Trends are a tricky thing to forecast. Much like the weather that can change on a whim, trends in the interior design world can shift so quickly. For designer and creative director of JJA Bespoke Studio, JJ Acuña – who splits his time between Hong Kong and Manila – sees enough in the design world to be able to observe the life cycle of certain trends.
“Chubby chairs are still in. You’re fine,” Acuña is referring to the spike in popularity of big and soft chairs such as B&B Italia’s Up 50 Armchair or the Camaleonda sofa. “But boucle the fabric is on its last legs.”
As Acuña sits on a wooden stool of Elephant Grounds – a store that he help conceptualize in Hong Kong and has opened in the Philippines since 2019 – he excitedly enumerates design trends he believes will catch on. “The colors are still there but they’ve grown up. They feel more adult. Keep an eye out for burnt orange and burgundies. Trends in 2024 will be about nostalgia and be more muted.”
Hot pinks are traded in for a deeper wine-colored burgundy, bright yellows are swapped in for a warmer mustard and burnt orange. This also translates in the use of one of the most popular trends since the pandemic: terrazzo. Terrazzo sales have seen a global growth since 2020 with a value of USD 3.1 billion last year (according to Business Research Insights) and shows no signs of slowing down.
“I think people were looking around their home and everyone was regressing to their childhood. So they remember terrazzos all over the place in the 80s,” Acuña continues. “Terrazzos are still in but it’s either going to be super big aggregates or simpler. They’re not that optimistic terrazzo with pinks and wild colors. Now it’s more adult with a solid color background with specks of white quartz aggregate.”
Building sustainably has been a growing trend as more and more are becoming aware of the long term effects of the industry on the planet. Although the most common trends in sustainable design and building are using fast-growing materials or upcycling, sometimes these do not match the specific project you are working on. Acuña urges to support local artisans to reduce the carbon footprint of your project while sustaining communities around you. “Because we are a bespoke studio, we really try to work with artisans and craftsmen to procure furniture by order. We source from small factories and try to get local fabricators so it doesn’t have to fly far and you can control the wastage. When you order bespoke they don’t have to build 5 billion chairs even if you only ordered 10. If you only need 10 chairs they will only build 10 chairs. What people forget about bespoke design, is that it is sustainable design too.”
What’s also out of style? Copying other people’s work. Acuña is aware that when people work with artisans and craftsmen directly, there is a tendency to have them recreate another designer’s work. “My other advice is don’t copy anything. Don’t tell your Pampanga furniture maker to copy a design. That’s so not cool,” Acuña exhorts. “Doing custom bespoke furniture gives you the opportunity to design something new and unique for your client and for you.”
Acuña lists other things as out of style: using pink, golden brass, exposed ceiling, industrial red bricks, and arches for the sake of arches. One thing he hopes people would look into? Negative space. “I think there is not enough appreciation for empty spaces. As a restaurant designer, some restaurants they just want to maximize seating. But as you can see the restaurant isn’t always full. So instead of maximizing seating, why not create a garden or a weird seating feature with water or greenery – something out of the ordinary that people will remember? Allow the space to breathe.”
The industrial chic look from a decade ago is now being replaced with refined finishing and millwork. “Think about crown moldings, think about wainscoting, think about transoms, and old school millwork design and how it could fit in a space that millenials and Gen Z would love. Millwork is back in, baby! Embrace that. Really look into craftsmanship, carpentry, and heavily handcrafted spaces,” Acuña shares.
Although knowing the forecasted trends are helpful as a loose guide in designing spaces, Acuña also feels you shouldn’t be a slave to it. He encourages you to travel and to read a lot of magazines and books. These will not only give you fresh ideas, but it will help remind you that you can also tell stories through the interiors you design. “Really get immersed in storytelling. Who are the characters? What is the tale to tell? Put on your storyteller hat. If you are creating a story, and you are the author, it is really hard to copy another person’s story. That’s how you can challenge yourself creatively – by creating a unique narrative for the space. In a way what we do is interior design but we also kind of create a scene – a mise en scène – a kind of fantasy. Embrace yourself as the fantasy maker and you don’t have to pressure yourself or compare yourself with anyone else in the market.”
Photos by the author.