials nowadays as well which is great for the environment and I would like to think this new crop is more than just a passing trend but a complete re-writing of the rules for design. Environmentally-friendly sources like bamboo and cork are beautiful as well as practical and we are seeing more pieces that are recycling waste like plastic or steel or using salvaged and reclaimed wood to create what may just end up being the new classics
What’s a trend for one person may just be a design classic for another so as I’ve always said, if you buy what you truly love, it really won’t matter whether it’s deemed ‘in’ or ‘out’. We hope that this will help you make investments in your home wisely with items and ideas that will encourage a balance between timeless, trendy and practical.