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Melbourne Residential Design Trends

In my August 2019 Studio Blog I wrote about Melbourne Hospitality Design Trends where I compared these trends to fashion design trends, in that they come and go, and the challenge for designers is to deliver to clients the space they want, which may include a trend they’ve seen in a magazine, TV or Instagram, but deliver it with a twist so the final design reflects the client’s individuality, their own personal story.

In this month’s Studio Blog, we’re tackling residential interior design trends, heavily directed by what my clients ask for, rather than what the industry tells us is trendy.

Creating Personal Spaces through Interior Design

First and foremost, my clients are looking for deeply personal spaces.  Yes, they might be inspired by something they see or point to in a picture of a bedroom, living room, kitchen etc and tell us that’s   what they want that but what they’re really saying is that they like some elements of that space and when we dig deeper with our clients we find out that actually it may only be one or two elements they like in the space, for example a colour, material or shape.

That’s why we start every project by defining the style goal and developing a design strategy.  To get to the bottom of what people really like can take some time, but we want to know what makes their heart sing, so we ask why, a lot!  Why do you like that colour?  Does it remind you of something?  What is it about that pattern that you like?  And so on and so on, until as the designer we understand intrinsically and instinctively what a client likes.

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For example, in a laundry refurb we completed, we specified a beautiful wallpaper rich in history, as it was a reproduction of a wallpaper found in an old London hospital, that had a bird motif.  At first my client was unsure; she was certain she wanted wallpaper with a butterfly motif.  But when we walked around her house, we noticed birds everywhere, on crockery, on linen, my client even had a shirt with birds on it.  When we pointed this out, she understood why we chose birds (even though we hadn’t actually discussed this as a preference) and that she actually loves birds and just thought butterflies were on trend.

On our recent residential project the style goal we developed was Eclectic Mid Century Modern, this was a perfect design strategy as my client had objects and art from a wide range of styles and places such as Asia and the South Pacific, with a foundation in furniture from the Mid Century Modern period the result was perfect for my client.

No two clients are the same, which is why trends are only part of the design story.

Challenging Design

As well as delivering deeply personal spaces, clients want to be challenged.  They want their space to be different.  In fact, one client actually expressed this to me by saying, she wanted to be pushed into thinking about different ideas, she wanted to take advantage of our creativity.  This client ended up with stunning blue walls.

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The idea that their open plan dining, kitchen, and living area could be blue was purely an instinctive one, based on all our discussions of their style preferences and their own story, including their cultural heritage. 

And this is true for each residential interior design project we work, we see something they may seem a bit weird, quirky and present it to our clients.  Sometimes they love it immediately, sometimes they need time to get used to the idea because it’s so different.

Challenging design can manifest in many ways, some may say that pink and orange is a weird colour combination, that blue walls are too dark, that pairing Art Deco with Mid Century Modern doesn’t work but these seeming ‘challenging’ ideas always have a sound interior design rationale based on the design strategy we develop at the beginning of every project.

Mid Century Modern & Art Deco Interior Design Styles

Most people recognise different interior design styles from Scandinavian style to French Country but really in Melbourne, our experience tells us the most enduring styles are Mid Century Modern and Art Deco.

So, let’s talk about Mid Century Modern (MCM) – this is a period of design that roughly dates from the early 1930s and the mid 1960s.  Some would say this extends to the mid 1970s, after which we enter the Post Modern period but these dates are guides only, because some countries like Australia, being so far away from the centre of the MCM movement in Europe and the USA, adopted and maintained this movement until a bit later.

For some reason Melbourne loves Mid Century Modern furniture, evidenced by retailers such as Matt Blatt and others that offer replicas of famous designers of the time such as Eames, Jacobsen and others.  Historically this period was a time of great innovation and growth, post World War II, as such we see new materials like plastic and changes to manufacturing meant more consumers could afford stylish on trend pieces for their home.

Underpinning Mid Century Modern designs are design elements such as functionality, sleek lines, a combination of materials as well as an investigation of contrasting materials, adding interest and depth to a piece.

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Great design is enduring, so you could argue that Mid Century Modern style is not a trend but when people want the ‘Mad Men style’ we need to again ask why and ensure clients truly love MCM rather than wanting it just because it’s currently trending.

Our clients also love Art Deco which is a highly decorative and lavish, exotic style that actually has its origins in France prior to World War 1.  Where MCM is minimal, Art Deco has maximum impact through colour such as gold, patterns such as the sun burst and materials such as chrome and sumptuous curved lines.

MCM picks up where Art Deco finished around the 1940s, so this style was prominent for many decades, constantly evolving.  One of the reasons why Art Deco is popular is because it communicates glamour.  In real terms in Melbourne Art Deco style is applied architecturally through ceiling roses and fittings such as door handles.

Marble is Back on Trend

Once a upon a time marble was considered a very luxe material, expensive and only used by the rich and famous in their homes.  In Melbourne you may also find original marble in houses built by Italian migrants in the 1970s and 1980s in bathrooms and kitchens. 

Now with technology impacting manufacturing you can find a wide range of marble effect in engineered stone, laminate and even porcelain.  People are loving these new options because marble is synonymous with extravagance, so by using these new materials more and more clients can have this luxe look in their own home.  Clients also love pairing classic marble or marble effect with industrial style such as subway tiles in a bathroom or art deco style handles in a kitchen. 

With a wide range of colours and effects from dramatic to subtle marble is definitely back in vogue and here to stay.

Colourful Interior Design

We have a theory that clients love colour but are afraid to use it and therefore opt for neutral colour schemes thinking it’s easier, and then find it’s not, and really struggle to create a space that’s warm, has interest and most importantly tells their personal story.

A good colour scheme starts with three colours. You can add more colours such as accents but start with 3 colours first for example white, black, grey and keep in mind the colour rule of 60-30-10 whereby 60% of the volume of the space will be one colour eg; white walls, 30% of the volume of the space will be black eg; black sofa and the cushions will be grey ie 10% of the volume of the space.

Another trend is multiple colours or the use of multiple materials in kitchens.  Gone are the days of all white kitchens, now we see kitchens with lots of colour through the use of multiple materials, for example, black cabinetry, concrete countertop and ceramic tile splashback, wooden floors.

We give our clients the confidence to use colour and they simply love it, it makes their space stand out as unique and deeply personal.

Plants in Interior Design

Maybe it’s because of the growth in apartment living in Melbourne, where many people no longer have a backyard but plants are big, as they should be.  Plants offer so many health benefits but from an interior design perspective they add warmth, interest, depth and literally bring life into a space.  Plants are here to stay.

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There are some trends which are great at the time, remember rose gold a few years ago, but few trends endure, so before spending money applying this trend, take the time to understand your personal interior design style and work towards achieving that style in your home. 

Unlike some design studios we don’t specialise in any trend or style.  We know and love all interior design styles and work hard to help our clients create their own unique style.  Of course, if you need some help, please contact us.

Trish Khoury, Interior Designer & Founder, Grace Interior Designs