Sheltering in Peace

Soothing, soft, sustainable and stylish design trends for 2020.


If you’re looking for some extra rest and relaxation during this strange season, you’ll find plenty of peace in the spring offerings popping up at home decor retailers.

Two of the biggest trends at home furnishings trade shows earlier this year were pop-culture maximalism and modern minimalism. The former is loaded with vibrant imagery and color; the exuberant designs are upbeat and uplifting. The latter, however, is for those who want their home to be a sanctuary. This is clean, modern decor with a handcrafted, soul-nourishing approachability, replete with nature references and sublime palettes.

“We’re surrounded by the whirring din of contemporary life,” says Jorge S. Arango, a Portland, Maine-based interiors stylist and co-author of seven design books. “It’s no wonder we want things that are simple and real, with hand-hewn textures that reassure us of a connection to our humanity.” He’s seeing the trend at all price ranges.

“We’re craving products with the authenticity of natural materials, organic forms and warm tones of white,” he says. “Cream, ivory and vanilla, rather than starkly antiseptic shades, are plain, honest and uncomplicated.”

At this winter’s Ambiente in Frankfurt, Germany, one of the world’s largest consumer goods trade fairs, “Shaped and Softened” was a trend, with the watchwords “subtle, restful, coherent and restrained.” The palette evoked melty ice creams, warm earth and hazy summer skies.

Look for textiles with soft nap and weave like cashmere or boucle; linen; knitted, crocheted and felted wool; vegan suede; shaggy sheepskin; vegetable-dyed velvet. Items with a sustainability backstory have growing appeal in a marketplace that has often favored the replaceable.

Leftover alpaca, cotton and wool scraps are re-spun into cream and black camp-style blankets at Blacksaw. These hardworking heritage pieces could also be hung on a wall as artwork.

Longevity is part of the plan, says Blacksaw’s founder, Kyle Taylor.

“The blankets started out as a vessel for design that had no expiry date. A blanket would be passed on for generations, it would become a meaningful possession. One of the things in your life that was worthy of taking up space,” Taylor says.

The interplay of light with decoration is part of the season’s softer side, too. Hammered, buffed metals, like Target’s Linberg brass side table, are soft to touch and have a pleasing glow. Horchow has brass and silver pendant and table fixtures; pierced patterning turns them into magic lamps.

Rattan and caning are in every retailer’s spring furniture lineup. They let light travel through chair backs and room dividers, easing the footprint of these pieces in a room. Woven seagrass and paper rope make for rustic yet featherweight pendants and storage boxes at Target.

Matte finishes on ceramics mute the material’s hardness. At Year and Day, find Portuguese clay vessels and plates in hues like midnight, fog, moon and daybreak.

Buffing or sanding glass vases, vessels, plates and decorative objects gives them an ethereal translucence. CB2 has onyx bowls and tea light holders from Bali and Thailand.

Siberian-born artist Anastasiya Koshcheeva has her studio, Moya, in Berlin, but harvests birch bark from her home country’s forests using methods that she says don’t harm the trees. She fashions the bark into little boxes, light fixtures and even lounge chairs; and she ships them worldwide.

And then there’s pattern. If the counterpoint trend this spring is 1980s power prints and bold Dutch florals, here we’re looking at discreet, understated illustrations that celebrate the organic.

Look for Impressionist, photographic and field study images of flowers at Ballard Designs. Unfussy folk-art embroidery and earth-toned pieced panels are on throw pillows at West Elm and Target.

Watery glazes on pottery by Berlin-based artist Anna Badur evoke frothy waves and tide pools.

Finnish artist Teemu Jarvi creates ink-pen illustrations of wild mushrooms, animals, trees and rivers on paper, wool and cotton items. The artist says he was inspired by the Japanese practice of “forest bathing,” restorative walks in the woods.

“I want my illustrations to calm you down and make you feel good, happy and grounded,” he says. “I think nature has such power to enhance well-being.”

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