CWI.DESIGN president and principal designer Rachel Kapner has an uncanny knack for making predictions about the future of design. She even has a crystal ball. “It’s sort of a joke around my office,” she says, “so I did get one for my birthday.” So, when she gazes into it, what does Rachel see about the future of design?
Custom Furniture Will Be More Attainable
“The furniture industry is really changing,” says Rachel. In a world, where customizing furniture has often been costly or confounding, she says that designers and homeowners can now get closer than ever to “achieving something unique without being totally off budget.”
But Rachel says the benefits extend beyond affordability. “There’s something about knowing that it was made for you,” she says thoughtfully, “that it was procured and designed, and it’s one of a kind.” She sees this trend as a reaction to the sameness that results from too many people shopping the same selection. “There’s such a saturation of box store types in the marketplace,” she points out. “I think that’s forced some of the companies to find a different avenue, which is making it more custom.”
Color History Will Repeat Itself — So Forget It
Whoever first said, “History repeats itself,” was not necessarily referring to color trends. But Rachel is. “In 2008, when we had that downward trend in the economy, everything was white,” she recalls. “No color, sort of grim—and I think that reflected the times.” When the economy shifted, so did trends. “When we were coming out of that, we started adding color back.”
But newly uncertain times brought a stampede toward that most in-between of shades. “Then we went through the gray phase,” Rachel explains. “It really saturated the market, and everyone was like, ‘Oh that’s what I want!’ And then people started to realize that’s not what they want. So now I’ve had to de-gray some things because they tried it, and that wasn’t their thing.”
So what’s the takeaway? “It helps to teach clients to really understand what they like and don’t like,” Rachel says diplomatically. After all, if you’re redecorating every time the market takes a tumble, “it can be costly to go with the trend.”
New Designs Will Deserve Fresh Fabrics
This prediction has already come to pass in Rachel’s world, but it’s one you may see more designers embrace. “I don’t like to repeat fabrics,” Rachel explains. “If I use a fabric, I will not use it again, and that is definitely one of my sticking points.”
This impulse has occasionally stymied suppliers. “I’ve had sales reps who’ve come in, who have asked me, ‘Show me the fabric you use every day.’ And I say, ‘There isn’t one.’ And they look at me like I’m crazy.” But to Rachel, it’s smart. “Many of my clients know each other. I want each of their projects to reflect uniqueness, so that you could say: ‘Yes, I can see that Rachel did this—but not necessarily see the exact same thing.”
What unique fabric would Rachel love to use in an upcoming project? Ideally, she’d channel the influence of design icon Mario Buatta, the Prince of Chintz. “Instead of his true floral bouquet chintz: a different, more abstract version of it—but on the same ground cloth,” she explains. “You don’t see a lot of the same ground cloth that you did 30 years ago. People are starting to ask for it, and it’s just not out there.”
While she searches for fabric with his spirit, Rachel will hold tight to her memories of Mario. “I met him about a year or two before he passed away,” Rachel recalls. She’d seen him at talks and books signings, but their most memorable encounter was at a showhouse where Rachel was working. “He was sitting at a table. I went up and just sat and talked to him,” she remembers. “I was so excited that this was my idol, and I was able to meet him.”
Your Dream Home May Not Be What You Imagined
Rachel’s final vision comes from a lesson she recently learned. “My husband and I bought this house that I didn’t want,” says Rachel. “We’d been looking for a long time, and there were a few things that I did want. I was looking for outdoor space, a swimming pool, that type of thing.”
They went house hunting with a realtor, who made a certain home-to-be the last stop of their outing. However, like an episode of Love It or List It, Rachel needed convincing. “At the time I was like, ‘Forget it!'” she remembers. “This house needed a lot of work. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to do what I wanted to do, in which case I was going to hate it.”
So Rachel and her husband agreed that they would make an offer which reflected that risk. And suddenly the house was theirs. “I’ve been redoing it,” she reveals with a happy exhaustion. “We just finished the last piece that had been bothering me for so long—since we moved in.” The verdict? “Now it’s done, and I love it.”
Though the home is clearly filled with her style and hard work, the ultimate design is out-of-the-ordinary for Rachel. “It’s completely different than any of my other projects for my clients or my own homes,” she says. “So I’ve enjoyed doing that.”
What to Remember about Your Design Future
Even though Rachel literally has a crystal ball, these are just a few of the trends she can predict we’ll likely see moving forward. Still, it’s worth remembering them as you move into your design future, Consider commissioning custom furniture before settling for something from a box store. Embrace what you love rather than chasing the trend pendulum as it swings toward and away from color. When you see a fabulous fabric in the home of a friend, seek out something similar rather than the exact same material. And, if you’re looking for new home, don’t be afraid to embrace the unexpected. You just might be fated to fall in love with it.
Get more advice on taking your design to the next level on our blog, and follow Rachel’s work on CWI.Design social media via the links below.