The year may go out with an economic whimper, but, decor-wise, it'll welcome winter with a bang. Among the coming season's must-haves are something bold, something blue, something golden and something grouped. (And if you buy into one of the tiny houses that just may shelter us all some time soon, scratch all of that.)
1. Clashing patterns
If this season's design scene had a house band, it would be the Clash, whose name and spirit perfectly reflect the abandon with which patterns and prints are being thrown together by decorators. As anarchic as such blending may seem, however, there is method in the madness. Witness this suite design for Claridge's, the London hotel, by fashion's Diane von Furstenberg: Although the sofa, drapes and carpet sport varying screaming patterns, all are black in tone and only one has an attention-grabbing (purple) base. (And note how they all echo the veining of the marble fireplace.) The fact that von Furstenberg is the architect of both this scenario and the one on our cover is significant, as this riotous trend is also big in fashion right now. In fact, it would be wise to build such a look as you might an outfit – one element at a time, the overall effect in mind. Visit www.claridges.co.uk for further inspiration.
2. Cracks in the system
Design is coming apart at the seams! No, not really, but a preoccupation with fragmentation is indeed permeating the industry. Recent examples include Massimiliano Adami's cool Terraviva tiles for Ceramiche Refin (for those who want a web of fissures lacing their floors) and British designer Simon Orrell's smashing Cracked Eggshell tables (made with actual eggshell). Before that came Matthew Hilton's Fracture Coffee Table for De La Espada, Brooklyn-based Uhuru Design's Stitched Table and, kicking it all off, Winnipegger Matthew Kroeker's two-piece Splinter Bench. If you care to read something apocalyptic into this trend, the designers would probably tell you that they're simply playing with form or experimenting with materials or offering a new take on modular design. Given all of the seismic activity in the world of late, though, furniture and flooring that already have a few cracks in them aren't such a bad idea. Fracture Coffee Table, $3,775 in walnut through Hollace Cluny in Toronto ( www.hollacecluny.ca).
3. High-backed chairs
Enough with stools, poufs and settees – go medieval on your, um, seating with luxuriously high-backed chairs that offer both the visual drama and lumbar support ottomans never will. There are plenty of models to choose from this season, including this limited-edition corrugated-cardboard model designed to, in the words of Ana Yago of Spain's Sanserif Creatius ( www.sanserif.es), "make the user feel like a king on his throne." While you're at it, Your Majesties, you might consider framing a doorway with a pair of matching high-backs or lining a dining table with as many as you can muster for a true visual feast. Trumpet blasts are optional.
4. Tiny homes
There's a movement among eco-conscious types, anti-suburb city dwellers and downsizing baby boomers alike to embrace smaller homes, but just how tiny are they willing to go? Making its commercial debut this month, the L41 house, which was designed by B.C.'s Michael Katz and Janet Corne and ranges in size from 220 to 420 square feet, may be minuscule, but it's big on style, packing a full kitchen, living room/bedroom, computer desk and outdoor deck into a handsome zinc-panelled package. Look for the prototype at IDS West, which kicks off in Vancouver on Sept. 29. And, perhaps, on a lot near you soon after. Visit www.idswest.com for show details.
5. Whimsical lighting
Look up. Yes, up at the ceiling. If a new lighting fixture has just been installed, chances are it'll provoke a smile, a snicker, a giggle or a sigh. Not since Ingo Maurer's Zettel'z series – a line of chandeliers that featured dozens of slips of paper instead of crystal pendants – have hanging lamps been so fanciful. This season's evoke honeycombs (Karl Zahn's Square Phrena), a bowlful of golden foliage (Tord Boontje's Tangle Globe) and even oversized gift bows (Stephen Johnson's Surprise Surprise). All are distributed by Artecnica, the California-based purveyor of whimsy with a conscience. Visit www.artecnicainc.com for retailers across Canada.
6. True blues
When Kate Middleton confirmed her engagement to Prince William in a royal-blue dress, she kicked off a colour craze that has now drifted into decor. This fall, navy, sky, royal and midnight blues are the season's It shades, enlivening everything from appliances to furniture to feature walls. As with all strong hues, sparingly is the best way to employ dark blue – use it as an accent colour with soft whites or paler blues or as a source of decorative punch through a single big-ticket item. A good paint choice is Para's Ethereal Blue (P2702-5). Less dramatic alternatives include periwinkles, deep lilacs and darker lavenders. Jaime Hayon's new FAVN sofa in Dark Blue, price upon request through Plan B in Toronto ( www.planboffice.com) and Inform Interiors in Vancouver ( www.informinteriors.com).
7. Artful collections
Hoarder's revenge? Not quite, even if this season's savviest wall treatment is hardly minimalist. Whether it's a flock of rustic birdhouses or the high-impact grouping and mounting of collectibles a spray of porcelain flowers (as in the Tiffany Suite at the St. Regis New York below) is all the rage right now. Before you start hammering away, though, consider some rules: The most successful displays comprise a single type of item (good bets include plates, clocks, mirrors or cookware), a single material (wood, china, metal) and a similar shape or style (note the long, slender silhouettes of the variously hued bird digs). Anything less curated runs the risk of looking chaotic – and would read more Hoarders than House Beautiful.
8. Edgy etching
The organic-looking ceramics that have dominated pottery for much of the new millennium have been gaining an edge of late. Take Ingersoll, Ont.-based ceramicist Shane Norrie's new Kline collection of hand-thrown etched bowls, which still have an appealing earthiness to them, but also a hint of grit. (The random coloured patterns that accent each bowl evoke frantic brushstrokes and even barbed wire.) Internationally, designers such as Jaime Hayon of Spain and Studio Job of Belgium have been waving the freak flag most prominently, while Canadians such as Vancouver's Jeremy Hatch (creator of fully functioning cast-bone-china vises) and Toronto's Katherine Morley (whose How To Eat Meat vases riff on charcuterie sources) lead the domestic charge. Kline bowls, from $85 at galleries across Ontario and through www.shanenorrie.com.
9. Warm metals
When things went south economically this summer, many investors took refuge in gold, driving its value to record highs. It's no wonder, then, that anything evoking the precious stuff is striking it rich with decorators. Suggesting permanence, warmth and security as well as wealth and opulence, gold is the material of kings, the balm of lesser souls and a gilty pleasure during times of both excess and instability. Of course, any warm metal, such as brass or even copper, will be giving sleek, cold chrome a run for its money this fall. If you're redoing a bathroom, consider pairing rubbed-brass faucets and other hardware with an old-fashioned enamel sink and a standing tub for a funky bygone look. Bench with gilt finish, $1,425 at Elte in Toronto ( www.elte.com).
10. Faux crocodile
Earlier this month, villagers in the southern Philippines captured a giant saltwater crocodile believed to have consumed several water buffaloes and possibly a local farmer. Instead of putting it down, though, the community intends to showcase the beast in a new nature park. That's how popular crocodiles are these days. Thankfully, the design world's obsession extends to the faux variety, another trend imported from fashion runways. Case in point: Azzedine Alaia's Fall 2011 show, which featured a (sadly real) croc-leather coat strikingly similar to U.S.-based Thibaut's embossed-vinyl Greater Gator wall covering. In general, faux animal prints of all kinds – zebra, leopard, even (bizarrely) giraffe – prowl the home front this fall. It is a jungle out there. Greater Gator in Espresso (T6802), $79 a roll at Kravet Canada outlets nationwide (visit www.thibautdesign.com for locations).