Design Trends

by Linda Lenore

Published in Designers Illustrated
October 1996

What’s becoming clear as we approach the end of the century is the extent to which the public has become aware of the true significance of interior design-at work as well as home.

This summer I attended the National Conference for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) in Baltimore. The overriding view within the society is toward creating environments that are both functional and personal – ergonomically and technologically state-of-the-art and simultaneously a reflection of one’s persona. A century and a half after the beginning of the industrial revolution, the distance between life at home and life at work is beginning to close.

The umbrella concern expressed at the ASID conference was how to customize space to the needs of a society in the midst of profound changes-in age distribution, ethnic diversity, and financial security. Among specific concerns expressed at the conference: how will regulations related to energy efficiency; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and sustainable resources all impact both construction costs and design? Is there a way through improved design that we can offer every American clean air, water, food and shelter?

If the possibility is alluring but vague, there’s no question that we as a society are finally beginning to understand how man-made environments affect our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. For example, we’re discovering that inmates in many newly designed prisons have a significantly lower rate of recidivism. Terminally ill patients in places that benefit from sunlight lead happier, less anxiety-ridden lives.

At the ASID conference, an analyst from Yankelovich Partners, a data research firm, note, “Most of the trends we study suggest that we’re on the brink of major shifts in how home design will be transforms in the years to come. Why? Because mighty forces are coming together to reshape the way Americans think about their homes-it’s meaning, role, what they do in it and out of it, how they view space and organization, and how it feels.”

In general, people seem to agree they want space that is open and airy, and safe. Whether at home or work, they don’t want the ‘institutionalized look’ of straight lines, ubiquitous overhead lighting, and small spaces that lack a true sense of privacy.

People’s dislikes have lead to a variety of new designs in public places, including restaurants, which accounts for the popularity of coffee houses such as Starbuck’s that combine intimacy with openness.

Even something as mundane as a desk is coming under scrutiny. The desk of the future needs to serve not only a functional purpose – to hold the technology of everyday life – but as a meeting place designed to stimulate collaboration and communication. The desk is no longer a piece of furniture that separates. More and more it has become rounded to symbolize and facilitate the notion of equality and freedom.

In the 1950’s, the home was one’s ‘castle’ and the most telling symbol of upward mobility. Forty years later the home has become a metaphor for societal evolution. It combines the needs to work, raise children, care for aging parents, seek refuge and express individuality. Function has overcome form. Above all, home has become a kind of rubric for personal creativity. It has to have our look and it must be organized. Furnishings have to be comfortable and easy to care for plus have more flexibility in their uses. We want “feel, function and convenience.”

As a result of this transforming of space into place, attitudes have changed. The demands of a home are more directed toward a place that encourages emotional expression and creativity. Which incidentally is one reason that Feng Shui has become popular recently. It expresses the new sense of the relationship between form and function. It’s emphasis is on the meaning of place as well as the role of place. The opportunity is to create a place filled with sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures to delight the senses. A place to experiment, to raise self esteem as well as children, an environment to mature body, mind and spirit, a place of “balance, order, and beauty.”

Linda Lenore educates people to the ancient philosophy of Feng Shui in classes called, “Harmonious Home,” “A Woman’s Quest for Wholeness,” and “Balance, Order, and Beauty.” Her seminars are given locally and throughout the nation.