There's been a subtle shift in contemporary décor; it started to emerge at this year's furniture and design shows, and continues to gain ground in retailers' fall and winter collections.
It's a shift of light, in color and design.
Hues are soft yet grown-up — snow, fog, lavender, blush. And after years of dark wenge wood and stolid furniture, we're seeing elements with a lighter footprint. Blond woods like maple, ash and birch. Whitewashed oak and pine.
Legs are more tapered, profiles more attenuated. There are more reflective surfaces — metals with patinas; mirror finishes; and transparent or opaque acrylics.
Much of it has a Nordic vibe, what some in international design are calling "The New Scandi."
You can opt for a soft, casual approach with weathered woods and creamy linens, or a more dressed-up version with crisply tailored whites and burnished metals.
White walls are one easy way to get started. Farrow & Ball's creative head, Charlotte Cosby, notes how effective whites and pale hues can be together. "Light neutrals create an illusion of a larger space and can act as a canvas, emphasizing artwork and statement accessories," she says. "Try layering whites to create a softness and depth to rooms."
Jackie Jordan, marketing director at paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams, sees a shift to soft, monochromatic palettes with creamy whites, warm grays, khaki hues and grayed blush tones.
"The serenity of these colors provides a sense of calm to balance hectic lifestyles," she says. "They celebrate natural materials as well as honed, soft and sheer finishes. These colors lend themselves well to both luxurious spaces and casual retreats. "
As to furnishings, Kimberly Winthrop, designer for online interior-design marketplace Laurel & Wolf, says, "Bright, clean palettes give Scandinavian Design a minimal and modern feel, while still keeping beauty and a hint of glamour in balance."
She says the look can work especially well for work spaces, where lighter hues and minimal décor can help focus the mind.
Don't go overboard, however. You're after rooms that look attractive, interesting and livable. Rooms dressed top to bottom in unrelieved white or one neutral hue may look stark and clinical. Adding textures, eclectic pieces and artwork keeps the spaces comfortable.
Kardiel offers a chic tufted ottoman that pairs white cashmere wool with stainless-steel legs. Silky white leather clads a sexy Monroe midcentury sofa. The Sputnik dining table is a slim glass slab balanced on shapely walnut legs. (www.kardiel.com )
At Design Within Reach, Swedish designer Greta Magnusson Grossman's Grasshopper floor lamp perches a conical head on lithe legs; it's available in hues like salmon, putty and blue gray. And simple circles of plywood give Danish designer Thomas Bentzen's Around side tables a clean, spare appeal. Pablo Pardo's Swell pendants in matte white with anodized brass interiors evoke the simplicity of water droplets, and come in three sizes. (www.dwr.com )
Light, reclaimed teak and a lacy rope seat make the Bentley armchair a contemporary standout at AllModern. A delicate starburst mirror from Ashton Sutton would add wall interest with a midcentury-modern vibe. A set of white lacquered storage boxes could hold tech gadgets, toiletries, jewelry or keys. (www.allmodern.com )
Lucite's a wonderful material for introducing the illusion of airiness into a room; there are several pieces in Wisteria's Disappearing furniture collection. (www.wisteria.com )
Z Gallerie's got some fun, faux-fur slipper chairs on acrylic legs, with matching ottomans. Armless slipper chairs provide seating with a slimmer silhouette. (www.zgallerie.com )
And the Borden chair from Apt2B is a comfy, tufted midmod chair that could live in a bedroom, dining room or living room. Colors include a warm honey mustard or serene gray. (www.apt2b.com )