What, you may ask, does 2019 have in store for design trends, especially those that will impact our hardwood flooring choices? Here, I will share some very important and exciting insights that might just surprise you.
As someone who has not only professionally forecasted design trends and applied them into successfully selling collections, but has also practiced interior design for 30-plus years, I absolutely love this time of year when we start seeing product design shifts.
In my past life as Shaw’s Director of Color Style and Design for soft and hard surfaces, my scope had to be much broader. I had to focus on the aspects that all fit together so that the carpet colors and the hard surface colors would not only be trend forward, but also be salable. These colors had to have broad application across the United States, and that part has not changed one bit. It is that deep and wide background that enables me to successfully forecast well into the coming year with significant accuracy, knowing what’s essential for flooring collections that will be selling. Now that I’ve explained the groundwork, let’s dive into what we will see in 2019!
Many people ask me whether I think gray is staying or going away. My answer is based on the responses I have gotten when working with specifiers and designers, and looking at what finishes are going into projects a year from now. Gray is still with us, and still a very viable and necessary part of a product mix, perhaps even more so in hard-surface finishes like hardwood flooring. You also might see very colorful trend alerts from professional organizations like the Color Marketing Group, where pastel pinks, bright yellow golds, and blues are trending upward. There should be footnotes on these trend reports that spell out in fine print that these are accents and relate to broader product categories like apparel, interior accessories, cosmetics, and even automotive colors. That being said, these accents are like the colorful necktie on a stylish navy blue suit. The foundational color palette is what matters for us in the hard surface floor covering world.
Over the years, when speaking at design events and presenting trends, I have referred to the foundational color palette as “commitment colors,” indicating the big pieces of furniture, built-in cabinets, or other types of large surfaces that are not easily installed, replaced, or moved. This means that specifiers and end-users acknowledge that this surface color will be there for an average of five to seven years before it’s replaced. This space, this very myopic color palette, has been my primary focus recently.
The catalysts driving the foundational color palette currently are not just color-related, but also visuals and textures that are nature-derived and can be best described as aspirational luxury. Make note: This overview is what many would call the high-altitude view. You can expect to see marbles, granites, and limestones that are above and beyond your ordinary colors or names like Baltic Brown. The look is slightly more unique; the names and veining are a little on the exotic side. In general terms, these are names that most homeowners are not acquainted with, like Pietra Grigio or Nero Marquina. Aged travertines, Bianca Dolomite whites, gray-veined Carrara, and gray-gold veined Calacatta marbles, gray and black soapstones, and even gray poured-concrete slabs. Overall, this naturally derived color palette is generally cool; you will also see emerging warmth from luxurious onyx, Emperador Dark Marble and wood species like walnut.
2019 Color Forecast: Nature’s Neutrals
Black Eclipse: feeling more dark charcoal than a straight-out ebony black, Eclipse is just as the name implies, a shadowy black that works best in premium-quality hardwood where the grain is straighter, certainly no application on a rotary cut hardwood. Again like a shadow or an eclipse, there is no reflective quality to the darkness, simply matte darkness, velvety, if anything, in its appearance.
Emperador Dark Brown: Emperador Dark Marble is a rich brown marble that can change from slab to slab depending on how much and where the white veins run. Rich browns are on the horizon in hardwood flooring in the form of rich matte chocolate browns, especially in the walnut species. Walnut, in the right color family of brown, is and always will be timeless and salable. Walnut, although not as hard as other hardwoods, is making a strong showing in both commercial and residential interiors. Overall, one of walnut’s best attributes is that it can be mixed in with a variety of design styles and with a variety of other surfaces.
Bermuda Stone Gray: gray is enjoying a very long and successful life span. Since its first showing in 2007, gray continues to reign strong in every consumer goods category as a go-to neutral, backdrop blank-canvas type color, which bridges easily with other colors and also serves well in a wide range of design styles from mid-century modern to rustic farmhouse. Gray continues to become more and more refined as it evolves. Currently, grays have segued into that look and feel that is silvery, patinaed, and aged, yet smooth in texture.
French Limestone: The chicest hardwood color is in the same family as reclaimed French limestone. A quarried look and feel is the target texture. Not quite scraped, not quite wire-brushed, not quite chiseled, this actual color creates its warmth through the just right off-white with zero yellow, zero pink, just warm like the stone you’d see in an old château in France.
Sea Salt White: Speaking from recent experience of admiring the Bermuda sands on a recent trip, Sea Salt off-whites are akin to a mist with hints of color only from reflections of the surf and sand. Looking to find off-whites, you can certainly find the similar influences from my mega trend of plaster-gesso whites from 2017 and 2018. In keeping with gesso and plaster, Sea Salt is matte, and more importantly is not flat, nor opaque.
I look forward to the year ahead and hope that the Nature’s Neutrals palette explanations I’ve shared help clarify and define in your mind what is going to be the essence of 2019 design for wood.
Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of EF Floors & Design LLC in Dalton, Georgia, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.