Making Change
Enhance the look, feel and value of any home, from the simple to the extravagant
by Jill Lupine

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once wrote, “Everything changes and nothing remains still”—or, more famously, “Change is the only constant.”

Just as it is in life, so should it be in matters of home design. After all, updating one’s living space—investing in a distinctive piece of vintage furniture, say, or even the simple act of choosing a fresh new paint color to enliven the living room—can yield tremendous benefits. When done well, such thoughtfully done renovation projects not only offer a distinctive new vantage point but can also enhance the value of one’s home.

Interior design experts point to the midcentury modern movement as one of the most au courant trends. Broadly described as architecture, furniture and graphic design from the middle of the 20th century, the midcentury modern movement involves a design aesthetic ranging from 1933 to 1965, though some suggest the period is limited, quite specifically, to the 10-year period between 1947 and 1957.

“Midcentury modern is by far the hot topic of the interior design world,” says Jacqueline McCarthy, owner of Jacqueline McCarthy Designs, an interior design firm based in Glenside. “Scoring an original iconic piece by designers like Edward Wormley or Paul McCobb has become a bragging right in the industry. The clean lines work well into today’s open-concept homes, providing sleek design and adding visual interest without taking up a lot of visual space.”

When introducing a vintage upholstered midcentury modern piece into one’s existing décor, McCarthy suggests updating the fabric with a fresh color palette, interesting texture or modern print.

“The retail world has caught on to this trend, but in most of these remakes the craftsmanship just does not compare to the designer originals,” she says. “In my opinion, it’s worth the effort to take on the hunt and seek out MCM furniture and accessories at estate sales and auctions.”

Likewise, white walls remain “hot,” and McCarthy suggests it is no coincidence that this design element is prevalent in the midcentury modern movement. Selecting the “right” option from among the hundreds of available white paint colors—New York-based Donald Kaufman Color, a pioneer in the field of architectural color, is well known for its extensive collection of luxury whites, according to McCarthy—can make a significant difference in an indoor space. Even so, detecting each color’s subtle undertones requires a well-trained eye.

“Going all white essentially creates a blank canvas that allows the homeowner to showcase their belongings, much like a gallery showcases its artwork,” she says. “The austere simplicity of this background allows the furniture and accessories to take center stage in the room, another staple in midcentury design.”

Other hot trends in 2016 include “soft minimalism,” “woodland” and “joyful palettes,” as suggested by MaryAnne Applegate of Applegate Wood Floors. Minimalistic style values simplicity over embellishment, where restrained materials and textures are “hushed but heroic,” she says; in this aesthetic, blond wood tones such as maple, white oak and birch dominate, while soft grays provide a tranquil foundation for a room scheme. The woodland trend, on the other hand, creates an enchanting mood by seeking out the beauty and rawness of nature and exploring how exposure to the elements and the passage of time affect materials.

“[With joyful palettes], intense saturated hues greet with a spontaneous dynamic approach to design,” says Applegate, whose New Hope-based company hardwood flooring company has been doing business throughout the Greater Philadelphia Area since 1987. “Materials have a repurposed appearance; reclaimed wood boasts remnants of scraped paint colors and stains. Parquet is disrupted by colorful ceramic tiles. Mix-and-matched materials and patterns produce a busy collaged aesthetic. Cork becomes contemporary when integrated with felt, wood or glossy tiles.”

Of course, given Applegate’s background, knows that a well-chosen, properly maintained flooring surface can make a tremendous difference in the design of any room. At the same time, it can also contribute to a home’s long-term value. Luxury vinyl tile flooring, which is available in realistic wood visuals, offers a waterproof option that stands the tests of time and traffic. A high-quality wood flooring surface, on the other hand, is difficult to beat in terms of an overall design aesthetic.

“Natural-oil-finish wood floors are a beautiful and easily maintained alternative to polyurethane-finished wood floors,” she says. “Products are finished with natural renewable oil, an environmentally friendly choice that allows the wood to breathe while being simple to maintain and repair. Oiled flooring also enhances the grain of the wood, conferring a matte, rustic appearance.”

Although extensive renovations to a kitchen, bathroom or living room can significantly alter a home’s personality, even the smallest of design touches can make a big difference to a living space’s look and feel.

“Live house plants have replaced dried flowers and silk arrangements,” says McCarthy. “One of my favorite statement-making plants is the fiddle leaf fig; its shiny, broad leaves and tall stature add texture and height to a space. For tabletop plants, terrariums make a stylish addition and can be customized to suit any décor. If you are looking for a wall option try a staghorn fern mounted on a wood plank. These plants make unique wall hangings and can be clustered together or mixed in with a gallery wall for an added wow factor.”

Resource Guide
A home renovation or interior design project can transform a home’s entire personality. The following professionals can help.

Applegate Wood Floors
New Hope

Barb-Lin Carpet One

Colonial Marble & Granite

King of Prussia, Philadelphia and New Castle, Del.

Diamond Kitchen & Bath
Huntington Valley

Jacqueline McCarthy Designs

Stenella Antiques