‘Global Fusion’ Seen Impacting Design Trends

by WOHe

‘Global Fusion’ Seen Impacting Design

CHICAGO The “churn” of global culture is constantly opening new
horizons and resulting in fresh interpretations for interior design
professionals, including kitchen and bath space planners. The key
to success, however, lies in identifying the trends early, and
applying them to designs that answer the constantly changing needs
and tastes of consumers.

That was the perspective offered here during a presentation at
April’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS) by a pair of veteran
product designers for Armstrong World Industries.

According to the pair Deb Esbenshade and George Gehringer
today’s interior design trends are being heavily influenced by the
manner in which distinctly different cultures are meshing together
in an eclectic trend known as “Global Fusion.”

“Global Fusion mixes elements in a new way to create a look that
is both fresh and intriguingly familiar,” Gehringer observed. “Such
trends give people a new way to customize their surroundings to
make their personal statement come true.”

According to Gehringer, Global Fusion was visible first in
commercial interiors, and is now seen widely at the retail level.
“You can see the impact at the local store, for example, with these
little Japanese water fountains,” he explained. “Designers pick up
on this international influence and then it becomes mass culture.
The interior designer starts to see these trends reflected in other
contexts and begins to incorporate them in his design work.
Everything kind of fits together. What you need to understand, as a
designer, is how they fit.”

Kitchen/bath and designers of other interior residential spaces
have “to be open to what’s occurring” around them, and be “able to
find the right connections at the right time,” said Esbenshade, the
general manager of product styling and design for Armstrong.

“You have to know when a trend is going to hit interior
fashion,” she noted. According to Esbenshade, it used to be that
whatever was happening in Europe, the North American market would
follow some 18 months later. However, “now the design cycle is down
to about six months, and maybe even faster,” she said.

“If you talk to designers in the U.S., they still tend to refer
to Europe as where design comes from,” Esbenshade observed. “If you
talk to the Europeans, they refer to the Far East. If you go to the
Far East, they say it all comes from America. But what happens is,
every time someone looks somewhere else, they interpret what’s
going on through their own eyes their own design paradigm and
re-interpret it for their culture and their consumers. It’s a
constant evolution.”

Gehringer said a key place for interior designers to search for
emerging trends is Australia. “Australians tend to look at
themselves because they are somewhat isolated geographically,” he
commented. “But what they do have that fits at the moment is a
great blend of cultures. Eighty percent of the people in places
like Sydney and other urban centers are non-Australian. Australians
are a cultural mix and that fits [an] eclectic global trend. So, if
they hit a new trend first, they are the ones who lead it.”
Gehringer pointed out that trends are seldom truly universal.

“Whenever you get a major trend, like the trend toward natural
materials, you always get a countertrend,” he said. “The word we’ve
heard designers on the West Coast using recently is ‘Industrial,’
which implies a commercial look. You see a lot of concrete and
steel, and rusted metal and exposed materials. You’re starting to
see some of that interpreted in residential design, in high-end
kitchens with a lot of chrome where stainless steel is being
reinterpreted in combination with wood for a warm-cool look.”

Gehringer also said there is an influence of ethnic trends on
American culture and interior design. “The Latinos are the fastest
growing ethnic segment, and the U.S. demographic is moving quickly
toward more diversity,” he said. “Ethnic trends will certainly have
a major influence in interior design moving forward.”

Another important interior design trend, according to Gehringer
and Esbenshade, is being called “repurposing.”

“At its best, interior design supports the emotional needs of
the space,” Gehringer said. “For example, as designers of hospital
waiting rooms and other commercial spaces work to create a more
comforting, home-like environment, they place new demands on
flooring. Traditional resilient flooring for the home wasn’t
designed for that. So, flooring manufacturers are reinventing
flooring to deliver higher performance and improved durability,
while eliciting the right emotional response.”

“Repurposing” also moves in the other direction, Esbenshade
noted. “As kitchens, baths and home offices incorporate more
commercial appliances, fixtures and cabinets, interior design
requires careful coordination to maintain a unified look,” she

“Metallics and concrete can cross over, and linoleum makes the
jump with fashionable color options for residential interiors. In
short, the kitchen becomes more professional while maintaining
warmth, the bath more sensually functional, and the home office
more professionally equipped in a casual setting.”

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