Today’s Chinese homes are often located in tall residential buildings, stacked among dozens of other apartments identical from the outside. But in the last 10 years, more residents are taking steps to gut, reconstruct and revamp their interior spaces in order to combat this anonymity and personalize their homes.
"In China, people are spending just as much decorating their homes as they are in buying them," said Alexandre Daune, chief designer of DFS Hong Kong, a firm specializing in residential design and construction.
Twenty years ago, an elegant home would be fitted with a matching set of redwood furniture, velvet curtains and an embroidered sofa in the living room. Now, home owners are increasingly opting to transform a plain apartment into a dream home of sorts that is both personally-styled and livable.
CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW spoke with China-based interior designers about some of the country’s most popular interior design trends this year.
BACK TO NATURE
The gravitation towards natural materials and an understated look is proving particularly popular.
Daune, a Shanghai-based designer specializing in redecorating lane homes, said his clients are moving away from ostentatious chandeliers, luxe fabrics and the "rich" look. Instead, it’s all about keeping things low-key.
"For one of the best apartments I did, we used stone, teak wood, granite, natural fabrics, and linen and bamboo to completely redecorate the interior space," he said.
The move towards natural décor, Daune said, reflects an overall international trend to live in a low-impact way. "People are becoming more attracted and concerned with preserving the natural environment. That, of course, informs their design decisions."
To recreate the natural look, Daune recommends simply using organic fabrics or mixing in natural fibers and plants into your home. As for colors, stick with earth tones.
In Beijing, Chinese art is lending inspiration to interiors, according to Jin Yu of Subtle Matters Decoration, an interior design firm specializing in residential properties.
Yu’s business was established in 2004, and her clients include locals, overseas Chinese and expatriates. An increasing number of home owners have approached her about incorporating works of art into their homes, making sculptures or even installations a centerpiece and inspiration for the rest of the home’s decor.
Since each work is so unique, designers have to work hard to create an interior that will frame and not overwhelm the art, Yu said.
"Many of my clients really appreciate a modern look. They’ll often buy artwork like furniture specifically to showcase in their homes," Yu said.
"There is huge interest in modern Chinese art right now, so I’m not really surprised."
FEEL IT OUT
Shanghai-based freelance designer Xue Ming Yue says this year is all about textures. And not just tactile textures, but visual textures that lend a sense of depth to a living space. He predicts that textured furniture and designs that incorporate them will be a growing trend in China for years to come.
"I find that my clients have been very receptive to incorporating materials like bamboo, plant fiber or stone," Yue said.
An increasing number of home owners have become fascinated with furniture, rugs, carpets and even textured wallpapers that are developed from unusual materials specifically to have interesting textures, Yue adds.
"In the right space, a textured rug can add just enough variation to keep things interesting. So keep it simple – you don’t want to overwhelm."
Both Yu and Daune agree that the more well-traveled a client is, the bolder they tend to be with materials and design in their homes.
"I had a client who spent almost US$1.5 million to renovate his flat. People’s tastes are becoming more educated, not because they are rich, but because they have gone overseas and built their preferences that way," Daune said.
Yu adds that this year, concrete and reclaimed wood materials have become popular for walls, while spacious Western-style spa bathrooms have grown in demand. Subdued colors are being used in living rooms and bedrooms, but many home owners have been mixing this natural palette with a touch of global culture.
Yu notes that many people like to spice up their homes with antique Chinese furniture, along with curios they’ve picked up during their world travels.
"This updated, Chinese look with modern European touches has become popular. It’s a look of understated affluence," Yu said. "Many Chinese are becoming much bolder in the way they decorate their homes."