Materials Matter! 5 Design Trends: Choose natural, sustainable, and bold

Learn how natural materials, patterns, and plants significantly contribute to well-being in your work environment.

Materials are vital to space design and function. The latest material design trends emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—the desire for cleanable, comfortable, and natural materials in our living and working spaces. The last year required many changes to where and how we work. We have all had to learn to work in new ways while staying connected and engaged with our teams, coworkers, and organization.

Today, many people are making their way back to the office—the hub of work and activity—and are looking for the workplace to ensure safety and comfort. A successful return to work(place) must center around employee well-being, organizational culture, and the functionality and design of the workspace itself.
Here are 5 inspiring ideas to enhance any workspace and create a cohesive design using high-performance materials that provide simplicity, sustainability, and comfort.

Neutral Naturals

The pandemic catapulted a desire to bring natural aesthetics and elements to the areas in which we do work. Nature makes us feel good and benefits our health. The longing to surround ourselves with nature includes the furniture and décor we incorporate into our spaces. Natural materials are the anchor of the latest designs and design collections.

Easily incorporated, light woods and natural fibers such as wool rugs and upholstery fit almost any style and sensibility—reminders of the wider world outside our walls. A staple in Scandinavian style, light-toned wood is deeply rooted in nature and simplicity. In this way, designing with natural fibers can make any space feel airy, casual, and soothing. Plus, incorporating design and architecture that bring the outdoors in is the essence of biophilic design—light woods and other natural elements offer the perfect balance to greenery and natural light.

Sustainable Offerings

As the pandemic continues to impact how we live and work, we are seeing a global push for more eco-friendly habits. People are re-evaluating their environmental impact—and the growing collective awareness of the need to preserve and protect natural resources is inspiring them to be conscious consumers, better global citizens, and eco-friendly decorators. A survey, which was the result of conversations with 1,000 employees at large US companies, found that nearly 40% of Millennials choose a job based on the company’s approach to sustainability. To this end, we are in a new age in developing sustainable design—whether in furniture or fashion. More and more brands are innovating new materials, production methods, and the way they design for a holistic approach that better benefits the consumers, makers, designers, and planet Earth.

Sustainable materials—such as wood, wool, digital knits, and upcycled-plastic polyester fabrics like Oceanic—provide quality design with an eco-friendly payoff. Companies that are committed to reducing their corporate carbon footprint, prioritizing employee well-being, and ensuring diversity and inclusion—all of which directly impact the attraction and retention of top talent—are seeing great success. Look for reused, recycled, and upcycled materials that reduce waste and renewable materials like wool, flax, and responsibly sourced wood.

Jewel Tones

Wellness and grandeur can go hand-in-hand with materials that feel indulgent and cozy, and offer a greater sense of comfort—mixing bright and nature-inspired hues that boost our moods. With the ever-present need to feel comfortable and safe in the spaces we do work, the addition of luxurious colors can make a significant positive impact.

The go-to muted tones and pastels of spaces past are stepping aside for the inviting and bold richness of mood-boosting jewel-toned patterns and hues. Every color of the rainbow has a jewel-toned counterpart—red to ruby, orange to amber, purple to amethyst. Experiment with color and aesthetics to achieve highly customizable spaces of beauty and comfort. Whether it’s a set of velvet armchairs with soft, sinuous shapes, or a leather lounge seated in front of a bold feature wall, these cozy, vibrant colors can provide inspiration and a lift in mood. Jewel tones are stylish, elevated, and comfortable—which is exactly how most of us are hoping to describe our 2021.

Happy Colors

In the past year, people felt unrest, grief, and anxiety. To combat these feelings, they are craving colors that lighten the mood, offer a feeling of optimism, and provide a quick boost in energy. Even as shelter-in-place orders lift, consumers will take a closer look at their spaces, how they function, and how they can transform them into a sanctuary in uncertain times. Spaces designed with happy colors and bright neutrals are hitting the mark.

Pops of Pantone’s Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, which together create their 2021 colors of the year, help people feel that everything is going to be brighter and happier. Happy colors promote internal peace in an age where mental and physical well-being are critical. Look for energetic color palettes with lively accents to create an uplifting vibe in any space.

Power in Performance

As people return to the workplace in a post-pandemic world, supporting their emotional need for safety is top of mind. The best everyday worksurfaces people use are easy to clean, non-porous, and reduce the likelihood of the spreading of germs on surfaces.

The wipe-ability of desks, chairs, conference tables, etc. is important to individuals and organizations. People who believe their employer provides a safe and healthy workplace are more likely to report to the office. Seek out high-performance materials designed to look beautiful and endure the toughest environments. Find selections made to take on heavy use, stand up to bleach cleaning, repel stains, and more.

Source: Haworth