What are the 2014 Visual Design Trends in Furniture and Interior Design?
This week we’d like to build on our analysis of the top design constraints that influence furniture and interior design in 2014 by conducting a broad survey of the key design trends in office furniture and interiors that we’ve identified at this year’s international design shows, including the Milan Design Week, Dwell on Design in Los Angeles, Neocon in Chicago, and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) held earlier this year in New York.
Richard Meier: Back to the Beach After 50 Years
New York is a great place to start our discussion. It’s been over 50 years since modernist architect Richard Meier designed his first residential commission, the Lambert House situated on the fragile Atlantic Coast of Long Island. This archetypical, spare modernist beach house, like many other well-known modernist beach house designs built in that time period, such as those by Andrew Geller, strongly influenced the prefab modernist house movement that we’ve experienced over the last decade. And this design trend continues as part of the current ‘small house’ movement, whose scope has recently expanded to include building smaller outbuildings and offices behind residential structures. Heck you can even see these pioneering beach house designs replicated in urban chicken coops!
So it was with great interest that we read a major New York Times article this week about Richard Meier returning to his roots and building a new beach house for a new century. Clearly the International Style dominates this new design; smooth planar surfaces and acres of glass framed in steel create a strong horizontal and vertical emphasis.
Despite it’s unlikely setting on a beach, this new Meier design also seems to capture the zeitgeist of what is happening in contemporary office interior design as well. Using the terminology of landscape designers, these planar surfaces of glass and solid materials, all framed in metal, form the underlying hardscape upon which interior designers can add furnishings and decorative elements to achieve a modernist International Style design. In sum, this is the core design trend for 2014.
As evidence of this trend, compare the Meier design with one of the award-winning office designs at Neocon in Chicago: Susan Cain Quiet Spaces by Steelcase. (You can read more about the philosophy behind Susan Cain’s work in our article Neocon 2014 Brings Back Privacy to the Office Environment.)
You won’t just see this trend in high office towers, you’ll see it in business class passenger jet accommodations– those flying offices in the sky. Air New Zealand, which has been re-branding itself with the nation’s soccer club ‘Black’ theme, has taken note of this ‘International Design’ panel and framing design motif, which you can see here in the cocktail bar design for their new, black-clad carbon-graphite Boeing 787-900s.
Design Detail Efforts Go Into Fittings and Hardware
With its unwritten rules designed to achieve an airy balance of design purity, the International Style can strike some as the basis for some rather spare — some might even say ‘institutional’ — environments. So how are contemporary designers creating some relief from what some may view as a fairly rigid, Teutonic design formula? The answer: Design is in the details.
At all the major design shows this year, there was a very strong trend toward emphasizing detailed design elements in otherwise utilitarian parts, like handles, pulls, brackets, connectors and locks. The design emphasis comes in three categories: the first is using relatively precious materials such as brass or gold-plated metals for the hardware. (We note the term precious is a relative one, but here we can safely say brass is more precious than MDF…)
The second category is selecting unusual, non-traditional materials which you would never expect to see in furniture design. And the third category is exceptional craftsmanship or at least an honest attempt to make it look like it was hand-crafted. (Now is a good time to avoid thinking about ‘artisanal hand-crafted’ cappuccinos at your local Starbucks)
Two wall sconces from Apparatus Studio making their debut at ICFF illustrate this design trend. On the left, their Horsehair Wall Sconce uses a very unexpected material (horsehair) as part of its handmade look-and-feel. On the right, Apparatus Studio’s teardrop Lariat design uses old-fashioned metal braided cabling to enclose the electrical wiring — and in case you didn’t notice it — it’s looped around the fitting one extra time just to add a little bit of look-at-me emphasis.
Patterns on Cloth or Wallpaper Only Please
Another strong trend in evidence at this year’s furniture and interior design shows was the segregation of graphic patterns from solid materials. The new unwritten rule is patterns can only appear in designated accent areas: on perforated metal, wire mesh, upholstery cloth or tiled surfaces for example. The exception to the rule is wall treatments; printed supergraphics are now all the rage on wallpaper and mirrored surfaces.
With tongue planted firmly in cheek, here are two examples to illustrate the current trends:
- Furniture legs on chairs are structural! They have to show what they are made of, so they can’t be covered in pattern! Natural legs only! (The exception to the rule is when chairs aren’t meant to look like chairs. We’ll discuss this next week in part two of this article.)
- Mirrored surfaces (what we used to call ‘mirrors’) are now a prime candidate for patterns. Key design trend: build up multiple layers of glass printed with supergraphics and sandwich them on top of mirrored surfaces. (Tip: You may need to get a regular mirror to see yourself.)
Confused yet? When in doubt, just remember all planar furniture surfaces need to have their natural surfaces (like wood grain) either be exposed or painted with solid color treatments to achieve that sleek International Style look. Thinking back to last week’s article about the design constraints facing today’s designers, supergraphics on wallpaper make a lot of sense. It’s the ultimate flat-pack product.
Supergraphic wallpaper also adds lot of graphical interest to otherwise bare loft-style office spaces — without requiring a large investment in expensive architectural details or leasehold improvements. 2014 also saw a return of Trompe-l’œil wallpaper for whimsical effect. Check out these humorous collector wallpapers found inside the new Air New Zealand Boeing 787–900s we mentioned earlier. A collection of butterflies and of books (with slyly crafted fake names and titles) adds just the right note of humor to the tight confines of an on-board aircraft lavatory.
Formaspace Can Help You With Your Interior Spaces
We will conclude our survey of 2014’s top design trends in office furnishings and interiors next week. We’ll be taking a look at some unique Islamic-inspired tile designs, the widespread reintroduction of classic 1950s chair furniture lines and how designers are using lattice design motifs to create interesting organic shapes and forms — but still can be shipped and stored in flat-pack boxes.
In the meantime, if these top design trends are giving you some inspiration, why not call us at 800.251.1505 or contact a dedicated Design Consultant and let us know what you are thinking. We’d love to hear what design projects you have in mind. We can build a bespoke conference table, workbench or executive desk that will be the signature showpiece in your office or residence.