Color, Materials, and Finish Trends

Color, Materials, and Finish Trends

“Trends don’t happen in a vacuum,” Kerry Rowe told me as we started talking about the work she does as a color, materials, and finish design consultant. When Kerry tells people what she does for a living, people are often confused. Color, materials, and finish design consultant, what’s that? Yet once she explains it, a light bulb goes off. As she explains it on her website, “CMF decisions are an emotional catalyst that plays a pivotal role in how your customers perceive and value your products. Effectively applied, these visual and tactile messages communicate your brand’s personality, and make the experience of owning and using your products emotionally appealing.”

We live in a world where trends are percolating and circulating all around us, all the time. What is happening in one industry influences what happens in another one. Just as the lines between home and work have been blurring, the lines between industries are also blurring. Designers aren’t just looking in their own industries for inspiration; they’re looking all around them. People often think of a fad when they hear the word trend, but trends are different. Trends give us a glimpse into what is relevant in our world at this moment in time. They also highlight the relationships between various aspects of life.

Kerry says it is crucial to think of everything as interconnected when thinking about trends in colors and materials. What happens in one industry connects to another. Fashion used to be the traditional place to look to see what was leading the way in trends. Today, that’s not necessarily the case. Now, industries feed off each other and are continually shifting. When doing trend research, Kerry focuses on picking up on the shifts happening broadly and explaining how they are relevant.

So, what is trending in the world of color, materials, and finish?

Despite all of us looking forward to the prominent year-end color of the year announcements, color trends move slowly. They evolve rather than appear suddenly and don’t work alone. There is no one color, but rather a full color story. And that story often starts with high-volume colors and then moves on to include accent colors. How these colors get used together tells the color story.

Kerry sees high-volume colors shifting warmer and becoming more grounding. Whites have gotten softer, leaning creamier. The grays that dominated for so long are warming up and moving toward beige and warmer taupe. Brown is becoming more critical in a redder, brick tone and offers a sense of safety and security, of grounding.

As for accent colors, Kerry sees four prominent color families. Lilac offers a dusty, ethereal quality. Terracotta brings a warm, earthy feeling. Sage is a green with a softer, calming feel. For an optimistic and uplifting color, yellows are more golden and glowing.

Color trends go hand in hand with material trends.

Colors don’t stand alone; they manifest on a variety of materials and finishes. As a result, trends in materials run parallel to trends in color. A top trend Kerry is seeing is rattan, wicker, and basketry. The key to this material is its relationship to natural light. In more commercial spaces, where those materials may not offer the performance required, perforated steel and polymer strapping create a similar effect.

Wood is also a significant material she watches. Kerry sees more fluted woodwork that creates an overall texture and less monolithic interpretations. She also sees composites such as cork and concrete interpreted three-dimensionally, in addition to flat applications. In metals, she’s seeing warmer finishes and also lots of large, rough-cut stone and solid surfaces.

As you do your own trend research for particular projects, Kerry encourages you to step back. Look beyond your industry and take an expansive look around you. Pull from many resources and experiences and create work that will have an emotional impact on your clients and customers.

Thanks so much to Kerry for talking with us for this article. If you’d like to learn more about Kerry, follow her on Instagram or visit her website.

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