National Design Trends Get Southern Twist

By Lee Rennick

Interior design in the South, while picking up on national trends, has its own aesthetic. Southern design always has at least a toehold in tradition and nurtures a sense of place and history.

“Even if you are designing in a rustic chic, global, or minimalist style,” said Deborah Belcher, Department Chair of Human Sciences at Middle Tennessee State University, “there is a strong sense of family and classic style in Southern design.”

Still, Belcher noted, current interior design trends are as strong in the South as they are in the rest of the country due to Social Media.

“It used to be that it would take up to five years for a trend to filter from the east or west coasts to the South,” said Belcher, “but now it takes about six months.” She would know, she is a 30-year member of ASID with experience in residential and commercial design focusing on preservation. She did work all over the south before moving into higher education.

The strongest current home design trends are: sustainability; the use of texture to create a sense of depth and interest; bringing nature inside; the creation of a relaxing haven separate from the rest of the world; and the introduction of Asian influences due to the increase in globalization.

How these trends are applied in this part of the country is unique. Sherwin-Williams, the paint company, has been asked by a national bank to develop a pallet of colors to use on the exterior of their branches for each different part of the country, according to Dwight LeClair, Architectural Services with Sherwin-Williams.

“People respond to color differently in different parts of the country,” said LeClair. “We are asked to develop regional color pallets for many different companies with offices all over the United States.”

According to research done by Houzz, trends are responded to differently, not only by region, but also by generation. Millennials will apply a trend a bit differently than a Baby Boomer.


The color of the year for 2017 is “Greenery,” chosen every year by Pantone. According to the Pantone website, “Greenery is a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew.” It is the perfect color for this year, as reviving, restoring, and renewing old furniture, fabrics, wood, and other items is at the heart of the sustainability trend for the Southern home. According to Belcher, this is about rethinking how to use antique and vintage items - often family heirlooms.

There are many unique ways to use family heirlooms: turning an old Victrola phonograph player into a bar, using an old door over the mantle as a piece of art, or having one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture made out of something having great meaning. For example, having the legs of a dining room table made from the front porch posts of a great-grandparent’s home, then using reclaimed lumber to create the top of the table. Painted mis-matched “found” wood chairs can add charm to the look.



The seven elements of interior design are space, line, form, light, color, pattern, and texture. Texture is taking the front seat.

Look in any current interior design magazine and you will see lots of white rooms, with layers and layers of texture created by weaving together a complex symmetry created by the interplay of different fabrications, lighting, interesting accessories, and patterns to bring a sense of depth.

With Houzz research showing that contemporary styling is moving ahead of transitional, especially in the kitchen, texture becomes very important. Contemporary styling is all about the interplay of texture. The Houzz 2017 Kitchen Remodeling Trend Report shows that in kitchen remodels, sleek white cabinets and butcher block countertops are gaining momentum, especially with Millennials. This is often paired with smooth white pottery and white linen table runners.

Texture is also being created with richly colored fabrics like velvets, silks, flocked-wovens, and large-knits. These fabrics are being paired with dark wood floors and warm gray walls, with an accent wall using wallpaper or flooring.

Reclaimed wood is massively popular for accent walls because of its rich texture, but with all of the new technology available to flooring manufacturers, wood, and stone-look tile is gaining popularity for use on accent walls, as well as luxury vinyl tile wood planks. Luxury vinyl tile planks are a great choice for kids rooms, mudrooms, and laundry rooms where there are lots of dirty fingers or moisture.

Bringing Nature Inside

Remodeling is on the rise, and according to the Houzz report, 20% of kitchens remodels are being done to be more open to the outdoors.  This can mean everything from replacing smaller, older windows with larger windows that bring in more light and views of nature, to adding French doors that open into a backyard living space.

Southerners are bringing nature into their homes by using more natural fabrications, like sisal rugs. Sisal is a dried grass that provides a room with texture. A sisal rug can be used to cover the bulk of a wood floor to create a sense of intimate space, and then a smaller rug, such as a vintage Persian, can be layered over the top.

Another way to bring in nature is the use of plants. Live plants improve the air quality in a home.

Designers are also using collections, like of seashells or paintings of flowers. Baskets, organic shaped furniture, and even the use of real branches as part of a window treatment can create a blur between outside and in. Creatinga


Personal Haven

With the world moving faster and faster, architects and designers are being asked by clients to build areas in the home that are relaxing, and often technology free.

Color affects us in many ways psychologically. Amanda Farris, a designer with Sherwin-Williams, notes that we are seeing more blues and blue-grays on walls because these colors, along with greens, are relaxing, while colors like red are stimulating.

Millennials are more drawn to the gray toned colors that have replaced beige as the color of choice for residential walls according to Houzz. Baby Boomers are still more drawn to warmer beige toned colors.

Homes are becoming both havens from the world outside, and personal statements. In this part of the country you are going to see more of some colors than others because they have a history. Indigo, teal and navy are the “hot” blue colors this year, but in the South you will see more slate blue, which calls to mind Colonial Williamsburg.

Slate blue is great as a ceiling color. Some designers suggest using the color on the ceiling and having the ceiling as the “accent” in the room instead of one of the walls.

Southern Living Online offers a list of colors found more often in Southern homes. These colors include a dove-like gray, a barn red, Charleston Green (which is almost black), and the hottest regions (such as homes in the Garden District of New Orleans) use more shades of pink and peach in their interior design.

Using inviting colors and a blend of new and antique furniture, Southern designers are creating homes that address the personality and the needs of their clients, instead of a cookie-cutter look often seen in the past. As a matter of fact, modern designers cringe at the thought of a store-bought matching suite of furniture. Design is now about merging old and new into a look and feel that reflects the needs and tastes of the home’s owners.

Be A Little Exotic

Shabby chic is gone, but pulling a touch of bohemian flair into a home is the latest casual-look trend. This can mean displaying art, furniture or décor that has been acquired while traveling, or finding unique new, used or antique pieces from Asia. A touch of the exotic is a new must-have.

From tossing a Kantha quilt made from old sari’s over a chaise, to bring in a black lacquer end table – Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, and Indian fabrics, artwork and furniture are finding their way into more Southern homes.

Asian-made home goods are still often handmade. When shopping for these items, look for those made by fair-trade craft collectives, these collectives provide families with living wages in countries where many do not receive living wages for their work. Companies selling fair-trade goods appeal to Millennials, who prefer to buy from businesses that have a sense of social responsibility.

Southern Flair

What makes these trends Southern is how they are applied in individual homes. One or all of these ideas can be employed when remodeling, or simply giving your home an update with some new furniture, a new coat of paint, or new home accessories.

The end objective is to fill your home with things you love that create a relaxing atmosphere where you, friends, and family can enjoy your time together.