Your home says a lot about you. It’s the place where you sleep at night, where you eat meals, where you raise your kids, and cuddle with pets and loved ones. It’s where you retreat after work—or maybe your home is where you work, too. What your home looks like is not only an expression of how you live, its design also directly impacts how well you do everything in your house and can actually enhance your sense of well-being.

Every year, the design industry introduces or revisits elements that keep your abode up-to-date and fresh. To tap into the trends for 2017, we consulted with Tama Bell of Tama Bell Design, a full-service design firm founded in 1998 and based in Sebastopol that specializes in space planning and architectural styling for residential and commercial spaces. Originally from Inverness, Bell mainly relies on a classic aesthetic that embodies the casual, California lifestyle.

We also spoke with Sonoma County native Cathy Hopkins of Saint Dizier Home, an interiors design firm, furniture and accessories shop. Located in Healdsburg since 1999, Saint Dizier curates a fresh mix of the traditional and modern, and Hopkins is devoted to sourcing unique items not found everywhere. Here, Bell and Hopkins fill us in on a few of the more inspiring design elements to look for—and what to avoid—in the year ahead and beyond, along with some valuable advice about getting started on your home design project.

It used to be that manmade elements really looked synthetic. But in recent years these low-maintenance materials have really come around. Advances in composite components mean that fake marble, faux wood, imitation slate and other copycats can be a more practical, less expensive alternative that appears indistinguishable from their real counterparts yet make spaces feel more livable and relaxed. Ceramic or porcelain tile emulates the organic grain and richness of hardwood flooring but with easier maintenance and greater longevity. Scratch and stain-resistant, engineered-quartz countertops are often recommended as more durable alternatives to granite and marble, while still looking distinctive and luxurious.

Textured cabinetry, especially in white, is making a comeback with refinements like wire-brushed white oak. Design experts are leaning towards natural, organic textures in general, with lighter floors, less dark woods and more simplicity. Distressed paint techniques and statement wallpapers also live on in the coming year. Look for contemporary, geometric patterns and seagrass or grasscloth wall coverings. Large format tiles in natural stone, or concrete tiles with pattern, are streamlining floors and extending visual interest away from walls. And while neutrals will never go out of style for interiors, look for tones in rich Kelly greens, deep navy blues and dark mineral gray to add depth and decadence to your space.

Homeowners are beginning to think of bathrooms more as living spaces. Rather than just being utilitarian, bathrooms will be designed with special wallpapers, decorative lighting, non-traditional mirrors, cabinetry with legs and vanities that look more like pieces of furniture.

A dramatic trend we’ll see in 2017 may be challenging for some décor novices to pull off: large-scale lighting. Bell reports that people often make mistakes with it—not going big enough, not hanging high enough. “I kind of think of lighting as the jewelry of a room,” she said, “and so it really finishes it. Scale is tricky. There’s no rule, it’s what works in the space and what the purpose of it is. Sometimes you can over-scale the light to break up the room without having a wall—it just has to be the right scale.” Grouping two and three and multiple lights together is another way to adorn your space while achieving this dramatic effect.

In the furniture world, swivel chairs have made a surprising resurgence. These throwbacks from yesteryear have been updated from the low, bucket-barrel chairs of yore to contemporary club chairs with clean lines. They’re also perfect for areas with various attention-getting elements. “Rooms that have a fireplace, a television, and views,” said Hopkins. “This is the best way to enjoy it all.”

Meanwhile, brass fixtures and furnishings—another retro trend from last year—are going to stick around for a while longer, imbuing homes with warmth and timeless charm. Bell suggests mixing metals in finishes from room to room. For instance, the kitchen can be all in nickel, polished or brushed, while the bathrooms are maybe in brass, and then the lighting will be in oil-rubbed bronze. “Mixing it all up just makes it more interesting, and looks like it’s been done over time,” said Bell.

In addition to metal finishes, mixing upholstery pieces can be just as interesting and fun to do. Bell suggests mixing custom with store-bought or off-the-shelf pieces. “You can find some interesting things, get the price down with it not all being custom but still have it be unique,” she said, “and not something that you walk in and it looks like it’s been in a bag in somebody else’s house.” Repurposing or reupholstering furniture has also become popular in recent years, and will continue to be a sustainable and creative way to beautify your home.

Another trend that Bell, a self-described “traditionalist,” is happy to see is in adding architectural details. “I see a shift from very simple details or builder-grade stuff to using moldings and thinking about base and trim and crown,” she said. “Not in a fussy way but in a finished way.” Wall treatments, whether it’s plank or tongue-and-groove paneling, add a little bit of character and structural interest back into spaces. “Good molding and window coverings, when they’re done right, it just finishes it off.”

Too much of a good thing: What to avoid
It’s easy to be enthralled by a particular trend or palette, but overusing one color or decor feature can become tedious and uninteresting. When you notice yesterday’s trend everywhere, it might be time to reconsider your own attachments. “Not everybody needs a barn door, and not in every house,” said Bell. “I’m seeing a lot of it. I think that it has to be done in a way where it makes sense.”

Too many color changes in the house can feel jarring and not cohesive. On the other hand, too much of one color can be overwhelming. Hopkins agreed. “We do feel like some color is fine, but you don’t have to repeat it in your art, in your throws, in your pillows, in your accessories,” she said. “You can have it in the rug or in the art, but you don’t need to carry it through on so many things.”

How do you begin your home design or renovation project?
Always start with the big picture, the experts say. People tend to start with an issue, rather than the long-term vision of where they want to go. Whether it’s a door or window facing the wrong direction, a too-small kitchen, or floors in dire need of an upgrade—all design elements in your home hinge off one another. Both design specialists agree that space planning is key.

“I think that a house is a living thing,” said Bell. “There’s a spectrum of what it can be. It can’t be anything. But how can it be its best self? So I’m looking at that first, and then talking to the people about what their goals are and what is working and what isn’t working. I feel the space has some kind of a calling of what it needs.”

Homeowners need to try and figure out what they’re trying to fix or achieve. For inspiration visit local tile, fabric and vintage shops. Look through magazines like Architectural Digest and Dwell, websites like Houzz.com and Homepolish.com, and home design blogs like quintessenceblog.com and ladolcevitablog.com. Create a “board” on Pinterest to keep track of your inspirations.

Once you have your goal in mind, it’s important to determine a realistic budget. Ask yourself, “Where do I want to go with my house, what’s the big picture, and what am I willing to spend?” Figure out how to create a solid floor plan that flows and is functional. Or consult with a design professional who’ll be a good fit for your needs.

When it comes to décor, only purchase things for your home that you love and are beautiful. It’s easier to start with the bigger pieces. So if you’re doing your living room, for example, start with the main sofa, which will influence the placement, number and types of additional furniture you’ll need. “Get the sofa anchored in the room, whether it’s a sectional, a chaise lounge or a pair of sofas. Then you can build from that with the cocktail and end tables,” said Hopkins. “You have to have a starting point and the right scale.”    SD