2017 Trends and Tastemakers

May 18, 2017

Text by Regina Cole and the New England Home Editorial Staff

Trends in style seem to be as natural as the annual cycle of the seasons, and tied into a deep human need for variety and change even in the midst of  continuity.

Evolving trends may dress old ideas in delightful new fashions, propose fresh answers to nagging problems, make us look at a color anew, or perhaps shock us with apparent disregard for long-accepted forms. Always, trends foster new ways of seeing and thinking; they are fresh air for musty doctrine. Seen in retrospect, they might reflect larger shifts in our society’s mode of living. And, as with most other aspects of existence, they don’t last forever, but ebb and flow like the tides.

With that in mind, we’ve polled some of our region’s top home-design and building professionals to give us an overview of what they see coming—and staying, and going—in New England style.


Compounds and smaller Homes
We are getting away from big for its own sake and building less square footage of higher quality. Our clients want the best materials and the best -craftsmanship. —Sean Cutting, Cutting Edge Homes, Ashland, Mass.

The trend I’m seeing is to design multiple structures, to make the home feel more like a family compound—several smaller, cuter structures rather than one large structure. —Ron DiMauro, DiMauro Architects, Jamestown, R.I.

Home Offices
Home offices are becoming very popular since, with today’s technology, many more people are able to work at home. These are dedicated rooms—not part of a guest room or multi-use room—and located away from other parts of the house for privacy. Another benefit: you can leave a mess if you want, and not have to run around cleaning when guests come over! —Ron DiMauro

Open Floor Plans
While renovating a small bungalow in Newton, Massachusetts, to serve as my home (on the main level) and office (on the lower level), I took a typical shotgun-style floorplan and eliminated all the walls to create one open entertaining space—which is a trend we are seeing in many of the homes we design. People want easy living, and open plans lend themselves very well to that. —David Boronkay, Slocum Hall Design Group, Newton, Mass.

Bigger Windows
Glass curtain walls, found most commonly in commercial buildings, are being used more and more in residential construction. These expansive walls of glass allow for an almost seamless view to the outdoors, and are part of an overall trend toward larger windows to let in natural light and take advantage
of views. —Jonathan Merz, Merz Construction, Carlisle, Mass.

Greater Use of Engineered Materials
Yes, we have been using Silestone and Caesarstone in our homes because they seem to be more consistent in color and pattern than natural stone. Also, a lot of our clients are looking for that “classic seaside kitchen” with its white cabinets and Carrara marble—but marble can etch and stain easily. Ceasarstone can match the marble in look, but is more durable. Soft, light tans are popular, too, as well as dark grays that mimic soapstone. —Ron DiMauro

Engineered materials are very popular, and for good reason. They are long-lasting, easy to maintain, and come in a wide array of colors, textures, and styles. Terrazzo flooring is making a comeback. We recently finished a home with terrazzo flooring in the kitchen. Not only is it resilient, but the colors in a terrazzo floor can tie together the most vibrant color scheme. —Jonathan Merz

Contemporary vs. Traditional
People are looking for historical charm on the outside while they update the interior. They want the exterior to match and meld with the neighborhood. —Sean Cutting

Our clients are looking for more minimalistic, more modern Zen-like spaces, because those spaces seem to declutter people’s minds and relax their spirits. With the stress of this world right now, people are looking for places that are calming and relaxing. Most people still love our traditional exteriors so that their homes fit within the neighborhood’s vernacular, but once they open the door they want a more clean-lined interior. —Ron DiMauro


Chinoiserie and Mural Wallpaper
Hand-painted chinoiserie panels are timeless and sophisticated. We use de Gournay and Fromental quite often in our projects. —Meichi Peng, Meichi Peng Design Studio, Boston

Murals or papers that are mural-like are never out of fashion. There is a restaurant in New Orleans that opened a few years back, called Restaurant R’evolution. One of the main dining rooms has a continuous mural. This single design choice set this new restaurant right down “where it ought to be,” to paraphrase the Shaker hymn. Also, when the wall space available for paper is minimal, that is one of the very reasons to use a large-scale paper. The viewer is drawn in to consider what she doesn’t see as well as what she does see. —Jon Hattaway,
MJ Berries Design, Boston

Will gray stay?
Gray is still in. We did a house in Ireland several years back and used gray with abandon. The news spread all over town: “The Yanks are painting the place gray, just like the Irish weather!” Absolutely. The resulting harmony of warm grays with the overcast, blue-gray days was very, very pleasant. —Jon Hattaway

Gray is such a classic color. It serves as the perfect background color for any room, and lets us add other elements and layers to the aesthetic. I think gray will always be on trend and a true classic color. —Meichi Peng

What other colors are going strong?
I love pink, although I don’t experience any trending with pink the way we did with blue. An old Pratt & Lambert color called Cerise is one of my favorites. The ceiling here in the office is pink. The point should be made that pink need not be “girly,” babyish, or cotton-candy. You couldn’t make a better choice—as long as it’s not too blue—for a bathroom ceiling, a dining room where the amber tones of candlelight make the pink glow with vitality, or the interior of kitchen cabinets in a very white kitchen. Of course, the shade of pink matters in every case. —Jon Hattaway

Black and white is a great decorating option for when budgets are tight, because it makes a graphic statement at little expense. —Kristin Paton, Kristin Paton Interiors, Cambridge, Mass.

Softer colors are popular, not just pastels but muted cool colors. Even just soft white walls and trim are popular. —Ron DiMauro

Interesting Ceilings
We are big proponents of using metallic tea paper on ceilings. It is especially effective in smaller spaces, such as powder rooms, or within the coffers of a ceiling. I also love to create cove ceiling details for indirect lighting. —Meichi Peng

Beadboard is popular again on ceilings, especially painted a soft white. The gentle white lines give a room a cozy feeling and remind us of older times, when things were more relaxed. —Ron DiMauro

Paneled Rooms
Paneled rooms have never been trendy, for us. A beautifully paneled room is always classic, warm, comfortable. It needn’t be stuffy, especially if it is painted. Painted surfaces are almost always my preference over stained wood, anyway. —Jon Hattaway

Cerused and High-Gloss Finishes
Cerusing is in. In the 1960s, they called it liming. That’s when you open the grain of the wood and put a different color in it. Most common is natural oak with white, but all sorts of colors are used. We do it on millwork, on floors, all sorts of places, most often in contemporary or transitional interiors. Also new are high-gloss polyester finishes on woodwork in contemporary interiors. —Wayne Towle, Master Finishing & Restoration, Needham, Mass.

Non-White Trim
We have seen so much white and off-white trim over the years, that it’s refreshing to paint the windows and trim black. Oddly enough, I do a lot of it on Tudors. There are a lot of them in Newton, where my business is based, and we paint the exterior trim and the windows black and treat the front door to a coating of glossy black. It suits the traditional house, but is fresh and crisp. —David Boronkay


Midcentury Modern
While certain midcentury furniture items will continue to be popular, we prefer the more subtle options, mixed and matched with furniture from other periods. —Kristin Paton

Praise God, it is no longer the only game in town. The best interior, as far as I am concerned, is always the eclectic interior. One might even prefer “evolution,” the idea that the interior furnishings have evolved as the family has grown in number, interests, exposure to art and culture—and even in terms of changing health and aging. —Jon Hattaway

Lots of velvet sofas and chairs. We just did a gorgeous pair of aubergine sofas—both maybe ninety inches, with bullion skirts that are amazing. The synthetic velvets coming out of Europe are just edible. —Jon Hattaway

We use velvet all the time. We love the plush, luxurious quality it gives to any upholstery. —Kristin Paton

Ruffles, Pleats, Embroidery, Trim
For curtains and lamp shades, we see that layering is returning. Trim is returning. Embroidery won’t go away. Ruffles and pleats are strong. —Jon Hattaway



Connecting Indoors and Out
We have been building houses where we bring the outside in. One wall opens, via pocket doors or garage door openings, so that it virtually -disappears. This removes the barriers between outside and inside, so you truly become one with nature while remaining protected from the outdoor elements. —Doug Stevenson, Kistler & Knapp Builders, Acton, Mass.

Outdoor Rooms
This has been a trend for a while, and is becoming more important as we look for ways to extend our time outdoors. Outdoor living rooms—that’s what I design all the time now. People are getting really creative with furniture; they want to be comfortable. Everyone wants a fire feature, whether it’s wood or gas, rustic or sleek, concrete or stainless steel. —Cynthia Knauf, Cynthia Knauf Landscape Design, Burlington, Vt.

Outdoor kitchens and fire pits have been a thing in high-end residential landscapes for half a dozen years. A fire pit allows you to enjoy the outdoors -longer, and there’s something so satisfying about huddling around the fire with family and friends. And if it’s gas, it can be controlled from your phone. —Bruce MacDowell, The MacDowell Company, Weston, Mass.

Reclaimed Stone
People are using a lot of reclaimed stone in their landscape. As bridges and infrastructure are being rebuilt, we like to save some of those pieces for use in landscaping. Old curbing looks great as planks set in the ground. —Bruce MacDowell

Edible Landscapes
Vermont is all about farm to table; we have great farmer’s markets and food stores. But our growing season is so short that people don’t want to bother growing their own when they can buy great produce. —Cynthia Knauf


Steam and Induction Cooking
We’ve seen a steady increase with steam ovens. They can be challenging to incorporate into the design, due to their output of steam and need for proper ventilation, but they are a great addition for the home chef. —Debra Foster, Crown Point Cabinetry, Claremont, N.H.

Steaming preserves many nutrients in foods that are typically lost through traditional cooking methods. A steam oven can integrate seamlessly with a range, for increased cooking flexibility. Induction ranges use far less electricity than standard cooktops, and the heating response isn’t just fast, it’s instant! —Andrea Mongeau, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, multiple New England locations

Apron Sinks
For me, it depends on the client’s taste. I don’t tend to design or show too many farm-style sinks, as I find that undermounted stainless-steel sinks are so easy to design into a scheme and are a real workhorse for busy kitchens. —Christopher Peacock, Christopher Peacock Cabinetry, Boston

We are seeing traditional sinks paired with contemporary faucets. Homeowners are taking risks, and instead of selecting a very traditional apron-front sink, some are choosing versions with a decorative front, such as the Rohl Casement sinks or various options from Kohler. —Andrea Mongeau

Color in the Kitchen
Paint is currently our clients’ leading choice. We vary paint colors between the wall, base, and tall and island cabinetry. Often we’ll integrate a different wood species with a stain or natural finish for a contrasting design. —Debra Foster

Adding a pop of color in a non-traditional place, such as the exterior door of a range or a sink basin, can be a fun and unexpected design detail. —Andrea Mongeau

I see several appliance companies manufacturing ovens and gas ranges in a variety of color options. On the very high end we specify La Cornue custom ranges for some of our clients who want to see that as a featured appliance in their kitchens. La Cornue offers custom color options, too, so clients can match the enamel of the range front to their custom cabinetry, for example. —Christopher Peacock

Banquettes and Lounge Seating
Banquettes and comfortable kitchen seating areas are trending with our clients. They provide families with a space for children to do homework or hobbies, accommodate guests when entertaining—which allows the cook to be part of the gathering—and are perfect for those who don’t want the traditional dining room experience. —Debra Foster

High-Tech Toilets
Smart toilets feature several luxury conveniences, including hands-free flushing, automated lid opening and closing, seat heating, ambient lighting, and Bluetooth technology. The new ActiClean self-cleaning toilet from American Standard allows homeowners the ability to clean the toilet with a quick push of a button. A growing number of luxury hotels are including smart toilets, bidets, and other amenities in the bathroom. People enjoy the experience of using these toilets abroad and want to bring that experience to their own home. —Andrea Mongeau



LED Lighting
The beauty of LEDs is that they can be used anywhere, because they’re so small. We see them in appliances like showerheads or toilets with night lights. They used to be stark and cool, but now come in colors similar to incandescent lights. —Susan J. Arnold, Wolfers Lighting, Allston and Waltham, Mass.

Wireless Control
It definitely is getting traction. Currently, there are four major players: Apple Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Josh, a small company based in Denver. Right now all the players are devoting a lot of time, money, and energy to develop the software that will allow an end-user to simply request an action, via voice. It is kind of like pressing a button, but using your voice. This software requires integration with devices like Lutron and Vantage and other controls systems like Savant, Control 4, or Crestron.—David Nakayama, Audio Dave, Newton, Mass.

Crystal Chandeliers
We see lots of bling, lots of crystal. You can have fun with chandeliers—they can be switched out occasionally, as opposed to built-in and recessed lighting, which don’t get changed until you remodel. —Susan J. Arnold

Today’s crystal fixtures feature unexpectedly bold shapes, such as large rocks, long rods, and organically shaped droplets. At Ferguson we call this trend “The New Angle of Crystal.” The effect is instant glamour, thanks to various shapes, cuts, and sizes of crystal that catch the light to cast a wide array of dazzling, prismatic colors. —Andrea Mongeau

Outdoor TVs and Sound Systems
I do see an increase in outdoor TVs and sound systems. The costs have come down considerably, and quality has improved with technological advancements. As a result, demand is up. —David Nakayama


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