Harbingers of fashion and design, affluent consumers have become virtual arbiters of what’s in and what’s out.


“My customers are way more educated than they ever have been. I think they’re more aware of design, more aware of what’s out there,” says New York City’s Shawn D Henderson, who is one of the Architectural Digest’s 100 top designers.

“The high end usually wants to be on to the next big thing. It goes back to wanting something different and not feeling like they are walking into every friend’s house,” observes Beverly Hills designer Christopher Grubb, who frequently speaks at design events.

Today, white and gray continue to reign as preferred neutrals. Mid-century Modern is emerging as a touchstone for architecture, and contemporary’s sway extends beyond the coasts and the Sunbelt. Neutral palettes unify open concept plans, but high-end dwellings that appear as simple streamlined white boxes don’t tell today’s design story.

Comments from notable designers as well as insights gleaned at Design and Construction Week reveal a narrative, especially for luxury homes, more nuanced than simply white, gray and contemporary.

“The most sophisticated interiors today are contemporary, have a lightness about them, and feature intriguing artisanal furniture, lighting and accessories. Even more traditional rooms are devoid of pattern and rely more on texture and color to keep them current and today. No one wants to live in grandma’s dusty attic,” shares Jamie Drake, principal of Drake/Anderson in New York City.

“To me it’s getting those layers in there and those pieces that speak to each other and play off of each other. To me that’s what it’s all about,” explains Henderson.

Color is also part of schemes, but used judiciously with restraint. “Colors may still be vibrant, yet used with thoughtful place and discipline for maximum effect. We utilize strikingly hued pillows, chairs, accessories and occasional pieces to accent more neutral schemes. Colors that are especially trending are aquas, citrines, peridot greens, purples, plums and coral pinks,” says Drake.

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