Interiors and Decor Trends
Picture courtesy - SMSTUDIO
Contemporary interiors and decor trends in residences today are influenced by a number of factors - the growing awareness of clients who are well-travelled, the exposure to the west, surplus options available on the net and in the showrooms, advanced technology and a profound emphasis on leading a comfortable life. This, in addition to the fact that today the design industry has a conscientious repertoire of designers who having totally attuned to contemporary times and to their users' likes and dislikes, are ready to take the plunge and innovate and explore with new materials, designs and technologies.

Residences have today become a lifestyle statement and a reflection of the inhabitants' personalities. They are no longer just 'a machine for living in'. Also the fact that today people spend more time indoors have led home owners to concentrate much more on their residence design. Interior design which till sometime back was an extension of architecture has today become a separate entity and thus from its 'permanent' nature has taken on a temporary role which home owners want to play with, constantly. Owners are enthusiastic about exploring various possibilities, ready to pay a higher cost value for the same, but are also very specific of affirming their individuality in the home space, rather than blindly following any specific trends.

Interior Design
Picture courtesy - SMSTUDIO
Bengaluru-based Architect Nitin Saolapurkar, President of Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID), elaborating on contemporary interiors states, "Currently, the residential interiors are being made by 'selection off the shelf', with a little bit of back-end support from interior designers, for the immovable parts in an interior. The Interior designer assists in selection from a wide variety of products that are imported or sourced mainly from China; but there is a canonisation in the product range. Though there is a wide variety of furniture available, but its quality reflects its make that generally belongs to a mass production facility in China. Hence it fails to elicit a 'design respect' from anyone. This trend, however I think, will definitely change. Technology will allow quick customisation of design, thereby giving the designer complete freedom of designing this with originality. Thus, selection would be very limited, and every good interior would be a unique expression."

Design Styles

While contemporary residence interiors today primarily indicate more of clean lines, minimalism and sophistication, they are also about giving each element of design in the interiors its own personality - whether it is the furniture, furnishings, lights, structural materials, spaces, patterns or textures.

Interior design over the years has come to follow varied styles of contemporary style (exploration with newer materials), the classical style (with historical elements), the ethnic style (vernacular approach) or the post modern (a different approach to tradition). However, the eclectic styles which is a mixture of various styles seems to rule in contemporary interiors today.

Influences and inspirations from the West have definitely propelled the contemporary styles of living in Indian residences; however, designers/architects/home owners are making a necessary effort to include Indian tradition and culture in their home designs. The Indian sense, is evident in the planning, ornamentation, furnishings or accessories, the latter being feasible with the help of the country's very own talented craftsmen who can customise every intricate detail. There is a strong sense of retaining Indian traditional characteristics and contemporarising them to present days and functions. Thus, designs which bring out aspects of contemporary styles as well as retain the old world charms are gracing many residences. With ornate stuff/antique furniture/family heirlooms placed with straight line furniture, eclecticism is definitely in - mixes and matches and a number of influences (cultural/global) coexist happily together.

Contemporary Styles of living
Picture courtesy - SMSTUDIO

Design Planning

Spaces today are being designed more intelligently and while open spaces flowing into each other are popular, but an intelligent design that lets private spaces retain their own privacy, yet becoming connected to public spaces is followed by many designers today. Also in present times, interior spaces aren't divided by walls only; trendy pieces of furniture have come up to serve the dual function of doing so.

Kitchens and bathrooms are important parts of contemporary residence design, and their relevance is not only noticeable in their placements with respect to the key layout of the residences (where kitchens specifically are getting amalgamated with living rooms) but also in the materials, technology, luxury and the very trendy accessories that these spaces today are peppered with. While kitchens are keenly designed to extract the best use of space, aspects like ease of maintenance and functionality are also primary factors of their design concepts. Bathrooms have doubled up as spaces which can relax users, hence accessories and technology like sensor-based bath fittings, showers and tubs that soothe the senses feature as important elements.

Materials

Older materials like wood, metals, stone etc continue to make their presence felt in homes, add to which there are newer materials in the market today, and a lot of imported ones too that have crept in which are less expensive, more environment- friendly. But they simulate the effect of older materials - a case in point being that of materials from brands of Trespa, FunderMax etc which have replaced wood in many interior applications. Even with metals, a combination with other materials like leather and wood (metal laminates) are noticed. Steel with laser cut motifs is also a new decor trend. Bling is also in with metallic touches of gold and silver.

Running Wall Residence
Picture courtesy - SMSTUDIO
Stone continues to make a huge 'Indian statement' through its varied textures. Natural stone (granite, slate, marble, sandstone, limestone and kota stone) with their longevity aspects feature as statement walls, on the floors, on roofs or to simply highlight a specific area.

Glass with its multiple characteristics allows spaces to permeate, blurs the boundaries between the exteriors and interiors and helps in gaining natural light. Tiles continue to charm home owners and designers. Whether in marble, stainless steel, brick, granite, their many varieties today are extremely delectable to the sense of vision as well as touch.

Designers today also like to play with a certain juxtaposition of materials by balancing contemporary and traditional materials alike.

Textures and Colours; Patterns and Print

Whether it is through fabric, wood finishes, glass or metal, textures today define aesthetics, bring a pause to the monotony and highlight design features. Even wall treatments have become a rage and feature different looks - paint finishes, stone cladding and panellings in different materials, the distressed look, stencilling, mouldings, 3D artwork or coatings etc. Wallpapers are available in different textures - they can be simple or opulent as well and are a hit since they make a statement, consciously not drawing unwarranted attention and dominating the complete look and feel. Eco-friendly wall papers have also stepped in so have digital wall coverings too, which use latest digital printing techniques to create remarkable patterns.

Textures and Colours
Picture courtesy - SMSTUDIO
Architect Meghana Shetty, Co-founder and principal architect of Mumbai-based architectural consultancy & Design & build firm SM STUDIO rightly says, "Till few years back people did not pay much attention to how a furniture object looked or felt on touching its surface. This was probably due to the fact that functionality used to be the main sought-after characteristic in a household item. Now things are changing fast and people are in search of the 'touchable' textures, elegant finishes, which inspire warmth and comfort as a way to engage and experience a proper home atmosphere."

Colors have also infused life into dull and mundane home designs and are best used to accentuate spaces, textures, patterns, and prints. A strong accent of colors adds lots of visual engagement and depth to spaces. Bright colours - used as accents, simply to create a theme and an ambience in a room are common. Whites/creams primarily remain as the base colour to let these accent colours make a rich statement.

Patterns and prints have seen their own experimentations over the years - there has been an innovative and excessive mix and match. Whether it's about different geometrical patterns, stripes, vintage prints, huge motifs, or floral or ethnic prints which soften those geometrical angles - today they are used for creating further interest to a space.

Light Narayan Associates
Picture Courtesy: Architect Narayan & Associates Pvt. Ltd.
Meghana and her team at SM STUDIO generally use a variety of colours and textures together, though keeping the base as either beige or off-white and ensure that the overall result remains collaboratively appealing. Of late they have been trying to use new fabric covers, graphic art, wall paintings, wall papers, wall textures, murals etc whose effects as Meghana adds 'have indeed been pretty strong as seen in most of their works'. She explains, "These days residential spaces have turned into more of design dynamics in order to inspire vibrant living energy. One of the most simplest ways we follow to achieve this effect has been by employing graphical patterns, stripes, jaalis, florals etc in an elegant manner. Carpets, wallpapers, upholstery, graphic art etc - each of these elements could wear the above distinct feature of movement as long as they are defined in a rhythmic manner and are well-framed. Bold reds, gold, champagne silver patterns interspaced with wood make the highlights of most of our design themes - again only associated with minimal decor components. The idea is to make things stand out without compromising in the elegance or visual harmony. Floral and ethnic patterns which are so much back in style these days and make a strong statement in any rooms ensure a very romantic touch and give a feeling of a perpetual holiday."

Lighting

Light today is no less than a material in design, being used to draw attention to nuances. Lighting has reinvented itself - not only to ensure energy consumption (LED lighting, motion sensors, dimmable lights), but also to create the said ambience for a room. The range of lighting accessories today - whether in fabric, metal (in varied finishes), glass (in various tones and colours) or any other material are stunning to say the least. Direct light has taken a backseat and the emphasis is to focus on a subtle glow. Contemporary interiors reflect the very profound understanding of how lighting can be implemented not only to enhance a space visually, but also perform its functions dutifully. Also, there is a strong emphasis on getting and extracting as much as natural light - whether through glass, skylights, domes etc. What is also of interest is that skylights today are being designed in so many novel ways.

Furniture, Furnishings and Artefacts

Contemporary Interiors
Picture courtesy - LIJO.RENY.architects
Contemporary interiors convey a mix of classy, contemporary and ornate furniture. While the market has umpteen options available - whether imported or in-house designs, some boutique showrooms also custom design the furniture. In many cases, an architect decides the furniture when doing the interior architecture of the residence - whether by sourcing or designing it themselves - such is the importance of furnitures which have moved much beyond being mere functional pieces in a house. Furniture which can serve dual purposes - offering storage spaces, doubling up as partitions are also a hit. Whether its beds, tables, chairs or sofas, furniture as well as accessories are strictly accented to stand out and complement the wall colour and space.

There is a huge range of artefacts/aesthetics that feature today in homes. Whether it's a mural, sculpture or just an artefact, there is a stronger emphasis on inducing creativity and not giving a confused and busy feel. Tribal art and accessories patterns have also stepped into today's home spaces. Rightly, ethnic decor can never go out of fashion - it can only be modified to adapt to our contemporary decors.

When it comes to softer furnishing fabrics, natural fibres are currently a favourite which has minimised the use of artificial fibres. In furnishings too, permutations and combinations are regularly experimented with - so whether its leather, suede or metal - they are also being juxtaposed with cotton, linen and silk.

Storage

Contemporary residential interiors concentrate on extracting the maximum of storage space. Whether the storage is increased by using multipurpose furniture (coffee table with shelves/modular portable couches/bookcases acting as partitions) or through intelligent design planning in kitchens, wardrobes or extracting spaces under the staircase or also in the flooring (hidden storage); as goes the word - 'storage is one thing you can never have enough of'.

Home Automation and Security

Today, clients are willing to travel an extra mile to bring in the comforts in their homes through automation. Modern technology allows the ease of controlling the lights and air conditioners of one's residence; detecting gas, smoke and water leaks; opening and closing windows and blinds by not being even physically present in the residence. Homes today have features like integrated music, a central control console with touch screen technology, surveillance cameras, key less entry and panic buttons for the elderly. The level of security has risen and so have the options to ensure it too. Today, one's home can be automated to the extent that sitting in US, one can ensure the safety of one's loved ones back home in India every day.

Sustainability and Eco -Friendliness

Sustainability and Eco-Friendliness
Picture courtesy - LIJO.RENY.architects
Use of 'green' products like wallpapers (which are fabric back or woven back), flooring made up of recycled wood, photo-sensitive lights, and energy-efficient window blinds is popular today in residences. The need to get 'green' in interiors and to connect with nature also has become an important part of contemporary residences.

Landscape

From being an entirely outdoor element of design, landscape has now become an integral part of many residential interiors. Architects don't shy away from bringing nature or outdoor elements inside the house. While courtyards form the hub of many residences today, a simple lush plant court also contributes to the feeling of greenery inside a closed space. Apart from that, indoor pools have somewhat become a style statement for high-end residences. Architects Lijo Jos and Reny Lijo (Principal architects of Kerala based LIJO.RENY.architects) known for their many intuitive and creative residential designs admit that designing indoor pools for many of their residence designs have been equally well received by the residence owners.

Future Trends

On contemplating the future trends in contemporary residential interiors, Architect Saolapurkar foresees Uniqueness and customisation as the trend. "The designer will transform from merely a facilitator (as now, in most cases) to having a complete command on every aspect of an interior. Yes, as we become more conscious, materials would be rated for their eco-friendliness and sustainable value. Currently, the trend is settling in for buildings, although very slowly, the future will belong to the individualistic expressionist designer. Style and trend will be towards the individual, making every interior, a 'signature design,'" he concludes on a positive note.

MGS Architecture June 2014