7 design trends that were hot in 2013 (and one that was not)

Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | November 27, 2013

The year 2013 was expected to be the year of ethnic designs, bright blues, and outdoor living spaces worthy of the ultimate staycation.

While experts can predict trends, homeowners are the ones who make them happen. As we get ready to close the book on 2013, ImprovementCenter.com talked to a pair of design experts and pored over information about dozens of products to discover which trends were actually hot and not just hype.

7 hot home design trends in 2013

1. Gray everything

"Gray officially became the new neutral this year," said Lauren Colson, owner and principal designer of LMC Interior Designs in Atlanta, Ga. "No more beige, no more black and white."

The grey theme goes beyond simply carpets and paint. It can also be found in perhaps unexpected places, such as gray-washed kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors. Design Program Manager Todd Waterman of Carlisle Wide Plank Floors told ImprovementCenter.com there is a growing preference for their dark gray base colors, and he predicts many homeowners will soon be combining those with matte finishes.

2. Luxe flooring

Speaking of flooring, one design expert says homeowners are increasingly opting for more expensive but more durable flooring products.

"There has been a huge resurgence in wool [carpeting]," said Denise Smith, design consultant at FA Design Build in Fairfax, Va. She notes that with the cost of petroleum-based products such as nylon on the rise, homeowners prefer to spend slightly more and get a better quality carpet with more texture.

In addition, vinyl planks such as Armstrong Luxe Planks are a popular way to take the look of hardwoods into new areas of the home such as bathrooms. And in general, the high-end vinyl of today has come a long way from the peeling kitchen floors of years past.

"Vinyl composite tiles have the beauty of a ceramic or porcelain," noted Smith, "but the wear of vinyl."

3. Reclaimed timber

Our own Green Renovation Expert Matthew Grocoff called it when he said salvaged materials would be big in 2013. Reclaimed wood has definitely been in-demand this year. When it came to finishing touches, This Old House said reclaimed wood finished by Maine Heritage Timber was one of the year's best new home products.

4. Outdoor fabrics come inside

There has been much talk in design circles about creating outdoor rooms and living spaces. However, Colson says she has seen one aspect of outside design make its way indoors during the past year.

"Outdoor fabrics are being used indoors," she said. "People want things…that will function for their family and that will last."

Since fabrics designed for outdoor use must be able to withstand wind and weather, many families with pets and kids select it as a durable, long-lasting option for their upholstery. Stylish fabrics by companies like Sunbrella mean you can still have the look you want but in a material that can hold up to a lot more.

5. 'Green' building materials

2013 continued the trend in green and sustainable building and remodeling. Not only do homeowners seek green options for conservation reasons, they also want to create a healthy environment for their families.

To that end, some new products introduced within the last year actively work to improve the living conditions in homes. For example, CertainTeed's new drywall AirRenew Essential actually pulls volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde out of the air and neutralizes them.

6. Designs for living, not selling

Smith noted she has seen a marked difference in the way homeowners have approached home design in the past year,

"People are going back to designing homes for themselves," she said.

After the disastrous housing market of the previous decade, many individuals have decided they are better off making updates that suit their families instead of worrying about their property's resale appeal. Rather than sticking with wall-to-wall beige, they are adding more interesting colors, textures, and design elements.

7. Renovations trump redecorating

Both Smith and Colson report that, at least in their experience, throwing some pillows on the sofa and painting a wall wasn't cutting it for most homeowners last year. Instead, they are remodeling kitchens, gutting living spaces, and rearranging floor plans.

"I had more renovations than ever before," said Colson.

The 2013 trend that was a bust

Those are seven of the hottest trends from 2013, but what about that one that was a big miss? It was nothing less than the Pantone Color of the Year: emerald. The Pantone Color of the Year is selected annually in a secret meeting attended by representatives from around the world. The color is supposed to tie into the spirit of the times, and many designers use the Color of the Year in their products. But this year?

"Emerald didn't go anywhere," Colson said.

However, navy was a hot color. It just goes to show it is homeowners, not industry professionals, who have the final say regarding what is truly hot in home design - or, in this case, not.

About the Author

Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.