Duluth experts examine trends in architecture, interior design and decor

Experts see quality over quantity, accessory units and complete reversals in some design preferences.

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Modern living means kitchens can become gathering places. (Getty Images)

Forbes sees wallpapered ceilings, layered patterns, portable statement lighting. Southern Living forecasts wood range hoods, anything-but-white kitchens, double floating vanities.

According to , be on the lookout for burl wood, brass and smaller bolder spaces.

Whatever your flavor, Duluth experts in architecture, interior design and decor looked back recently to reflect, and ahead to predict what the next decade has in store.


They opt for more timeless choices than chasing trends, but architects do keep their eyes peeled for new products, systems and materials, said Jake Kieper, of CF Design, Ltd. in Duluth.

Much of the housing here was built with segregated rooms. Today, we tend to design more open spaces, and we’re linking spaces.


“The kitchen is the new living room," he said, and large islands are a focal point, where everyone gathers.

More multipurpose areas in the home will continue, making it easier to get away with less space because living quarters will feel larger.

Kieper is also seeing clients build smaller with a bigger focus on quality over quantity — as well as less extraneous detailing, more contemporary, clean lines and simple forms and shapes.

Clients are opting for detached garages for a more subtle complement to their home.

“A two-, three-, four-car garage sometimes becomes the entire architectural focal point of your house,” Kieper said.

There’s also a shift toward more natural materials, but vinyl siding, vinyl windows and foam insulation are hard to get away from.

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A shed is one type of "accessory dwelling unit" homeowners are starting to favor. (Getty Images)


He anticipates a rise in building accessory dwelling units , such as apartments over a garage, a tiny house in the backyard or a basement apartment.

Watch for thermally modified lumber , or wood treated at high-degree heat in an oxygen-free environment. This process creates lumber that doesn't rot or warp. It's used for siding and decking, and is currently in the Bell Museum in St. Paul , he said.

Another hot process, pun unintended, is Shou Sugi Ban , an old Japanese technique of charring the outside of wood.

It's different than thermally modified; rather than baked, the surface is torched. In theory, it's a similar process of baking the organics out, but this creates a decay-resistant layer. It's relatively new to the market, even though it’s been around for hundreds of years in Japan.

Richlite is another material Kieper predicts to rise in the next 10 years.

That’s a durable product made from recycled paper and resin. It works on furniture, interior and exterior architectural surfaces, cutting boards, countertops, mini golf courses .

Also, cross laminated timbers, almost like a woven basket, are the stacking of boards to create walls and floors. It makes for a sound and aesthetically pleasing structure, Kieper said.

Everything you do, everything you wear says something about you, and the same goes for your home. Planning a build, Kieper draws inspiration from the location, he observes what’s there and looks at the site’s history. “We try to take inspiration from the natural surroundings, the natural colors, the natural types of woods, the natural stone, natural views.”


And, he said, Duluth and the North Shore have an interesting architectural vernacular.

Interior design + decor

In the early aughts, we saw the start of tiny living, typography in decor, chalkboard paint on walls, fiber art, open-shelving, industrial lighting chevron and midcentury modern. We later moved from DIY to artisanal, curved sofas and digitally designed tile, said Gina Jacobson of CL Designs in Duluth.

In interior design, there will be plenty of nature nods and natural fibers in furnishings to raw elements like wood and stone accenting real plants — more window views, seating and outdoor spaces. We’ll see home updates for aging in place and shifts to a self-sustaining house or workspace will also increase.

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Multi-purpose storage area. (Getty Images)

There will be a lot of eclectic, customized interiors and multifunctional furniture for storage, and a focus on creating areas that minimize stress, at home and in the workplace, Jacobson said by email.

In the event-planning world, trends reflect what’s rising in interior and fashion design, said Mariah McKechnie of Northland Special Events. And she has seen a “180-degree change.”

“Think burlap and lace to marble and stark white. It's fascinating to look back on wedding photos and designs from 2010 and see how differently clients envision their events today.”

In the coming decade, McKechnie foresees the fall of geometric shapes, the continuation of a neutral, minimalist palette as well as the return of color.

“Clients will start to add it back in with bright, saturated pops of intentional color. Design is always a swinging pendulum from one extreme to another.”

Also on the rise: Wallpaper, colorful kitchens and bath cabinets.

Whatever you do, whatever decade you’re in, keep your design personal, she said by email.

“It's the meaningful touches that matter most — not just a color palette and a room full of furniture.”

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDEN
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