Let's step back into the past to understand the process.
As an example, consider the Neoclassic style associated with the French king, Louis XVI (1774-1789). Up until this time French furniture was large scaled and highly decorated with gilt and ormolu. It was very busy and ostentatious.
In 1753 archaeologists discovered the ruins of Pompeii on the west coast of Italy. A whole city was covered by ashes in a few hours when Mount Vesuvius erupted. The year, 79 AD, was frozen in time. As it was unearthed the news of the findings spread around the Western world. Of course they had no mass media at the time, or photography, so information was disseminated by word of mouth, written articles and sketches or engravings. It was a slow process, but finally the news made its way to the court of Louis XVI.
It is here where you see the changes first. There was a return to Roman and Greek styles and finer lines and details in all matter of art and furnishings. The color palette changed as well with a new favorite called Pompeiian Red.
All these trends were reinforced by the unrest of the French citizens who were tired of the conspicuous consumption of previous kings. The simpler forms and lines were easier to accept on both sides of the palace wall. As time passed these concepts filtered down to the common man. However, the excesses of past kings were too great to save the monarchy and the revolution occurred despite the new trend toward conservatism.
Of course the entire history of interiors is closely related to historical circumstances. Politics, archaeology, empire building, voyages of discovery and more affect what becomes popular in the homes of the wealthy and later the commoner. With all of this in mind, what can we see in the crystal ball of the design future? Succinctly it is the three Es: Economy, Ecology and Ethnicity.
In the 1980s, money was spent liberally. Everyone had charge cards and the attitude of buy now, pay later was predominant. Even the interest on these credit cards was tax deductible so the government reinforced this mentality. Then the national debt sky-rocketed and this tax deduction was eliminated. We discovered that our debts were so great they would be passed on to our children and our children's children. It was time for a change.
Spending stopped. A recession set in which put people out of work reducing spending further. Value has become the watch word of the '90s.
Consumers no longer buy things figuring they can throw it away and buy another. Now there are questions. How much does it cost? How long will it last? Will it stay in style? Can it change with the times? With this trend in conservative spending conservative colors have returned. Navy blues and grays are here. Energy is added by the look of metallics such as silver, gold or bronze tones.
People are keeping everything longer -- cars, computers, televisions. They cannot afford to throw things away anymore. Since we are looking for stability, we turn to the tried and true.
The return of classic looks in design continues. Whether it is the simple lines of Shaker or Art & Crafts furniture, or the intricacies of architectural columns and carvings, all designs lead back to the past. Security, safety, a strong foundation are the feelings searched for in the home today. It is home as sanctuary, instead of home as base of operations.
You would have to be living in a cave not to be aware of the higher consciousness of man's impact on the environment. There was some movement around this area in the late '60s and '70s, then the Reagan years pushed it away. The theme became "He who dies with the most toys wins." It was the era of conspicuous consumption, the "me" attitude and the throw-away society.
As usual the pendulum has swung the other way. Each of us is becoming aware that our resources are not inexhaustible. That we must care for what we have or we will lose it all. With this new mind set we look around to see how we can make an impact in our own small way.
The trend is to recycle products. Paper is recycled into new paper products. Plastic milk jugs are made into outdoor furniture. Soda bottles are made into carpeting.
Rather than using chemical dyes whose wastes poison the water, natural dyes are becoming popular. These dyes are changing colors from bold, electric hues to softer more subtle shades such as sage, maize and sienna.
We are going back to natural fibers for our fabrics, too. Many last longer, especially cotton, and the texture and breathability is almost impossible to duplicate with man-made products. Cotton has become so important that companies have developed plants that actually grow the fibers in colors. These hues are soft green, yellow and beige.
Wood is becoming more precious and expensive. There are few old-growth forests remaining and more people are active in saving them. This results in more expensive houses and furniture if built the old way. Of course new furniture still is available, but components made of cardboard, plastic, masonite, chip board and the like must be tolerated.
Many people do not want to sacrifice quality. Instead they are buying and restoring furniture and houses. The used furniture look is so popular that some manufacturers have whole lines dedicated to it.
As time passes this reduce, reuse, recycle mentality should continue and even pick up momentum. Since our resources are limited, let us use them wisely.
Not to be missed or underestimated is the increasing smallness of our planet due to the convenient technology of computers and telecommunications. Technology can bring images and information from the farthest corners of the globe into your home this evening on the news or whenever you log onto the World Wide Web.
Each of us is becoming more aware of the huge range of cultures and what they can bring to our homes. And we want it. We are seeing the colorful fabrics of Africa in clothing and home decor. These fabrics are made of cotton, one of our favorite textiles. They bring life and vibrancy to our homes.
The influence of Asian art styles and colors continues as well. It was instigated by President Nixon's trip to China many years ago. It gains influence because of our ever-expanding trade relationships with China, Japan and other nations of the Far East.
There probably are few homes that have yet to incorporate some aspect of these styles whether it is in colors such as gold, black, red; objects such as lacquered furnishings, screens, rattan; or philosophy with the increasing popularity of Feng Shui, the Chinese art of placement.
Russia continues to step up international trade. What fabulous treasures will be found there? It will be a slow process, but sooner or later we will see the influence of Russian architecture, clothing styles, colors, art and furnishings on our lives. Already we have seen small items such as beautiful enameled boxes and nesting dolls incorporated into home decor.
These trends will continue on and on. This is no crystal ball. You have only to look around you at what is happening in archaeological finds, ecological challenges, international affairs and economic signals to see what is coming.
Susan Dudics-Dean is owner of Celestial Designs and an interior designer who has worked in the San Francisco Bay area of California for more than 11 years. She also is a newspaper columnist and seminar speaker.