“The Today Show” Design Contributor Talks Trends
March 26, 2010 - 11:32am

SalkResidential Lighting: What are today’s top trends?
Susanna Salk: People are educating themselves. They get inspiration by seeing what other people are doing in books, blogs and magazines. They want to take advantage of different styles and price points, no matter what the category, and they’re not afraid to mix an antique with a piece they find at a flea market or on eBay. They’re being exposed to the world. They’re no longer dependent on what one market or one magazine is saying.

RL: What do consumers want from retailers?
SS: They want variety. They want price points. They know not always to equate “expensive” with “good.” They know they can keep pieces they have and buy a few key accessories, that designing a room doesn’t have to be top-to-bottom. So, they appreciate when a store offers different points of view. That’s why places such as Anthropologie and 1stdibs have been so successful. I can buy a chair or comforter, and it looks like I bought it on a trip. It doesn’t feel “department store.”

RL: Are vendors’ ensemble collections still relevant?
SS: When I go to markets and see ensembles, they feel dated. It’s something we’re moving away from. Even designers back in the ’40s and ’50s never said: “Buy three of these and match them with this.” It was always about popping in a surprise, a whimsical thought or a personal detail. There was a time when there was a “safety in numbers” in showroom-matched themes, but it’s short-term safety with long-term regret. How can the consumer reveal their personal style when 90 percent of the pieces they buy come from one place and someone else has connected the dots for them? It goes against the grain of what they want, which is to reflect their own style. I’m surprised when I go to markets and still see showrooms stamping out what look like hotel rooms.

RL: What about lighting?
SS: I see a lot of retailers making nice investments in good, interesting-looking lighting that has personality at an affordable price, and taking chances with color and design. Customers are coming around to understanding the importance of dimmers, using environmentally friendly bulbs and creating an ambiance with lighting. They’re not afraid to have an expensive lamp in a kitchen, or mix formal lighting with a space they use every day. That being said, I still see many mistakes with lighting. People use lighting that’s too diminutive for a room. They put a grandmotherly sort of mismatch of lamps in a large bedroom, not understanding that the lamps should have some visual power of their own. There’s nothing like having two amazing, identical lamps, side by side, next to a bed, on a bureau, on tables or on the floor. It balances the room. I can’t tell you how many rooms I go into and see one without the other — you know, one floor lamp beside a sofa instead of two. People underestimate the importance of how great lighting can anchor a room. Lighting is the unsung hero of a room, and it’s worthwhile to look at your space with only your lighting lens on. Ask: What can lighting do for this room, not only to see, but to highlight and accent art, furniture, and nooks and crannies? It needs to be its own design conversation.

RL: Any final thoughts?
SS: Encourage customers to dream. Get them to push their room’s envelope. If they’ve had the same lamps for years and they buy new ones, it may inspire them to paint the walls and then get a new headboard. It’s design dominoes — in the best sense.

Susanna Salk appears monthly on NBC’s “The Today Show” to discuss design style. She is Contributing Editor to Bon Appetit magazine, 1stdibs.com and ivillage.com. She is author of “A Privileged Life, Celebrating WASP Style” and “Weekend Retreats.” Her next book, “Rooms of Their Own,” will debut this year. Salk is former Interior Design Manager at Elle Décor, Special Projects Editor at House & Garden magazine and producer at “The Early Show” on CBS.

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