Building Trends, Part 1

Today, we’re talking about building trends. And Michael, you’re a leader in the modern rustic building style. So, what is going on with building trends today, and how have those trends impacted creating shelter?

David, that’s a great question, and there’s kind of a number of facets to the answer. 

I really look at it as different trends. You have trends that are aesthetic, trends that are functional, trends that are somewhat culturally based, and then there are lifestyle trends, so it really kind of depends on somewhat what your interest is and what your circumstance is; but it’s sort of, it means different things to different people. 

But the easy one is an aesthetic trend, or the aesthetic trends that we deal with today. And that’s one that’s a bit more ever-changing, because we’re seeing trends for color, trends for style, whether it’s some sort of theme or an architectural style. But again, the aesthetic trends are the ones that we hear most about, and a good example of that is what we see annually with the major paint manufacturers coming out with their annual color-of-the-year trend, and that’s – that trend is somewhat based on other influences that are coming about with our homes today. But, again, that whole issue of trends is multifaceted, and will be – mean different things to different people, and their importance will like – equally be different for different people. But just in terms of aesthetic trends – I mentioned colors, the easy one – right, some things that I thought I would never see come back color wise, is pink. I never would have thought pink would become a major trend again, but it very much is. But like so many trends, it takes its own direction, and it has a little bit of a difference, if you will, pink is not pink anymore, just as white and black are not black or white anymore; there’s too many different variations of it. But that’s one that kind of surprised me. Green is another one. But what I’m seeing more are very rich, deep, colors now. So whether it’s a color that’s called black olive, or one of these more earthy colors of pink, there’s a variety of different shades of each of these colors that people are beginning to use more frequently. 

I think it’s kind of interesting when we – I remember very well in the 80s and even early 90s, when jewel toned colors were all the rage. That’s what everybody wanted. So you saw emerald green, you saw ruby reds, you saw turquoise blues, you saw deep amber, gold’s – just a variety of different jewel tones, and those all went away. And I think that there’s a reason for that, and I’ll talk about that a bit later. 

Aesthetically, another trend or somewhat – what I call theme trends, and the one that comes to mind is a botanical theme. We’re actually seeing this a bit more and more people, people that are using wallpapers that have these huge floral, or even just leaf patterns to it, but they’re oversized so that they – they dominate the room and the wall, and a project we recently completed; it was a – the theme of wallpaper they use were forest animals, so it had like a red fox and had raccoons in it. It was just very different and very playful, and a lot of fun to look at. And we’re seeing that also with birds – a lot of bird papers out there. And I think another wallpaper style that I’m seeing are some of the papers that were – we saw in the 30s and 40s, that were very craftsman in their pattern, so there’s some interesting aesthetic trends. And those again, as I said, those are the easy ones. 

And for the last several years, we’ve seen a huge trend towards gray, everything is gray. And that sort of morphed into more lighter finishes, where you’re seeing, certainly, 50 Shades of Grey but in a different way. But gray is, I think, really on its way out and you’re beginning to see more variations of white again. And then on the opposite side of that for high contrast, you’re seeing these, a lot of black – black as a neutral, or even some of these other very dark finishes, whether it’s a blue-black or green-black finish, but very much an aesthetic trend. 

Another one from a color and textural standpoint that I’ve seen a lot lately, is a finish called Shou Sugi Bon, which is, it is a burnt wood or charred wood finish that looks like an alligator hide on wood. It’s – it is the consequence of being burned. It’s originally from Japan, and they use it as a means of preserving wood to make it more durable. But we recently used it in a house where we – we actually paneled the fireplace with this product., and it was just a great look. We used it as an accent wall in the master bedroom and also as the material that we use to shroud the vent hood in the kitchen. So it’s a really cool finish, but very trendy. 

I think similarly, we’re seeing a lot more pattern in wood. A herringbone pattern is a good example of that. And in a wall surface, we did that recently in a kitchen as well. So it’s being used on floors, but it’s also being used as a paneling pattern. Along the same vein, color, not just in terms of paint, but the color of stains that we’re seeing on wood. For years, driftwood brown was the primary direction for a lot of stain colors. But that’s kind of morphed into driftwood brown. So, you’re seeing these very subtle colors being used that really give a nice quality to the overall wood finish. But it’s a more mellow finish; it’s not dark by any means. 

In terms of material, a very popular material trend right now is white, white oak, European wide oak flooring, and it can go towards a more pickled wood, more pickled white, or it can be more gray. Or also that – that sort of driftwood brown that I mentioned a moment ago. So color is the easy one of trends; you’re gonna see a lot of variation in that, but also variation in pattern whether it’s in paneling,  flooring, or wallpaper, so you’ve got a lot of options.

So as far as aesthetics goes, we’ve talked about color, did we – I’m not sure that we really covered that. We covered theme, and finishes, and our stains, which, I don’t think you really dug in there very deeply. But what I hear you say is like, the white pines you’re adding. So you can do that with stone – with stains, you can add just a fraction of color to that natural wood color to get that.

Well, you mentioned white pine, we use white pine as frequently as we use white oak. White Pine has a beautiful grain pattern, a beautiful knot pattern. It accepts the stains very well. But for Florence, specifically white oak, in particular European white oak, is very popular right now, and I like that they’re lighter finishes because they don’t show dust on the floor like these darker finishes will. So there’s, there’s kind of a functional benefit to that as – as a theme. But you know, again, whether the theme is botanical, it can also be a sports theme. But there are many things that are stylistic like that, that people bring into their home, trend wise, and those are, for most, for all practical purposes, those are more temporal than some of the other trends are, in my opinion.

So we just talked about the aesthetics, as the easy trend for creating shelter. Let’s talk about cultural. And, you know, and I’m curious now, how those aesthetics are kind of driven by culture and what’s happened since COVID, and, and pricing of living and everything that’s driving them together, and maybe even America’s culture is changing a little bit. So talk to us about culture.

It- it’s a good point, and our culture is changing. In fact, you know, what I’m seeing is a little bit of a tribal attitude about culture, which is fine. I mean, we all have our origins, if you will; a good example of that, that I’ve, that I’ve seen, somewhat prevalent today with my clients, is people who are from India, and therefore they have some very strong cultural trends. Now, that’s also true for people who are Latin American, as well, but we see similar things within the Italian community or the Irish community or, for that matter, of the Appalachian Community, but it’s – it’s very much, the root of it is somewhat cultural. And I mentioned India; what I’m seeing there is how there are multi generational homesteaders, if you will, that you will have grandparents, parents and then their children under one roof, and that’s a very strong cultural influence that they have and how they choose to create shelter. 

I can also say that that’s true for the Hispanic community because it’s very important that they have all their family together, and that’s where you’ve heard the expression with some of the different types of housing today one, one expression is called the ‘casita’. The casita is just that little cottage that may or may not be a separate building from the main house, but it’s part of that, that shelter solution that they create for their, their grandparents, where they can have that private space; they’re still part of the family unit, but they still have some privacy. 

That’s kind of a good segue into talking about ADU’s, or which is an acronym for auxiliary dwelling units. 

Or for some, pool house.

Iit could be a pool house, it could be the man cave, or the fem lounge; it could be the retreat for your college offspring, or when they want their privacy as well. It could be the office environment, that studio that you need, so that you can get out from under the main roofline of the house to have some quiet. So, there’s a lot going on with that, and those can be a little bit more functional in terms of the description. But I think just in terms of cultural trends, those are really mostly driven by, if you will, countries of origin. And if you’ve ever had any good Italian friends or Hispanic friends, they hold on to those, those – that culture very tightly, as they should. So you’ve got – you’ve got that influence, and you see it both in how they live and how they accommodate the family at large.

How is the, again from the COVID, how has the sheltering in place influenced today’s trends?

The whole – the COVID and Pandemic experienced that we had had a huge impact on trends. And that’s kind of again, that’s, that’s got a lot of different aspects to it. 

I think the first trend that kind of comes to mind about the, the impact of the pandemic was what it did to the reality of us all being under one roof at one time, not just at one time for a long period of time. And for those families where you had one or two of the, mom and dad, having to office at home, as they sheltered in place, they needed quiet, or they needed some isolation, to be able to do their job function. And that’s not always readily available; if you don’t have a dedicated office space, then maybe they had to set up a corner of their, of their bedroom for that purpose, or they sat at the dining room table. But as, but as a trend, it made that separation a little bit more important. So home became office, home also became your gym, so that’s where you worked out, or home became your movie theater, that’s where you would watch a video. 

In addition to the other aspects of normal living in your house, for, there was a period of time when the square footage of our houses and in the United States was beginning to ratchet down slowly. But nonetheless, homes were getting a little smaller. Well, the pandemic totally reversed that – people now wanted those dedicated rooms to be able to office in or to watch a movie or exercise in addition to those spaces where we would gather as a family, of course, traditionally kitchen, and dining or living room. 

You know, we started seeing people who had one thing called a hobby room. You know, sometimes the hobby room in many of these spaces become multifunctional because they had to; you couldn’t just throw on another wing of your house to accommodate all these different purposes, but I think the pandemic has had a lot of impact on how we size our house, how we lay our houses out, design wise, what the room adjacencies are. And particularly with everybody being under one roof for long periods of time, we needed to create some degree of separation so that we could get our work done without interruption. 

I think there’s another aspect to the pandemic that has really surfaced, and that has to do with hygiene. We’re really looking for surfaces that are more hygienic. All the, the natural stones were granite and marble that we’ve been using for our countertops, a lot of that lost favor because the more absorption, they, they absorb and hold germs unlike some of the synthetic stones, that quartz product that we see out there today, which is much more of a denser, man made stone material and therefore is – it doesn’t hold germs like these other natural products do. So that made the man made finishes more hygienic, and people want more of that.

 I think there’s another aspect to it also, the terms of this from a health standpoint was the need for natural light. You know, sunshine is our vitamin D, it’s our natural vitamin D, and people are – all of my clients are wanting more natural sunlight in their houses. So that means bigger expanses of glass. So we’re doing larger doors – that’s another huge trend, is to have larger doors going out onto the outdoor areas so the doors can be folding. They can be sliding pocketing doors, but just larger overall and the amount of glass that you have in that door product, and that’s true of course also for windows, but a lot more glass in the house to let in more natural sunlight.

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