Fashion has long influenced interior design, from runway “it” colours popping up in rooms to vibrant prints that transition from dresses to drapes.
This year’s muse is an unlikely source: the fluffy slippers, snuggly PJ sets and soft pants that have defined our wardrobes over the past 18 months. Where tailored “hard pants” once represented our buttoned-up lives, “soft pants” embody a chilled-out, stay-at-home ideal. Now, with the onset of fall and winter, we’re no longer content to just wear soft pants – it seems we want to live inside them.
The need to nest is stronger than ever. When lockdowns lifted across Ontario in June, some of the biggest lineups were outside HomeSense, sparking online debate about whether pillows and picture frames were essential items. Sales numbers suggest they’re essential to comfort during unprecedented hours spent at home, at least. The furniture and home furnishings categories saw a combined spike of 54 per cent last year, according to Statistics Canada.
Acknowledging that staying in is the new going out, the latest home furnishings and accessories aim to make a laid-back lifestyle more stylish than ever. With a parade of curvaceous shapes and touchable textiles, fall’s most coveted pieces take our longing for loungewear and elevate it with furniture and accessories fabricated in chenille, corduroy, bouclé and velvet – the words sounding almost as sumptuous as the fabrics feel.
IKEA’s fall launch was distinguished by soft and soothing pieces meant for draping, stroking and enveloping. A flatweave-style rug, usually known for durability rather than hygge, featured double stripes of wool fringe that gave it a flokati-like appearance. Pillow covers showcased graphic patterns rising up in hand-tufted wool. Most inventive of all were chenille curtains that not only filter light but also dampen sound, with the goal of creating a calm, cocoon-like environment.
The “soft home” trend is perhaps rooted in “cottage core,” a British-influenced aesthetic that romanticizes the charm and coziness of rural life – think sourdough loaves, crackling fires, chintz slipcovers and mohair throws.
“I do think people appreciate coziness a bit more right now,” says London-based Swedish designer Beata Heuman. “A layered feeling is definitely quite high up on people’s lists.” Heuman, who recently authored the spirited monograph Every Room Should Sing, says she tends to favour simple linens and cottons in her interiors. But lately, she’s reaching for materials that are more lush and tactile to provide comfort as well as contrast.
To wit, Heuman has recently expanded her own textile line to include the grand dame of soft, supple fabrics: velvet. The newest print, Dappled, was created using the same marbling technique found on the endpapers of historic books. With a handsome blend of ivory, blue and green swirling atop a tobacco base, the cotton velvet begs to be touched, whether on a cushion or reading chair. But along with the tactile element, there’s another benefit it offers: “I tend to choose a velvet when I want the colours to be particularly vivid,” Heuman says. “The velvet kind of makes it glow.”
The last 18 months have brought us to peak velvet, agrees Arren Williams, a Toronto-based decorator and homewares designer whose eponymous line is carried at The Bay. “We’ve seen a real shift in upholstery. At one point everything was done in linen, but now it’s velvets and corduroy that people want. When you take something quite quotidian and wrap it in velvet, it looks richer, sexier and more sophisticated – it feels special.”
It’s not just softer texture that’s finding its way into our homes, but also softer shapes. Arches are all the rage for architecture: think interior doorways, shower surrounds and built-in bookcases. Fanciful scallops are turning up where you least expect them, from the kitchen backsplash of U.K. tastemaker Matilda Goad, to wall sconces, mirrors and outdoor potting tables at the fashion-forward Los Angeles shop Nickey Kehoe.
Seating, in particular, is showing off its curves – a direction that began several years ago with the re-emergence of French designer Jean Royère’s iconic “polar bear” sofa and is enjoying acceptance in the mainstream, with similar shapes and wooly upholstery options available at multiple price points.
“Hard edges are being knocked off of everything, whether it’s coffee tables or beds,” Williams says. “Curves are more pleasing to the eye, and they work better in open spaces when you need pieces you can easily move around.” He notes that his Roxy sofa – which is both curvy and upholstered in velvet – is a bestseller; a nod to today’s design zeitgeist.
Williams thinks our current cravings for all things soft at home have come full circle, as most trends do. “I grew up in the seventies when a living room was called a lounge, and for the past couple of years we’re back to just wanting – and needing – to hang out. We want that comfort, but we don’t want to sacrifice on style – and we don’t have to.”
As we return to offices and schools, interiors could swing away from softness and return to tailored pieces and hard lines once again. But it’s hard to imagine – never before has creating “a soft place to land” had such enduring appeal.
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