Neutrals with pops of color, dramatic lighting lead trends for 2014
Author: Stacy Wiedower
Publisher: Commercial Appeal

Color blocking. Black and white. Neutral walls punctuated by strategic jolts of color. If there's one word that can sum up home décor in 2014, it's contrast.

"One thing that we've really noticed is a clean, crisp, deliberate approach to color," said Lana Zepponi, vice president of interior design at Germantown's Chestnut Hall Furniture & Interiors. "We're using strong colors and higher contrast — less tone-on-tone, monochromatic blending and more of an intentional high contrast."

Picture a room where one item — a bold rug, a statement sofa, a large-scale art piece — zings with color so bright it defines the room's palette, even if the walls are white, gray or greige. That's the way to make a statement this year.

"A few years ago, when you'd see brighter colors, you would see the same tones throughout a room," said interior designer Stacy McSpadden, also with Chestnut Hall. "Now you're not seeing that as much. You're seeing a single pop."

Maybe that's why the Pantone color of the year is "radiant orchid," a vivid, in-your-face lilac. It's a shade that can easily overpower a room if used in a heavy-handed way. The same goes for other colors populating store shelves in 2014.

"Radiant orchid may be the official color of 2014, but definitely shades of blue are in also," said Cameron Meek, director of

merchandising for Stash Home in East Memphis. "Navy, cobalt, light blue. Shades of green from bright turquoise to emerald. Pops of mustard."

Meek guides her clientele toward neutrals for larger upholstered pieces, creating a clean palette for experimenting with accessories.

"Then you can sort of have a chameleon effect by adding in pops of color through pillows," she said. "Instead of one look all the time, you have an interchangeable design and can get a new look and feel with pillows and accessories."

Neutral doesn't necessarily mean beige, though. Colors like gray, greige (a combo of gray and beige, just like it sounds) and even navy blue are the "new neutrals" heading into the new year.

"Soft upholstery is definitely still in, and corduroy upholstery is also in," Meek said. "At Stash, we have a navy upholstered cushy couch. Simple, classic, clean lines with a twist. Maybe a bit of an edge, like a more modern arm."

Kitchens have an edge these days, too, with high-contrast color schemes ruling the day in this room as much as any other. Dark countertops with white or light cabinetry are what clients want, said Carol Jameson, a certified master kitchen and bath designer with Premier Countertops and More in Olive Branch.

"White, cream, lighter stains — those never really go away," Jameson said. "They're just timeless. But people are seeing contrast as a better option, and so they're going with dark countertops — going with blacks on white cabinets, going with darker countertops on the lighter stains. And that's just a really classy look."

Openness in the kitchen is a trend with staying power. Large open-plan kitchens and hearth rooms have been popular for a while, but now, even cabinetry is opening up.

"You're going to see a lot of open shelves, glass doors, display areas," Jameson said. "A lot of people in the past have been afraid to have cabinets where you can see what's on the inside, but I think what they're realizing is it actually opens up the kitchen more, makes it brighter and more personable."

The kitchen remains the hub of the house, the center of family life and the spot where guests gather.

"I think kitchens with keeping rooms and bigger and better bathrooms are always going to be around," said architect David M. Schuermann, president of Memphis-based Architecture Inc. "That's not anything new, but everyone still wants that open feeling in their kitchen. Even in our Midtown homes, we're combining spaces and creating that feeling of home and hearth."

One trend Schuermann has noticed gaining strength is the prevalence of sustainable products and design features in the residential market. Reclaimed woods. Locally sourced products. Low-voltage lighting. Bamboo.

"Sustainable design has finally leaked down to the residential market," he said. "It seems after kind of forcing it through the commercial market, it's becoming more natural in the residential market. We're seeing a lot more people wanting it, and it really doesn't cost that much more."

In one recent residential project, a Midtown renovation, Schuermann's team skipped over Formica and granite and instead crafted countertops out of centuries-old heart pine salvaged from a nearby commercial building.

"The building was built around 1880, and the timbers were probably 100 years old when the building was built," he said. "It really makes for a beautiful finish, even with the nail holes and the stains and the imperfections — they make it better looking, in my opinion."

Rustic finishes, in general, are hotter than ever in 2014. Designers and homeowners are mixing styles and coining new terms like "rustic contemporary" and "modern traditional." In that right-now kitchen with white cabinetry and black countertops, Jameson said, there's nothing more chic than an antique farmhouse table.

"I see it everywhere," she said. "People are starting to realize they can repurpose old furniture in their kitchens. They can still have that clean, contemporary look but add a wonderful piece of old furniture that looks like it's been there for ages."

Lighting is another way rustic and even industrial design is making its way into residential interiors. Meek advises homeowners to take a fearless approach to lighting, especially when it comes to the mix.

"Don't be afraid to make a big statement with your lighting," she said. "It could be a key element in the room. One way to make that happen is to mix something contemporary with something old-world."

This year is an exciting time for lighting, Schuermann added. Changes in federal energy standards are changing the products available on the market, and homeowners and designers alike are still feeling out the impact those changes are making on interiors.

"As a designer, it takes a whole different kind of mindset to think about lighting, because you have so many new opportunities," Schuermann said. "It's one of those things that started in the commercial market, but it's definitely found its way to the residential market."

Lighting plays a key role in setting the mood of a space, and the overriding mood in 2014 interiors, Zepponi said, is drama. In a house they designed for the West Tennessee Home Builders Association's VESTA Home Show in November, Zepponi and McSpadden included elements like accent walls, metallic ceilings and bold colors on key pieces of furniture.