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How interior trends happen


From Habitat magazine - issue 27, spring/summer 2017 /18

Where do interior trends come from and why do they happen?

Despite our best efforts to be different or to create a timeless interior, it’s easy to be seduced by an enticing trend or two. That trend might speak to us so deeply that we embrace it fully, or we might just buy a couple of cushions for the living room.

In this fast-paced world, it seems we have hardly embraced a trend before we are being swept into thinking about another. Luckily with paint, it’s easy and relatively low cost to keep up with colour trends; to change last year’s colour to this year’s.

But how do interior trends happen? Who decides that deep green is the new must have wall colour, and that copper should be replaced by antique brass? That bitter yellow accessories are on the up, and that red is out? And why do we bother?

As Resene colour expert Carolyn Atkinson says: “Our homes are so often our happy place, a place where we can just be ourselves. We may dress the exterior to meet social expectations, to blend in or to impress, but we can express ourselves in our interiors. Many of us are happy to spend time and money to get our interiors just right. How we decorate our homes reveals a bit about our aspirations, values and tastes.”

Interior trends don’t happen in isolation. Economic and social events, both global and local, have a huge part to play. As a general rule, when the world gets scary with economic uncertainly and social instability, colours become more cocooning and calming. We want to hide away from the strife. When the world is on a high and times are good, colours become truer and brighter. We want to break free of the shackles of seriousness and have some fun with our new-found freedom.

Paint finishes
Left: It's back to nature with textural finishes. These plywood panels are stained in Resene Colorwood: Resene Tiri, Resene Bleached Riverstone, Resene Limed Ash and Resene Colorwood Greywash. Right: Deep cocooning greys, like Resene Nocturnal, and soothing greens make us feel safe. These are Resene Organic, Resene Seaweed, Resene Paddock and Resene Ciderhouse.

Just look back at history and how social change influenced how we decorated our homes. The 1920s was an era of new-fangled machines, new discoveries and optimism, hence the Art Deco style of the time featured bold colours and stylised geometric (industrial) designs. Travel to exotic places became popular, so souvenir accessories from Egypt and Africa started to appear.

The post-war 1950s were a time of optimism, which translated to bright, happy paint colours and lots of them. Newly built homes were decked out with coloured bathroom fixtures, chrome and Formica. Pretty pastels like mint and soft yellow were part of a sunny, breezy decorating style.

Then there was the psychedelic self-expressionism of the 1960s which led to intense and bright colours at home. The tide turned away from plastic and easygoing ways to the greens, browns and macrame of the 1970s. Since then we’ve seen the glitzy 1980s, the minimalist 1990s, the stronger colours of the 2000s… on it goes.

Technology influences home décor. When televisions became popular in the 1960s, we redesigned our living rooms around them. Now that personal device use is on the rise for entertainment, we’re creating private nooks to retreat to.


Adaptable neutrals are the backbone of an interior with botanic references and fresh greens. The shelf is Resene Steam Roller, the wall is Resene Sea Fog and the cactus is Resene Grass Hopper.

Carolyn Atkinson says the current trend for greys, beiges and deep light-absorbing colours like deep charcoals, moody blues and dense greens let us retreat into a neutral environment in order to recharge our emotional and physical batteries. Being constantly bombarded by technology, downturns in the economy, negative world events, non-stop barrages of videos and advertising using fast-paced graphics and constant social media input can be very exhausting.

While dark colours make us feel comforted and safe, they can also feel daring to use, and bring a sense of drama.

Designer Sylvia Sandford notes that the current instability and pace of change in our social, political and economic fabric has created huge diversity in design and decorating directions. There are no apparent rules. She points to two common elements that have emerged: sustainability and historical or nostalgic references.

Why is it that retro looks continue to be strong, whether it’s looking back at mid-century styles or Art Deco design? For some it’s all about nostalgia, whereas for younger home decorators, those tried and true styles are new and exciting.

Where did they come from?

The soft misty colours of the Scandi look are certainly a soothing antidote to the fast-paced vibrantly coloured external world. And the handcrafted, simply made furniture and accessories answer a need for artisan versus mass-produced.

Khaki greens and house plants. There’s little guessing where these came from. As our eco-consciousness grows, we embrace natural products and colours. As many of us have to live with small or no gardens, house plants bring nature close.

Rich browns and texture are part of the same desire, as we make sure that ever-present technology doesn’t overtake our lives.

Ethnic and tropical prints and colours. Our easy access to travel has seen a rise in a global eclectic look with mismatched furniture, assorted patterns and rich textiles. As we toil away at work, we dream of escape and remember our explorations. The travel trend dovetails into the desire for New Millennials and Gen Ys to seek out experiences over possessions.


Personalise your interiors with wall art like this Resene Copper Fire link design on a Resene Tangaroa wall (right), or by making your own hanging art, like this leaf-print art (left) with a variety of Resene testpots in Resene Kamikaze, Resene Lightning Yellow, Resene Poppy, Resene Persian Red and Resene Ayers Rock.

While most of us can’t constantly travel or seek out new experiences, we can certainly turn decorating into a personal journey. And we’re doing so more and more to create a more individual look for our homes - paint a mural on a wall, upcycle an old piece of furniture, decorate a pot with paint, make some table decorations or paint a simple artwork. Or use an exuberant wallpaper design.

We are rebelling against a culture of mass production, and seeking not only products made by local artisans, but discovering our own creative side.

Sylvia Sandford says the pace of change and bombardment of trends has also led to more individual expression. “The eclectic mix from a myriad of influences and the confusion of ideas has led us to create great personal spaces of individuality.

A final word from Sylvia: “Home should be a true reflection of personality creating a sense of space where we can fly like a bird and a sense of intimacy where we can snuggle like a rabbit in a burrow. It must look after us.”


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