Right now there are three really strong trends in design - the industrial look, the minimalist look and the natural look. But what does it all really mean?
Industrial. It's about a simple, almost rustic look making the most of worn-looking timber, exposed metal and a palette of mostly white, grey, warm neutrals and all the colours of raw metals. Concrete and exposed brick are also featured materials and you'll often see exposed lighting and wiring. Think warehouse - but with creature comforts!
To achieve the industrial look, pare back to the raw original materials (or bring them in). Concrete or timber floors are essential, combined with those warm neutral paint colours and put the feature focus on cleverly-designed lighting. The right furniture for this look will have timber and metal elements. Cosy away the hard edges with a comfy sofa in neutral tones or greys and keep the natural, grey and white theme going with your small decorative items, along with metal and timber of course!
Minimalist. As the name suggests, a minimalist style is about less being more. White is the perfect base colour, with splashes of black and grey and small hints of colour. Minimalist is about having little to distract the eye apart from your (very few) selected major statement pieces. One way this is achieved is to use uniform flooring, another is to keep furniture styles very clean and simple and arrange it to encourage a sense of openness. Geometric patterns strengthen this feel, while floaty sheers, blinds or shutters soften the space without clutter.
It's quite hard to be really minimalist - you need to be tough on yourself when selecting just a few favourite pieces of art - and they need to be strong, statement pieces. It's a clean, crisp look so go for white walls, ceilings and trims, and spend some serious planning time on storage ideas - everything in a minimalist space needs to have its own home so it will get put away.
Natural. The third big look right now is natural and it's all about the materials. Timber floors and furniture - especially if it makes use of the natural shapes of the timber - are features. The palette is pale but warm, with lots of off-white, beige and biscuit. This is a popular look at luxury resorts and beachside, sending a gentle, relaxing and welcoming message to you as you come through the door.
Natural is the perfect look for those of us who don't relax in an industrial setting and it also offers those of us with a love for the textures and materials of days gone by a chance to enjoy all those unfussy, classic fabrics such as linen, cotton, jute and wool. Using these in their natural tones for rugs and upholstered furniture keep the crisp yet comfy look going, while walls, floors, trims and ceilings get the off-white/light beige treatment. Look for textile patterns featuring organic designs and don't forget the flowers.