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4 Absolutely Must-Know Interior Design Trends for 2016

07 Jan 2016

Design Trends

4 absolutely must know interior design trends for 2016

You’ve heard the rumours about the next big thing in interior design. You’ve taken them with a big pinch of salt. Are they merely the marketing ploys of furniture giants kick-starting their New Year sales? Are they simply last year’s trends renamed and recycled? We spoke to the people who keep their collective ears to the ground, listening to the rumblings of overseas movements and local demands, the interior designers themselves. Find out what’s on the way out, and what’s on the way in.


Let’s take a look at the current landscape. The same-old, same-old trends of minimalist, Scandinavian, retro/mid-century-modern and industrial chic continued to dominate the market in 2015. Cafes-that-look-like-homes and homes-that-look-like-cafes are still popping up in the pages of interior design magazines, journals and portals. Knock-offs of ‘mid-century-modern’ furniture can be found in every furniture retailer’s showroom and online store. You know the look – anything with ‘pencil legs’ and upholstery in natural, knobbly materials passes off as an ‘on-trend must-have’ addition to every contemporary urban home.

Well, here’s the good news and the bad, or perhaps the merely predictable. Almost all of the interior designers we asked cited the ongoing trend of Scandinavian design, and the larger umbrella of ‘mid-century modern’, as two trends that are here to stay.

Their answer begs the question – what exactly is Scandinavian design? And what is mid-century modern?

Though there appear to be some grey areas, and several variants within the genre, most agree that Scandinavian design is typified by an abundance of light wood, light walls, natural materials, pared-down and disciplined Danish (or pseudo-Danish) design, and the colour blue.

Due to the rise in global awareness of the merits of Danish design in the 60s, many laypeople confuse Scandinavian design with ‘mid-century modern’. To be fair, the two overlap in their heavy use of natural materials and their underpinning desire to blend the man-made with the natural.

As for mid-century modern, the much-misunderstood term technically describes artistic movements that arose between 1933 and 1965, though in common parlance it is almost always associated with the styles of the 50s and 60s, especially Scandinavian design. In architecture and interior design, it is typified by open spaces, ample windows and natural materials.

Passéas they may be, both Scandinavian design and mid-century modern design, separately or interwoven, are easy to apply to any space, and easy to live with. By dint of their common embrace of nature, both suit our tropical climate perfectly.



Of the major interior design firms we approached, almost all cited ‘industrial’ or ‘industrial chic’ as the most overrated trend of 2015.

“For me, the most overrated trend is industrial-themed interiors,” said Lanesty C. Asilo, Senior Interior Designer at U-Home Interior Design when she spoke for many of her peers. “And we might see this trend continue next year,” she added

A spokesperson for Distinctidentity hypothesised that the trend was embraced partly because of its suitability for our tropical weather. “Industrial-inspired design has always existed and is in fact very common in small and loft apartments in America. It became magnified and escalated when people realised the cold and rustic was appealing when relocated to our hot climate here,” he said.

Exposed pipes, naked light bulbs, cement screed floors, brick walls (most of them simulated with brick veneers), pallets as storage space… In fact, everything that was once hidden was bared, buck-naked and proud. It’s a look that the older generation observed quizzically – why would you spend good money to make an interior look unfinished? Perhaps they were right all along.



Among the diverse answers to the burning question of what will be the four most dominant interior design trends in the coming year, there was definite duplication. Though designers described the same trends in different words, the gist of it was clear. Two absolutely must-know trends of 2016 will be ‘natural‘ and ‘geometric‘.

Another trend tipped to tickle the fancy of local homeowners has been hailed as the successor to Scandinavian. Variously described as ‘coastal resort‘ and ‘Santorini style‘, it is typified by whitewashed walls and shades of blue, especially cobalt blue and turquoise.

And the fourth trend is… barely a trend, but more of a mash-up of every trend. Some call it ‘eclectic‘, others call it ‘mix and match‘, and still others call it ‘antique minimalist‘. The rules are – there are no rules. Though there are, of course, commonly accepted guidelines that, when followed, yield the best results.



In line with the global rise of the eco-citizen, and the new buzzword that is in every corporation’s mission and vision statements – sustainability, almost all of the interior designers surveyed cited the natural theme as one of the next big things on the interior design horizon.

A radical departure from the lingering trend of Scandinavian design it is not. In fact, the natural concept harks back to a trend that was big in the earlier part of the 90s – Balinese resort style. Its rawness and emphasis on authenticity also evoke certain elements of the rapidly fading industrial chic craze. Designers cited natural materials as the key element in this tipped-to-be-huge trend, from timber produced by sustainable forestry to raw minerals, uncut and unpolished.

“Raw wood is the key component. It can appear anywhere or everywhere within the entire interior,” stated Erin, the General Manager of Vegas Interior Design.

“While polished geodes attached to lucite bases have been all the rage, minerals are going au natural now. Watch out for bowls of pyrite on tables, big chunks of quartz used as display pieces and unpolished semi-precious stones turned into door pulls,” said Vincent Neo, a Director at Weiken.

Indoor gardens also got a good few mentions. Though vertical gardens and green walls are nothing new, their popularity continues to climb like a creeper up a trellis. Central garden courtyards, usually confined to commercial buildings where space permits such luxuries, are also enjoying a comeback. Evoking memories of the air-wells that are key elements of shophouses, central courtyards provide welcome natural ventilation and lighting in our tropical climate.

Since the constraints of HDB flats are considerable, most flat-dwellers make do with a row of potted plants in the corridor, or a window box of herbs in their kitchens, as a nod to nature. But Lanesty C. Asilo of U-Home Interior Design does not see space as a barrier to being at one with nature. “This trend of bringing the outdoors in can make even small spaces cosy and comfy,” she said.

In the urban jungle of Singapore, it looks like the jungle is creeping back into our living spaces and into our lives.



The next key trend for 2016, as predicted by luminaries of the local interior design scene, is geometric patterns. The trend has links to the swinging 60s, when geometric wallpaper and textiles were hugely popular, and also to Peranakan-style homes with their geometric ceramic floor tiles and ventilation tiles.

“Geometric elements add rhythm and interest to interior design and décor and create stylish living space with simple shapes that are intriguing and captivating,” said a spokesperson for Distinctidentity.

The geometric trend can be seen as a backlash to the ongoing obsession with minimalism that has prevailed for the last two decades – in the Singapore market, at least. Though there is a strong practical argument in favour of minimalist décor in compact living spaces like HDB flats, many interior designers feel that it has become rather tired. When executed half-heartedly, it can look merely frugal or unfinished. When executed thoroughly, it can look cold and clinical.

As to where we will see geometrical patterns prevail, it seems that it could be anywhere and everywhere.

“Whether it is a backsplash, an intricately patterned floor or a countertop, fluid geometry is coming in strong,” said Vincent Neo of Weiken.

Lanesty C. Asilo of U-Home Interior confirmed her forecast: “We will see a lot of bold patterns and vectors this year, from patterned tiles to texturised walls.”

Indeed, geometric patterns may well be the maximalist answer to minimalist white walls and cement screed floors.



The third big trend for 2016 can be loosely described as ‘coastal resort’. Think sun-bleached Greek villas and luxe beach shacks, with white-washed walls and splashes of blue, evoking sea and sky.

Erin, from Vegas Interior Design, explains the marine theme as a natural evolution of Scandinavian design, which, as we know, is all about blending the indoors with the outdoors. The globalised version of Greek chic is typified by predominantly white interiors and splashes of blue, evoking the famous blue-domed buildings of Santorini. Compatible materials and features include mosaic murals, wrought iron, terracotta tiles and rough stucco surfaces.

“Viewed as a continuation of or replacement to the Scandinavian theme, the key to the entire concept is to create an interior that can blend well with its natural surroundings. Using lots of white, especially for the walls,creates a very bright interior,” said Erin.

Light, natural colours can be blended with blue and white to add a rustic, earthy charm to this crisp, cool combination. Cobbled courtyards, cement screed floors, light timber furniture and even bamboo all work well with Santorini style. It is not a difficult style to pull off. Essentially, you need simply remember that blue and white are the stars and everything else is a supporting act. Needless to say, seaside souvenirs such as shells, fishing nets, driftwood, and even paddles from old dinghies all blend beautiful in coastal resort-inspired interiors.



The fourth and final trend to watch out for in 2016 is eclectic style. More an absence of trends as opposed to a single trend, eclectic style eschews definition and is effectively a removal of all parameters and criteria.

Sounds simple? In reality, it is anything but. In fact, eclectic is arguably the most difficult style to pull off well. Done poorly, it can look like a mess of random stuff bought from a jumble sale. Done well, it can look artful, meaningful and original. It’s the style favoured by many international designers, primarily because it is a style that nobody else can imitate.

Ray Oh, a Designer with One Design Werkz, believes that eclectic style is ‘very Singaporean’. Perhaps a reflection of our multi-cultural identity and eventful though short history, it can be equal parts traditional and modern, rustic and urban, Asian and western.

“It’s very Singaporean to have it mixed. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder,” said Ray, on this anything-goes approach to interior design.

“If the owner expresses a desire to follow a new trend, we will propose to incorporate elements of the trend, but keep them to a minimum so that the design can have longevity.” The spokesperson for Distinctidentity, concurs. In fact, his firm actively discourages clients from slavishly following a single trend.

In keeping with this logic, Distinctidentity predicts that a style they call ‘antique minimalism’ will gain popularity in the coming year. “This can be a mixture of two concepts in one – a combination of minimalist design with a very few select pieces of antique furniture.”



There you have it – the four absolutely must-know interior design trends for 2016, as predicted by the leading lights of the local industry. Now all that remains to be said is, let’s wait and see.

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