Hosting is exciting. But hosting for the first time in over a year is even better. For the longest time, the notion of dinner parties has felt consigned to the pre-pandemic world. No longer. As people start opening their homes up to friends and family again, interior design is now a top pursuit of many an intrepid host. So what’s new, cool and intriguing this summer? Break out the chardonnay or IPAs and join us for a dive into must-have furniture ideas worth your cash, the rising designer stars to know and the trends to take home.
Isabelle Lee & Liam Jamieson, OZY Reporters
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1. Nothing Like a Good Bench
For many, the bench in your entryway is the first piece of furniture that guests see. But you heard it here, folks — don’t discount the value of a bench as a hosting feature for outside. San Francisco inventor Aaron Jones has come up with a heated, outdoor bench to make hosting toasty even in the chilliest of climes. That heated bench would certainly come in handy this summer, as Jones’ home city finds itself experiencing some unseasonably cold weather.
Let’s face it, learning to resocialize isn’t going to be straightforward at first. What could make it easier is ensuring your home has lots of conversation starters. We’re talking about something as simple as having the seats in your living room face each other or having the seating serve as the room’s focal point. It could be as unique as a fancy fish tank, filled with lots of finned friends. It might also be smart to throw in a pinball machine or pool table to give yourself something to do when the conversation fades.
3. The Art of Looking Cultured
Wall art is another fantastic conversation starter and, of course, a way to look cultured in front of your friends. One of the surprising consumer trends of 2020 was that people were still buying art, whether it was physical paintings or non-fungible tokens (NTFs). British artist Damien Hirst’s latest work found a way to combine the two. His piece, The Currency, comprises 10,000 individual NFTs that correspond with 10,000 physical paintings. You buy the NFT, but you can trade it in for the physical painting if the online version is too Blade Runner for you. Has he cracked the code for the future of art sales?
4. Need Inspiration?
Feeling lackluster after sitting behind your makeshift home office desk for 18 straight months? Then, according to visionary William Morris, your best first step is to go back to basics. Morris abhorred the Victorian-era opulence that prevailed in the U.K. during the 19th century and beyond, so he decorated his London home, known as Red House, in a style of quiet, handmade elegance. It’s a form that has influenced generations of designers since. His rule? “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” We have Morris to thank for functional interior design, not to mention spectacular textiles. In a world where even decluttering expert Marie Kondo is encouraging you to buy stuff you might not need, we could all use a little more Morris in our lives.
The notion of home and space has perhaps never been as coveted as it is right now. Twenty-three-year-old Isabella Barrengos, who lives in a suburb of San Francisco, recently shared a particularly surprising story with OZY reporter Isabelle Lee. Last month, a random couple approached the door of her family home “out of nowhere” with an unlikely proposition: “They asked if we would consider selling our house and even offered to pay cash — up front,” a spellbound Barrengos recalls. The proposal serves as a reminder of the big-picture transformations the housing industry is now experiencing. The reshuffling of people from city centers to suburbs is a pandemic-fueled trend that’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. The same goes for the sky-high demand for local contractors as people seek more space for kids to play and for adults to relax, as well as nooks and corners for work time.
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An accomplished designer and ceramic artist, New York-based Barnett’s groundbreaking projects including her most recent, Redemption, confront the complexities of social relevance and inequality. How? In part by featuring a series of layered clay sculptures inspired by Nigerian gele head wraps and patterns inspired by adire textiles. But being an artist wasn’t enough for her. Unsatisfied with the lack of representation of Black designers in the industry, Barnett created the Black Artist and Designers Guild (BADG) in 2018 to provide resources for Black creatives across the globe. When the pandemic hit, Barnett’s leadership of BADG became even more crucial as she helped her community apply for the Paycheck Protection Program and small-business loans.
2. Tosin Oshinowo
Someone told this Nigerian entrepreneur she couldn’t do it. Luckily, she paid no attention. An award-winning architect and photographer who focuses on socially responsive approaches to her craft, Oshinowo started her own furniture line, Ilé-Ilà, in 2017. Meaning “House of Lines” in her native Yoruba language, Oshinowo designs distinct and minimalist chairs and table sets. Her colorful collections reflect a modern architectural style influenced by her Nigerian heritage.
3. Corey Damen Jenkins
An icon of the LGBTQ+ community in the design world, the Detroit native has come a long way since losing his job at an auto manufacturer a decade ago. Jenkins has since risen through the ranks as an interior designer, debuting on Architectural Digest’s AD100 list this year. His first book, Design Remix: A New Spin on Traditional Rooms, was released in March. Jenkins employs audacious wallpapers and prints, and shades of greens, reds and blues in a way that, despite their obvious boldness, manages to feel classic and timeless. “I would define my design philosophy as new maximalist: a bold, Continental mix of elegance and modernity,” he told AD.
Growing up on the lush (and part nature preserve) of St. John, a U.S. Virgin Island in the Caribbean, she has a firsthand understanding of the importance of balance between humanity and the environment. This harmony inspires Boa’s work. A trailblazer in green furniture arrangements, Boa’s Oi Studio designs slick, modern furniture pieces that are built to last.
Ready to walk into the room “purse first?” Iconic performer and activist Bob the Drag Queen is on The Carlos Watson Show. The RuPaul’s Drag Race winner joins Carlos for a laugh-out-loud funny and deeply meaningful conversation on being raised by a drag club-owning mother in the Deep South, gender fluidity and polyamory, and reaching across the political aisle. Why does Bob say straight Black men need to get on board to truly deconstruct transphobia in the Black community? Watch to find out.
Gone are the days when big-name designers and whole-house collections dominated the interior design world. Thanks in part to social media, smaller-scale collaborations and projects are now flourishing. Designers today are focusing on single rooms and “micro-decorating” select corners of homes. This is a key change, as the shift is providing a new platform for small-scale designers while placing equal emphasis on content and product. Take Boston-based interior designer Katie Rosenfeld. She collaborated with a local Massachusetts store called Bespoke of Winchester to design her home kitchen in exchange for promoting the shop on Instagram to her 28,000 followers. That’s a win all around.
It’s not only social media that is helping bring success to small businesses and designers. Online stores have further bolstered the rise of the small artist, none more so than the craft- and vintage-focused e-commerce site Etsy. The Brooklyn-headquartered company recorded an astonishing 132% year-over-year sales growth in the first quarter of 2021. Consumers have been able to shift away from the brand names and all-consuming corporations to search for hidden gems and niche craft products made by the small-scale creators the website promotes. Etsy has helped launch the careers of designers such as Ross and Carie Gauvin, a couple from Maine whose woodworking business grew 700% during the pandemic, thanks largely to the soaring popularity of their stunning floating shelves.
3. Online Engagement
Boston-based interior designer Catherine Daley tells OZY that using online design platforms became more “critical and popular than ever” when the pandemic hit last year. The rolling lockdowns and store closures have allowed her to reach and interact with clients not previously on her radar and who lived in far-flung countries and states. Tellingly, some platforms have even been established to address challenges presented by the pandemic, such as The Expert, a virtual design hub launched in April 2020 where interior designers can meet clients. Platforms such as this and Pinterest are making freelancing in the ever-expanding gig economy easier than ever. Daley says she has been able to take on more one-off consultations to boost her business, and all from the “comfort of my favorite chair.”
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Once belittled for its excessive shag carpeting and gutsy creations such as the conversation pit, midcentury modern interior design is seeing a revival from millennials and Gen Zers. Propped up by social media interest (#midcenturymodern has over 100 million views on TikTok), youths are falling in love with the style’s timeless furniture, large windows and open floor plans pioneered by Frank Lloyd Wright and Paul Rudolph. So much so that many are thrifting and repurposing groovy vintage pieces in a sustainable bid to time travel back to the swinging ’60s.
Japanese and Scandinavian (Scandi) interior design flavors have much in common. Harmoniously blend them together and you get Japandi. The style beautifully fuses the pale sensibilities of Scandi design with the darker tones of Japanese design, resulting in a neutral look that is comfortable, minimalist and timeless. From sleek Japanese soaking tubs to warm Scandinavian light fixtures, this aesthetic is all the rage in interior design and could make your IKEA set jealous.
3. Behind the Camera
In some parts of the world, COVID-19 might not be the threat it once was, but working from home looks like it’s here to stay. Regardless of your preferred aesthetic, the most observed part of your house right now may very well be the home office, so why not show off some of your style in the background of your Zoom meetings? Multifunctional rooms and furniture are key. Shiny clean windows, eclectic pieces of art and colorful dried flowers make for relaxed conversations as you review spreadsheets with your boss.