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Natural Selection: Home design redefines nature

Many homeowners are rediscovering nature, inspiring new trends in home design and décor. From high-tech steel roofing systems to bamboo flooring, home design trends are getting back to nature. This renewed interest in everything natural is also being reflected in large scrolling wallpaper patterns, neutral colors and accent wall tiles featuring a linear motif. We target the trends from top to bottom.

Up on the Roof

One of the most significant trends in the Fox Cities is metal roofing, which has been around for more than 100 years. But metal roofs today look much different than they did in the late 1800s.

The lightweight, aluminum-zinc alloy coated steel can be embossed and stamped to replicate hand-split wood shakes, terracotta tile and even asphalt shingles.

Jon Goodman, general manager of Security-Luebke Roofing, says metal roofing as a broad category probably is the single fastest growing roofing architectural product today.

One reason is its affordability. Goodman says a metal roof used to cost two to three times more than a good quality asphalt roof. Today, it may be only 30- or 40-percent more expensive, he says. Metal roofs last three times longer than traditional asphalt roofs, making it a good investment. “The metal roof will likely cost 50-percent less than an asphalt roof, if you amortize it over its life,” Goodman adds.

Many customers today want to be good stewards of the environment, so they look for green products that don’t deplete limited resources. Another benefit to metal roofing is that it is made from 15- to 25-percent of recycled products.

At the end of a metal roof’s life, it is taken down, melted and recast into another product.

Another favored material is copper. The semi-precious metal accents bay windows and dormers. “It has a romantic, nostalgic appeal to it,” Goodman says. People also like copper or brass rails along the top of the roof, he adds.

Scalloped copper shingles are another popular option to accent turrets and bay windows.

Wall-to-Wall

Homeowners are decorating their home with wall coverings, colors and products that reflect an organic theme.

Nicki Hoppe, an interior designer at Home Interiors Flooring & Design Center in Appleton, is seeing that theme in wallpaper designs. Many of her clients are papering powder rooms and accent walls with vertical, linear patterns that reflect nature. “Not necessarily with leaves and flowers, but larger, scroll patterns,” Hoppe says. She recommends complementing earthy patterns with neutral wall colors.

Due to the economic downturn, Hoppe has noticed a demand in “safe” colors––palettes people are familiar with. Shades of blue are popular choices and they’re being accented with reds and greens.

Slowly coming into the picture are lighter, “dreamy” color tones, such as corals and teals. Bright, bold colors are still popular in kids’ rooms.

Also making waves in the design field are backsplashes. Growing trendy over the last year, homeowners are incorporating micro-tiles into kitchen design. Glass, stone and metal are being used for mosaic patterns.

To add even more character, designers are blending wood styles and wood stain colors and adding some painted trim.

Amy Griffin, co-owner of Griffin Builders, works with clients to brainstorm design elements for their home. One of her trademark suggestions is mixing painted wood with various stained wood accents. “Mixing opposite spectrums of the stain makes it look really organic,” she says.

Her 100-year-old Appleton home exemplifies how a variety of wood treatments create a unique look. The Griffins strived to achieve a French-country, English-style home. Panels were installed in the powder room and foyer; the dining room features vertical tongue and groove; the upstairs master suite features a white-painted tongue and groove ceiling with exposed rafters; and the kitchen appliances include a white paneled refrigerator and dishwasher.

Sarah Chaignot of Designer House Ltd., and its division Sarah C. Designs, also mixes wood and stain. “I may complement the crown molding in a deep espresso and do the cabinetry in a natural stain,” she says.

Chaignot also points out that there is a beautiful selection of cabinetry hardware on the market today. “You no longer have that 3½-inch space for hardware to work with,” she adds.

For kitchen countertops that need a facelift, Chaignot says Wilsonart Laminate replicates the look of granite at a fraction of the cost. She also works with Lannon stone, which is available in many shapes, sizes and colors. She incorporates the natural stone in the interior walls of family rooms and lower level entertainment rooms, creating a focal point wall.

Under Foot

Trends in flooring are like the pendulum in a clock, according to Mike Baseman, owner of Baseman Floors.

Nowadays he is installing quarter-sawn white oak in kitchens, foyers and dining rooms. Red birch and yellow birch also are popular, along with Brazilian cherry and Brazilian walnut.

In the world of floor tile, larger-format products are taking center stage. Designers are working with 16- by-16-inch, 18-by-18-inch or 20-by-20-inch pieces.

Valerie Greetan, an interior designer at H.J. Martin & Son in Green Bay, says many customers who are decorating a small room think they should use tile with a small pattern. But the opposite is true. “The smaller the room the larger pattern you should consider because there’s less distraction when it’s a nice clean, large-scale pattern,” Greetan says.

She explains that the hot new thing is natural, organic printed tile that replicates textiles, animal prints and concrete. These products also offer solid colors and patterns. “If you take a tile that looks like stone and pair it with a tile that has more of an organic print, they work together nicely,” she says.

In keeping up with the consumer demand for more sustainable products, bamboo is a sought-after choice for floors. Essentially a grass that grows more rapidly than trees, the environmentally-friendly wood is available in a variety of colors and styles.

For others, dark wood flooring still is a favorite. “Now [the demand] is gravitating toward more brown and chocolate colors,” Hoppe says.

With such a wide variety of new products on the market, homeowners looking to update their home should start by consulting with an interior designer. A professional will be able to match the décor with the family’s lifestyle and budget.

As Amy Griffin points out, higher-end features are appearing in more average homes. “Some of the trends are not necessarily that they’re new ideas, they’re just becoming more attainable,” she says. “People are realizing, ‘OK, I can have that in my house.’”

—By Jan Sommerfeld

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