New Accents And Virtuous Contaminations in Today’s Habitat

Paola Govoni (CSIL, Centre for Industrial Studies – Milan, Italy) reports on trends in materials, colours, surfaces and innovative solutions for a comfortable and attractive living style.

HI-MACS® in Babylon Beige finishing for ‘Artika’ kitchen by Pedini

VETRITE® by SICIS. Tanso Bronze. Bathroom ambiance
Marble fantasy for interior decoration by Fuda Marmi

Golden, silver and bronze hues for fabric coverings

BLOCKS 5.0. Floor tiles in rust finishing by Iris Ceramica

OKALUX functional glass with LED

Tom Dixon. Etch Mini Chandelier. Soft Silver. Fotocredits Trends imm cologne 2017

ESEDRA outdoor furniture collection by Ethimo

FRACTURE. Artistic wall papers collection by Inkiostro Bianco

R&D is currently experiencing quite a lively and fruitful season, producing a huge amount of creative work aimed at finding smart solutions for better living styles, both at home and in the city. Since the boundaries between ‘the outside’ and ‘the inside’ are progressively disappearing, there is a kind of permanent contamination between the different areas of our habitat.

The need for comfort and wellbeing, and for an eco-sustainable and pleasant space layout is always present, whether we are at home, sitting in a restaurant or cinema, visiting a museum, or simply in our hotel room or at the airport. The ‘fil rouge’ that links these situations and many more that occur in our daily lives, is the need for products that are, at one and the same time, attractive, comfortable, performing and environmentally sustainable.

We are well aware that there is a strong correlation between our wellbeing and the environment in which we live and work. Relevant issues are: natural light, colours, ambient temperature, sound level, coverings, paints, materials, furnishings and lighting conditions.

Looking at trends, we observe that there are many different directions on the market arena and no ‘unique’ taste whatsoever. Not to mention the role played by local cultures, which exhibit different living habits and purchasing behaviours. Given that the trends are many and varied at the same time, here we can try to highlight some main emerging themes, fully aware of the fact that this ‘short journey’ should have lasted longer.

Research into materials, surfaces and finishings has reached very high levels that were unthinkable until, say, ten years ago and companies continue to invest in research, thus creating a virtuous circle.

One positive side effect of the economic crisis is the greater willingness of professionals to work together for a common goal. As a matter of fact, suppliers are working closely with their clients, listening to their requirements and acting like partners, with the aim of finding technologically advanced and sustainable solutions in each and every stage of the production process. By doing so, they become capable of offering truly tailor-made products with a high degree of personalisation. The growing demand for ‘individual’ products in interior decoration and in the furniture industry increases their capacity to offer exclusive and smart design proposals.

Architects, designers and interior decorators are more frequently working with craftsmen, suppliers and manufacturers. The entire value chain in the industrial process is moving forward. While quality is a not-to-be-missed pre-requisite, there are no other boundaries to creativity.

The name of the game for our habitat is: focus on the material.

Be it wood, metal, glass, plastic, stone, marble, concrete, plaster, rubber, ceramic, leather or textile. Each material is offered in infinite nuances of colour and with surprisingly new finishings.

Research into materials gives rise to a free interaction that makes the interdisciplinary languages more fascinating. Combinations can tell stories and create new sensations. It’s somewhere in between ‘industrial process’ and ‘artistic experience’. However, in order to put a material on the market, one can never disregard the technical specifications, functionality and final performance, whilst paying special attention to the environment (‘cradle to cradle’ life cycle of products).

Decorative papers, wood panels, ceramic tiles, metal, solid surfaces and textiles are showing their unique ‘haptic’ qualities literally from the very first touch. The sensory revolution has become a consolidated trend.

Solid wood remains a favourite material for furniture, especially in the middle and upper market range. Trends are towards ‘natural looking’ wood, as if the surface were untreated. Natural wood is often combined with glass, metal or stone, thus enhancing sensorial accents.

Other ‘traditional’ materials like natural stone, marble, ceramic and glass are experiencing a kind of ‘Renaissance’ due to an enhanced ability to work these materials and to combine them in a brand new way. Advanced technologies enrich the possibility of forging marble and stone through unprecedented working processes, leading to smart creativity, which highlights the aesthetics and performance of the materials. (Photo 3) Sophisticated finishings can make marble resemble iron, bronze, concrete or wood. ‘Sculpture’ furniture is monolithic elements transformed into ‘bold statements’ in the space.

A contemporary metropolitan style is recreated through ceramic slabs with metallic effects, changing colours and textures for wall coverings and flooring. ‘Used’ finishings give a touch of old industrial design and urban vintage through ‘metal sheet’, ‘iron’, ‘rust’ and ‘cracked’ effects. (Photo 5) A kind of ‘materic power’ speaks of industrial archaeology, which fits and feels good also at home.

Glass is a truly re-born traditional material, much in demand for its unique aesthetic versatility, due to applications of innovative colour palettes and finishing solutions. One recent outcome of the research into glass is Vetrite® by SICIS, a ‘natural’ evolution from mosaics to large surface coverings, where glass is combined with fabric and polymeric film to create a composite and evocative product. (Photo 2) Insulating glass boasts innovative coatings and integrated LEDs feature unique light accents with endless design possibilities. (Photo 7) Among the new generation of solid surfaces we find HI-MACS® by LG Hausys, SILESTONE and DEKTOON by Cosentino, KRION® by Porcelanosa, besides the ‘pioneer’ Du PontTM Corian®, just to mention a few. These composite materials can be used indoors and outdoors, due to their great versatility (e.g. tops, countertops, flooring, wall coverings, facade cladding). (Photo 1)

Wall paper collections join the game of materic experimentation by creating new decorative patterns and evocative illustrations, which strengthen the expressive power of the living space and enhance the ‘artistic’ dimension of the industrial products. (Photo 10)

The level of performance for furniture, furnishings and textiles is closely related to their field of use, and it couldn’t be otherwise.

Acoustic panels are suitable for use in workplaces and public environments, where technical performance is combined with sustainable solutions and a smart look. Acoustics and flexible room divisions are among the most common and coveted added functions for workplaces and it is widely believed that acoustic solutions in the working environment will continue to multiply in coming years. Soundproofing is increasingly important in spaces where people work, talk or relax. In the field of acoustic solutions, textiles are used as noise absorbers. Acoustics in office environments also comprise design and decorative aspects, beyond purely technical issues. Thus, offering a combination of technicality, design and aesthetics is desirable to meet present market requirements. Trevira, a leading supplier in the world of textile polyester products, has a sound absorbing 3D knitted fabric in its portfolio. The material combines functionality and flexibility with design, and it is suitable for various applications in the contract sector and in automotive interiors.

Flame-retardant and self-cleaning textiles are in demand for transportation, public spaces and entertainment locations. UV-rays, humidity and salt-resistant furniture are suitable for outside living and special uses in naval contract and yachting. Easy care and allergy-friendly, anti-fingerprint, scratch-proof and soft-touch surfaces are widely requested.

Antibacterial tops are used in the kitchen and the bathroom, in addition to special applications suitable for healthcare and the educational sector. Decorative panels, HPL (high pressure laminates) and latest generation acrylic resins may combine glossy and matt elements. The use of nanotechnology enables the regeneration of micro-scratches on solid surfaces (e.g. FENIX NTM® by Arpa Industriale).

Natural stone and ceramic slabs are thin or ultrathin and king size, suitable for both outdoor and indoor use, and for vertical and horizontal applications.

Wood is seen in high thicknesses (up to 7 cm), particularly for kitchen tops and tables, but also in the bathroom. (Photo 8)

When it comes to sun protection systems, advanced technical solutions and the aesthetic impact on the outdoor environment go hand in hand. Customized products are a must, particularly in the case of existing architecture and buildings. Materials and techniques must be highly functional and performing, ensuring thermal insulation, light transmission, waterproofing, wind resistance, modularity and easy maintenance.

High-tech and nature cohabit. The mid-century style is back in Europe. The ‘50s were marked by dark, precious woods and leather in modern, rounded forms, accompanied by the first plastic furniture in bright, cheerful colours.

Accessories and decorative objects are back in favour again and are thus very much in trend. From candle holders to cushions, from mirrors to coffeetables, from rugs to stools, these occasional items can ‘turn a house into a home’. (Photo 6)

The new generation of consumers displays purchasing criteria such as ‘always being connected’ and ‘being environmentally friendly’. As a result, the role of domotics is also on the rise thanks to an increasing number of ‘apps’ capable of controlling household appliances (at home or in remote), built-in electronics and the many ‘technical’ functions of our domestic space, simply by using a Smartphone or a tablet. This allows for reduced energy consumption.

The Pantone Colour Institute has recently unveiled the ‘Colour of the Year’ for 2017: Greenery (Pantone 15-0343), a refreshing and revitalizing yellow-green shade. Many new home textiles are going green and we can expect to see a host of green sofas, chaise-longues, chairs and armchairs in trendy living spaces this year. Since 2000, the colour of the year has reflected the current cultural climate and may also have influenced trends in architecture, interior decoration, fashion, food, travel and more.

According to Pantone’s ‘Fashion Colour Report’ for spring 2017, the ten most important trend colours of the year are to be found ‘between earthy natural hues and friendly, powerful nuances’.

Different trends seem to emerge and combine as far as colours are concerned.

Shades of grey (pearl grey, pale grey, anthracite), with all their gradations between black and white, are the most popular. White combined with deep blue has Nordic repercussions.

Metallic nuances are very fashionable. (Photo 4) Iron, bronze, copper and steel are strongly evocative of the industrial era, also with ‘worn’ and ‘aged’ effects.

There is a full range of natural and neutral colours ranging from ivory to sand, beige, ochre, mustard, lilac, pistachio and aqua. (Photo 9) Comfortable and pleasant colourfulness.... with green, orange, terracotta, pink, yellow, cyan and turquoise.

Red is the most popular primary colour used as an accent colour.

Matt and super matt (as opposed to glossy) are the preferred finishing options in Europe nowadays. Natural woods like walnut and lightcoloured oak, as well as Venice oak, are at the forefront.