How to (Tastefully) Buy Into Trends Without Selling Out

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In this age of micro-trends and the homogenization of certain Instagram aesthetics, it’s tempting to just follow the crowd or amass a checklist of “IYKYK” items in your home that will telegraph your exalted taste (from a USM Haller credenza to a Togo sofa sectional). But before you take the plunge on a buzzy piece from another era, or dive down the rabbit hole of a recent trend, it’s worth doing some soul-searching on whether you’re just playing into an algorithmically significant aesthetic, or actually cultivating an interior design style that speaks to your tastes. There’s also the risk of overdoing a trend: going so hard on a modern Scandi aesthetic that your whole home looks plucked off the pages of a HAY catalog, or getting so into cluttercore that all the excess feels un-curated.

Homan Rajai and Elena Dendiberia—principal designers at San Francisco’s Studio Ahead—emphasize that there’s a big difference between taste (which they explain as “something you accumulate over time through the principles, philosophies, and visuals you resonate with”) versus a trend that’s being presented to you in a moment of time based on popular culture. “To have taste, you’re making decisions about what feels authentic to you and how you want to show up in the world, while with a trend, it’s your choice if you adopt it or not,” they insist.

But Rajai and Dendiberia note that even people who are tacky have taste: “They’re making a decision, that’s a vibe.” For those aspiring toward a less polarizing look, there are plenty of ways to avoid overdoing an aesthetic, or creating a space that looks like a “copy paste” of your Instagram grid. Here, seven AD PRO Directory members reflect on how to cultivate authenticity in your interior design and lean into trends without losing your individual perspective.

1. Examine your lifestyle and preferences

The first and most important part of the design process is identifying what makes you tick. An interior designer can often help you work through your own personal leanings and preferences, but a lot of that preliminary work can be done alone by reflecting on your own interests and personality. Rajai and Dendiberia say their design practice dedicates a significant portion of each project to exploring these questions with clients—creating “a personal narrative that has more freedom from pressure of social media and invasive marketing of big brands.”

The pair suggest thinking about who the design is serving (e.g., “Who exists in this home?”) and how you prefer to live in the home (e.g., “How do you like to eat in your home? How do you like to sit?”). From there you can do more probing into which philosophies and moments in history you resonate with, what directors you like to watch, and how you like to collect art, they add. “The deeper the exploration into these core personal values goes, the freer you get from being overwhelmed with the visual noise of somebody [else’s] choices.”

2. Start small with low-lift adjustments

Rather than going whole-hog on a Memphis modern theme or redoing your entire guest room with a mushroom motif, you can always dip a toe into a trend first to see how it fits your aesthetic as a whole. If you’re not entirely sure you’re completely sold on this or that, Christine Lin—the principal and founder of San Francisco’s Form + Field—suggests getting your feet wet with some low-commitment approaches to figure out what feels most like you. “Try painting a room, buying new pillows, or other easy-to-change-out items that can augment your core style without overpowering it.”

3. Cherry-pick only certain elements of a trend

Austin Carrier and Alex Mutter-Rottmayer, co-owners of the Sonoma, California, design firm Hommeboys, argue that the key to embracing trends without “turning your home into design Disneyland” is to only lean into ones that feel authentic to your taste and won’t clash with the style and era of your home. Picking and choosing which elements of a trend you want to work into an existing space, they say, will ultimately end up more successful than a full-commitment overhaul. For example, “Forcing a rustic farmhouse motif on a modern apartment is going to feel artificial, but adding a single primitive wood chair as an accent in your apartment will feel much more genuine and enduring,” they note. Ultimately, creating a home that never feels stale or outdated is all about “having an interior that feels collected and taps into various eras and design influences.”

4. Expand your references

Designer Kerry Vasquez of LA’s Kerry Vasquez Design advises that in this era of “Instagram homogenization and AI-created designs,” it’s best to turn inward, trust your instincts, and “dance to the beat of your own drum” rather than ceding your point of view to the masses. Beyond listening to your own interests, Vasquez also suggests expanding your sources of inspiration beyond social media. “Explore interior design magazines, books, art exhibitions, and even travel to gain a wider perspective on design,” she insists. “This can help you discover unique ideas that haven’t saturated Instagram.”

5. Create balance within your home

Beyond adopting only certain aspects of trends and design movements into your home that gel with your overall style, a nuanced aesthetic also involves creating a balanced color palette. And if the trends you’re heeding are color-based ones, such as annual color trend forecasts, it’s important to make sure you’re not going overboard with just one color, and are layering in complementary hues for equilibrium. “Successful application of color is dependent on a wide variety of factors—chief among them, the quality and intensity of light and the comprehensive composition of contiguous materials.” To tone down bold colors on large-scale furnishings, Marc Houston, the creative director and principal of New York City’s MHLI, says to pay attention to tonal hues and analogous hues on the color wheel.

If you’re experimenting with bold colors, he also recommends living with physical samples of proposed materials rather than making judgments based on images or memory. “One’s perception of color will vary based on times of day and in context of environment,” Houston says.

6. Research your aspirations

Kat Bell, cofounder and creative director of Argyle Design in Los Angeles, says another factor that can help you be more discerning about trends is educating yourself on the history, intent, or inspiration behind them. “Knowledge will give you power to be confident in your design choices and promote your individuality,” Bell explains. If you’re into the Togo sofa, she cites as an example, do some digging on postmodern design or Michael Ducaroy’s lesser-known pieces that bear a similar aesthetic. “The more you learn about something that catches your eye, the more likely you will love that piece even more or potentially open up your world to more options and more ideas,” she adds.

7. Put your own spin on it

Rather than taking a cookie-cutter approach to a trend, putting your own personal stamp on it can steer your home away from looking like a replica of someone else’s. Lindye Galloway, chief creative officer of Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop in Orange County, California, uses Zellige tiles as an example of a well-established trend that can be tweaked a couple different ways. “We have been playing with its application for a while now and have cracked a code on how to give [it] a unique look that goes hand-in-hand with your style,” she says.

Galloway recommends trying out different shapes, colors, and configurations to avoid getting stuck in a boring 4×4 or 2×8 pattern rut. “Try a couple of sizes all mixed in together. Or, rather than using just one solid color, explore a couple of complementary colors together. There are also ‘raw’ options that don’t have the shine to them, and we love seeing those combined with others.”

After all, sometimes the best way to get ahead of a trend (or to avoid falling under one’s influence) is to simply start your own. As Vasquez insists, “Be bold, be incendiary, be your own trend.”

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