Home & Garden

Tucson home design trends for 2014: industrial is in, but shabby chic still works

As the last calendar page falls away, and the urge to make New Year’s resolutions emerges full force, it’s nice to move forward with a clean slate. Away go the holiday decorations and extra calorie-laden snacks and home go the relatives. Suddenly, the house is emptier and we may notice that old (fill in the blank) looks really tired. Is it time to redecorate? Let’s look ahead toward new ideas for home in Tucson.

Vintage brass pieces look fresh again. Left, 1980s brass vase by J. Johnston. Right, mid-century candlestick by Ben Seibel (Jenni Steinberg Pagano)
Vintage brass pieces look fresh again. Left, 1980s brass vase by J. Johnston. Right, mid-century candlestick by Ben Seibel (Jenni Steinberg Pagano)

I am not a big follower of trends, believing that everyone should have a home that suits their aesthetic, not that of a fickle design magazine. That being said, however, there are national, perhaps global, mood changes. In my opinion, authenticity is at the heart of what we are trying to achieve now. We crave honest, natural and casual materials. The economy’s recent rise and fall has shown us that bigger, newer and shinier isn’t necessarily better. At home, this translates into a preference for more subtle oil-finished woods rather than glossy lacquered wood veneer. Faux finishes are not as popular as they were, and metals are appreciated as is, without needing southwest designs punched in them. The DIY (do it yourself) movement has reached mainstream proportions and the aesthetic of handmade has never been more popular.

Earth-saving materials and technology will continue to grow and become more ubiquitous. So if you want your home improvements to stand the test of time, be sure to check out faucets that save water, counters that are made with recycled products and floors made from sustainable resources. I don’t believe concrete floors will ever fall out of favor here in Tucson. Granite counters imported from across the globe are not the be-all and end-all anymore, and especially the highly patterned ones are becoming less desired. Durable counters made with recycled glass are gorgeous and chic.

Regardless of style, many interiors seen today are fairly neutral, with lots of wood tones and just a pop of color. While I am by no means afraid of color (in the ’90s I had a red sofa and purple chairs against a lime green wall), I have toned down my use of color lately, as I seem to prefer a calmer environment. Orange accents are my favorite color du jour. One can use a bright tangerine or a subtle terra cotta; both work in our desert homes. Need color inspiration? Just walk outside! There are gorgeous greens in the agave and palo verdes, and desert flowers abound with color. If brights are not your favorites, then add grayed or browned versions of color. Pastel peach is not the only way to go.

Wallpapers are really gathering attention as accents. But please use them in small doses. No need to do every room. Try a wall of gorgeous pattern in a hallway or something subtle in a powder room. For the most stylish look, avoid border prints or small patterns. Take a deep breath and go big!

Industrial style is here for the long haul. Epitomized by rustic finishes and a warehouse-like simplicity, this is the look you see in many of the new hip downtown spaces. This leads to an eclectic decorating style, because you just aren’t going to find a “warehouse style” sofa. Leather works well and gives warmth to an industrial look. I prefer my leather in natural tones. Slipcovered upholstery is also still going strong. The draped look of slipcovered furniture warms up raw woods and metals to balance out rustic finishes. A surprise source for cool accessory pieces can be hardware stores. Try a workhorse stool in the kitchen or a tool box to store your treasures.

If your home is what I call “Phoenix Tuscan” style, you may find yourself wanting to brighten it up a bit. The burgundy accents you added a decade ago may be feeling a little heavy and formal. Try adding white into the mix. Wood and white, leather and white, stone and white, linen and white all look very fresh now, even in a traditional style. Instead of brocade fabrics, try an ethnic textile. Take out some of the “faux” finishes for something simpler and you may find yourself falling in love with your living room again.

The affair with mid-century modern styles continues. I like to keep it eclectic. (I am just not disciplined enough to maintain a sparse modern aesthetic.) Finding vintage pieces secondhand is authentic and less expensive. A mid-century walnut sideboard in the dining room along with a bright painted table and new metal chairs feels just right to me now. Tucson has a large supply of houses built in the ’50s and ’60s and those homes are a natural fit for mid-century style. It is a little harder to pull off in the larger spaces of the ’90s tract homes. If you are having that trouble, try going LARGE. Add a new big sofa or a huge piece of art to help balance the smaller ’50s-era pieces.

I thought that the shabby chic look was going to die with the popularity of modern. But with the advent of chalk or plaster paint, the look of painted, slightly distressed furniture is staying with us. Honestly, it is a very appropriate look for Tucson. Look back in the AJP archives here http://1strate2ndhand.org/2013/03/refinish-thrift-store-treasures-with-plaster-paint/ for a tutorial on this great technique. Finished with a coat of wax, the paint is very durable and easy to do yourself. No need to keep the shabby look only in whites and pastels. Tucson homes can handle the bright barrio colors with style.

Though the popularity of industrial looks is going to keep stainless steel and nickel finishes around for a bit, brass is back. To keep if from feeling too ’80s, use it in small doses. A few furniture knobs, a candlestick or two or a couple of accessories. Perhaps a gorgeous brass faucet in a mostly gray and white space. Avoid overly polished pieces unless your house is very urbane and elegant. (That leggy neoclassical look I see in many magazines looks fabulous in New York City or the South where the architecture is more traditional. Here, it looks to me like someone moved all their belongings from elsewhere.) For Tucson, I like brass pieces that are clearly modern in shape, or pieces that are quite tarnished and industrial.

An old typewriter stand (“before,” at left, and in progress with imitation gold leaf) will make a handy bar cart.
An old typewriter stand (“before,” at left, and in progress with imitation gold leaf) will make a handy bar cart.

h&g_gold-leaf-in-progress-for-wI love to “confuse” things; mix high and low all at once. I have a few wonderful old typewriter stands that are useful little tables to have around. The one pictured here was painted when I got it, and the rusty red paint will make a wonderful base coat for gold leaf. I think I will use this as a portable bar cart. I love the mix of office/industrial in a finish usually reserved for high end furniture or carved antiques. For a metal leaf tutorial, go here: https://azjewishpost.com/2012/gilding-turns-thrift-store-finds-into-treasures/.

If brass is not your cup of tea, try copper! Arizona is a big producer of copper, and it will always look appropriate in our homes. Try sheet copper for a kitchen backsplash, or a vintage copper tub to hold your copy of the Arizona Jewish Post before it is time to take out the recycling.

Jenni Pagano is an interior designer and former manager of 1st Rate 2nd Hand Thrift Store. Got a design dilemma? She can be reached at jenni@paganodesignworks.com.