Top Decorating Trends of 2012: Bright, Minimalist and Natural

If you’ve ever walked into a home with avocado or harvest gold appliances, shag carpeting or foil wallpaper – and shuddered at the sight – then you understand the importance of keeping your home up-to-date. While you may not want your home to feature all the hottest trends all the time (it would be expensive as well as exhausting), it is possible to give your rooms a slight facelift with new paint, furniture and accessories. You wouldn’t wear your polyester leisure suit or shoulder pads to the office, so why would you display your home in an outdated wardrobe?
Whether you’re redecorating a bathroom, kitchen or the master bedroom, cool, fresh and bright colors are on point for 2012, especially shades of turquoise and bright green. In fact, all tropical colors are big this year. Be inspired by the colors of the rainforest and Latin America, or the saturated shades in art by Frida Kahlo and Henri Matisse. Pure jewel tones like ruby, sapphire and emerald are also in vogue. Skip the monochromatic or muted schemes in favor of all-out color and bold combinations.

However, if bold isn’t your cup of tea, you can still be in style with neutral gray. All shades of gray, from charcoal to dove, are trendy in ’12 and work on everything from walls to furniture to soft goods, especially when paired with yellow -- one of the year’s hottest combos. Greige, a combination of gray and beige, remains popular, and the classic combination of black and white never goes out of style – especially when paired with one of 2012’s hip bright colors.

Animal prints are still big in 2012, as they have been for several years, and expect to see cat and owl motifs on everything from bedding to kitchenware. Don’t go too crazy with these items, though, since this trend probably won’t last into 2013.

If you’re not ready for bright pops of color, wood tones are still hot in 2012, especially reclaimed wood and wood in light, natural and blond finishes. Combine a variety of shades, grains and textures in your room to stay on trend. Using reclaimed wood also falls in line with one of 2012’s other trends -- sustainability. From organic cotton linens to FSC-certified wood furniture, design with an eye toward the environment remains in high demand.
Textures and Patterns
With the continued focus on sustainability and earth-friendly materials, it’s no surprise that natural elements and textures are big in 2012. Grass and grass-like textures have moved in from the outdoors; woven grass rugs, wall coverings and fabrics add a natural touch to any room.

Woven textures are also in vogue for 2012, especially in natural fabrics like linen or unusual materials like woven wood. Homespun fabrics are trendy as well. Rich knitted fabrics, patchwork designs and embroidery add texture and warmth to your home. When choosing patterns for upholstery and accessories, avoid big, bold floral prints in favor of smaller geometric prints.

At the same time, kitchens are veering toward the modern in 2012. Black, stainless steel, heavy-duty glass and an industrial design aesthetic are all at the forefront of design trends this year.
A few years ago, bigger was better when it came to everything from homes to the furniture inside them. Gone are the days of the behemoth entertainment centers and heavy armoires. Instead, look for scaled down pieces like tables, modern sofas and sectionals, as well as desks and chairs with clean, modern lines. Skip the heavy ornamentation and ornate designs – simple is better in 2012. Avoid dark mahogany or cherry wood finishes in favor of natural and light hues. Rustic, weathered furniture remains popular, so look for pieces featuring clean lines with bleached, wire brushed or gray-tinted finishes.

Another trend to watch in 2012 is customizable, individualized furniture. Even mass-produced items are now customizable. For example, you can arrange closets according to your personal storage needs and preferences using mass-market components. Modular furniture that can be moved around and customized whenever you want to change the look of a room is also popular.
Once you’ve painted your walls a trendy shade of greige or turquoise, add some flair with custom artwork. Bypass the boring landscape paintings, and instead hang a black and white or sepia tone photograph or a personal photo enhanced with a variety of artistic effects. Bigger is better with artwork; enlarge a favorite shot from your last vacation and have it framed and mounted for a one-of-a-kind piece that’s stylish and beautiful.

Even if it’s not in your budget to redecorate your entire home, try refreshing a room or two with a few trendy pieces. A few throw pillows, a coat of paint or a new furniture piece here and there can keep your home looking fresh instead of tired and dated.

Judith Stern began her interior design career as in-house designer to a prestigious furniture retailer. Today Judith and her family run Modern Furniture Classics in addition to several other furniture websites.