We chatted with local designers to bring you this year’s hottest trends in the area.
by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace
After college, Mary Stewart, Tupelo native, moved to New York. There, she worked in the fashion industry.
“That’s kind of how I got my start in merchandising and dealing with a lot of fabrics,” she said. “It’s kind of a crossover in a way.”
When she moved back, she started working for Staggs Interiors as a designer, and has been there for the past nine years.
“I love it, every day is different,” she said. “And I love seeing all the new things come in and different looks working with different clients. Everyday is different and interesting, and no project is the same.”
When Stewart first joined this remodel, the dining room was originally the house’s living room. But with some adjustments, it’s been reinvisioned.
“Now it’s a completely open room,” she says, “where it was previously very closed off.”
Stewart has noticed her clients leaning more and more toward open spaces and doesn’t see this trend ending any time soon.
“There’s lots of light, it’s just real open,” she said. “There’s a lot of sight lines in there, where you can see a lot of the different rooms. It’s kind of like a pass-through, I guess I would say, you get to enjoy it a lot more than a lot of closed-off dining rooms are. And it’s vaulted, so it just feels really airy and open.”
With this house in particular, Stewart is seeing an uptick in almost minimalist decoration styles.
“But it’s full of different textures, lots of neutrals,” she said. “With that look, you pull in different textures and it makes it interesting and it’s a little bit more kind of modern, but there’s still a lot of natural wood elements in the house, so it makes it warmer and just more comfortable. It’s not a harsh modern look, just real natural.”
Mixing textures with some neutrals –– Stewart said grays are fading out more, though they’re still entirely doable, but usually mixed with other neutrals, no more “gray on gray on gray on gray” –– varying wood tones, and a few rich colors is a way to “keep it real simple and streamlined.”
To add a few fun elements, Stewart said she’s seeing a lot of patterned tiles, particularly in laundry rooms or powder rooms.
“Really pretty pattern tile on the floor is very popular right now,” she said. “It’s kind of like that throwback-vintage look that a lot of people are doing.”
This laundry room was made with the homeowners’ dogs in mind, as they had a dog shower built. The room’s floor is covered in tile, along with the walls.
“It was a place to do something kind of fun in there,” she said. “Just rich colors, there are some tans and rich green colors. It’s really warm and it would be a place I would want to do laundry –– it’s a neat room.”
Stewart is excited to see more clients with fun ideas. She said since everyone has been spending extra time at home, “they’re really looking at all of their spaces.”
“(People are) maybe investing more in their home than they would have previously,” she said. “Being home a lot, they spend more time on Pinterest and the internet and looking at magazines, so they’re getting more ideas and just getting more interested in decorating in general.”
Because her clients have been “immersing themselves in it right now,” when they come to the store, she’s seeing more people who want to buy things off the showroom.
“People are so interested in updating, that if we have it on the floor, they want to buy it off the floor,” she said. “They don’t want to wait 12 or 14 weeks for something to come in.”
This seems particularly true, due to the domino effect of delays in the industry.
Susan Webb majored in interior design at Mississippi State University. After graduation, she took a break from designing and went to work for an organization in Dallas. When she decided to get back into it, she did so by starting at a furniture store there in Dallas, eventually moving to Birmingham. There, she started Susan Webb Design Resources in 2004, “wanting just to be a resource to people,” she said. “I wanted to help them get their fingerprints on a project.”
In 2009, she moved her business to Tupelo, and has been taking on residential and commercial projects since.
Over the years, Webb has seen fewer and fewer clients leaning toward carpet, and more people buying in on hard-surface floors. Whether it’s hardwood, as seen in this house, or concrete, “we’re seeing the carpet less and less,” she said. “It’s always a cleanable floor, almost without exception.”
Webb continues to see a draw to open-concept floor plans: Moving the kitchen, dining and living rooms into one large area, perfect for entertaining. Along with that, she’s seen builders and homeowners gravitate more toward clean lines in “the trim, like the baseboard and crown mold –– we’re still doing that, but lots of times it’s real simple lines.”
Accent colors are still a thing Webb is seeing regularly –– whether it’s a kitchen island, a singular wall, or even wallpaper, which she says is making a comeback. Don’t worry, it’s nothing like the stuff at your grandmother’s house that hasn’t been touched since the ‘80s.
“It’s the newest thing, you see a good many geometric (patterns),” she says, “but you might see some sort of floral design, but it’s not going to be what you think of –– it’s going to be something fresh.”
The biggest trend Webb has noticed is due to the pandemic. Because everyone has been spending extra time at home –– whether it’s due to working from home, schooling from home or just traveling less –– she says many people are finally getting to those problemed areas in their homes
“They just got to where they didn’t want to think about it anymore, they wanted to do something,” she said.
Whether it’s creating a home office, a study space for the kids or just tackling that one room that’s been haunting them, homeowners aren’t slowing down.
Due to the increased number of projects, the supply in the home goods, furniture and appliance world has increased, dramatically.
“Every decision is like a little domino,” Webb said. “It affects every other decision.”
Webb guesses that part of the issue, especially in the furniture arena, is that workers are rarely cross-trained for other jobs in the factories.
“Their people aren’t cross-trained for the most part,” she said. “They’re just not set up to have a lot of people out, and then when you got this pandemic and they had to close for a while, and then get back up and get going, I think that’s the reason for the delays.”
Along with that, a lot of companies are switching to “just-in-time manufacturing.” What this looks like: Instead of housing fabrics they’ll need in their own warehouse, they move forward with all furniture orders, and call the fabric vendor about a week or two before they’ll need the fabric in-house. It cuts down on extra manufacturing costs, because “it takes space and money,” to store the fabric.
When a customer places an order, the manufacturer is likely calling ahead to the fabric vendor, and asking if they have the amount of product they’ll need. In the moment, the vendor probably does; but between when the order is placed and when the fabric is needed, something happens.
“I can’t cast a lot of blame,” she said. “I just think we live in a little crazy world.”
Because of certain things being unavailable when needed, manufacturers are forced to go to customers, and ask them to reselect a new fabric, in this case. Which Webb said is problematic, because she and her clients have to look at every other decision to make sure everything will still fit together in the end.
“I mean, you have to rethink it all,” she said. “It’s very time consuming.”
The process is really setting delivery dates back. Webb said for the house featured, they placed the furniture order on July 29, and it wasn’t delivered until Feb. 1.
Webb said these effects can be seen in every other aspect of home manufacturing: from lighting, to flooring, appliances, shipping, even the subcontractors. She called someone at the beginning of February to redo a client’s bathtub and shower, and the soonest she could be scheduled was in April.
Webb brought up another woman she knows, who just built a house. Their move-in date was quickly approaching, but all their ordered appliances were nowhere near delivery.
“She ended up finding them in stock in Texas, and is getting them shipped in,” Webb said. “‘Cause her house is done, and she’s got a family and she needs appliances.”
Usually, Webb recommends customers place orders three months ahead of when they’d like to see their shipment; now, she’s recommending people “budget their time differently right now,” and they should plan for six months instead.
“I think for the most part, people have figured out how to work in the midst of wearing masks or socially distancing, so things are beginning to get back to normal,” she said. “I think six months is probably an overestimation, but I’d rather do that (because) it could be having a brand-new wonderful home and nothing to put in it.”
If the six months does prove to be an overestimation, Webb says “generally, most local vendors will hold the furniture in their warehouse until you need it, if it should get in early.” But her biggest advice is to buy ready-made if you can; if you can’t, don’t wait a single day to place an order.
“If somebody’s in dire need for something, then you’ve got to go find things that are in stock, and that’s hard to find,” she said. “Sometimes online, I can find things that are ready to ship, but there’s some gamble with that, because you’re buying just based on a photograph, and you’re not completely sure of the quality of it. But again if somebody is in dire straits, you’ve just got to take some risks to fix the problem.”