Four Decades Of Design – Asheville Interior Designer Reveals The Elements That Have Shaped Design Over the Past 40 Years

Posted on | November 8, 2017 | No Comments

At North Carolina Design, we often try to peek forward in time to see what exciting new design elements are on the horizon. But, there is also great value in reflecting on the past, to see how it has shaped the present. Asheville interior design firm Ambiance Interiors recently celebrated its 40 year anniversary, which means that owner Kathryn Long has been crafting beautiful, elegant, and tasteful designs for four decades. Today, Kathryn takes us through those decades by sharing photos of projects past. Many of these projects won her ASID Design Excellence Awards, and all are close to her heart.

Images Courtesy of Ambiance Interiors ©

“You can see right away when a design is from the 80s,” Kathryn concedes. “First of all, you have all of the florals. We have a huge library of fabrics, and in the 80′s it was heavy on florals. You also have the toiles, and the pattern matching. What’s interesting is that these elements are actually still around. Florals are still popular, although now we have stylized, tone-on-tone florals. We still do pattern matching, but it looks very different today. We still have toilles, but the fabrics are different.”

The 90s brought about a heavy European design influence. “We began to see a lot of French, Italian and English-inspired elements during this decade,” Kathryn notes. “In the very early 90′s, we saw a lot of Country French style. It was a fresh, light, very charming style, characterized by light woods, soft blues and yellows, and plaids mixed with florals. I have fond memories of this time period – I spent a lot of time in France, and I purchased artwork there that I used in my designs.

“There were a lot of other elements that characterized the early 90′s. You had these masculine leathers, and these very textural fabrics. Tapestry fabrics were very popular for upholstery. Large armoires became very popular – the aesthetic fit in well, and people could hide away the big, boxy TVs that we still had in that decade. Painted decorative elements also became popular, like grapes and grape leaves on kitchen walls.”

The 90′s also marked the beginning of several new design ideas that are still in use today. “This is when the idea of using reclaimed wood came about,” Kathryn observes. “It’s also when we started to see kitchen islands that looked like furniture. The late 90s was when people began to place a great deal of importance on natural light, and when they began to focus on a smarter use of space, and create spaces that flowed into one another.”

The early 2000′s brought new decorative detail changes. Linens replaced chintzes as a fabric of choice, and painted furniture took off in popularity. There were also changes in a broader sense. “You started to see a turn toward a simpler design, with some simpler, more timeless elements,” says Kathryn. “A more eclectic style started to emerge. Unfortunately, resources were still fairly limited, especially when it came to lighting. If you wanted a chandelier that would stand out, you would have to have it custom made.

“By the mid-2000′s, eclectic style had become very big. People really saw an opportunity to personalize their homes with eclectic decorative choices. This was also the period of time where certain details that are familiar to us now first became popular, like woven fabrics and the beloved farmhouse sink.”

Today’s design styles are a further evolution of those in the 2000′s, with a more streamlined approach, and the added benefit of increased resources. “Things have become more simplified, and there isn’t as much layering,” Kathryn affirms. “We are still seeing an eclectic style, but now we have so many more options. Thanks to technological advances, we can have larger windows that allow in abundant light. We can have higher quality fixtures in a much wider range of styles. We can have beautiful, and highly functional lighting options.”

Kathryn notes that, while trends have come and gone, some things are forever. “Florals and toiles will always be around,” she says. “Good reproductions are timeless. Good design principles never change. But the most important unchanging factor of design comes down to comfort. We can talk about trend histories, but our homes are really an expression of our own personal evolution. Finding a home that you love, bringing in your personal history, making it yours – that’s comfort. And, I always say, life is too short to not be comfortable.”

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