Multifamily owners and developers across the nation are responding to the growing appetite for nature-inspired elements, installing products made from natural materials or those that mimic them. "One of the biggest trends today is incorporating nature into our living spaces," says Debbie Zimmer, a design expert who predicts trends for the Paint Quality Institute. From flooring and wallcoverings to lighting and accessories, nature-inspired elements in the home go a long way to counteract the effects of spending the workday confined to offices with harsh fluorescent lighting. "People are relaxed and inspired by being outdoors, and bringing those elements into their homes creates a warm and comforting space," Zimmer explains.
Specifically, products that are made from stone or rock (or those that at least look like the real thing) appeal to a wide range of people, according to David Sheehan, a director with Mannington Mills, which manufactures vinyl flooring. "From an aesthetic standpoint, people are more comfortable with products that they can recognize in nature," he says. Moreover, materials and products that evoke the outdoors tend to be timeless and don't need to be replaced as frequently, says Brad Gavigan, president of Tempe, Ariz.-based Providence Artworks, which markets cabinet hardware made from stones. "When you incorporate nature into your home, you don't have to worry about it going out of style," he contends.
With the wide range of products available, it's easier than ever to add bits and pieces of nature to living spaces. (It doesn't have to be expensive, either.) For example, new cabinet hardware or wood window shades are simple additions that have a big impact. "Nature can be bold or subtle, invigorating or relaxing," Zimmer says, "but it's never boring." She adds: "By choosing natural materials in colors that you can see through the window each day, you are creating a wonderful transitional space."
–Jennifer Popovec is a freelance writer in Fort Worth, Texas.
STONE AGE: Organic materials such as granite aren't just for countertops. A new wallcovering from Phillip Jeffries is made from granite, mica, and vermiculite. Treated with a resin coating to resist chipping, the wallcovering can be used almost anywhere, from powder-bath walls to wrapped columns to recessed, tray ceilings. Priced at $48 per yard, it is available in seven colors. For more information, call 800-576-5455 or visit www.phillipjeffries.com.
SISSEL SIZZLE: More durable and softer than real sissel carpets, Fortune Contract's Riata carpet line looks like the real thing–but it's actually nylon. Available in 13 color options ranging from brown to greenish-gray to taupe, Riata is appropriate for modern or traditional room designs. It can be ordered through design firms and designer showrooms for roughly $20 per square yard. For more information, call 800-359-4508 or visit www.fortunecontract.com.
TREE TOPS: Woven wood shades like Levolor Window Fashions are one of the hottest window trends today. Made from reeds, bamboos, grasses, and yarns, the shades are available in a variety of colors such as ginger spice and smoky sage and suit décors ranging from traditional homes to casual rooms. For more information, call 800-538-6567 or visit www.levolor.com.
ROLLING STONES: Mannington Mills' Bali, which is part of the Adura luxury vinyl flooring line, mimics natural pebbles. Available in 16-inch-by-16-inch tiles of 1/8-inch thickness, Bali is offered in two colors: serpentine and river bend. Priced from $2.19 to $2.49 per square foot, the line has a 20-year warranty against wear, fading, and stains. For more information, call 856-935-3000, or visit www.mannington.com.
CORE CONCEPTS: LG HI-MACS' new line of Volcanics offers an alternative to granite. Created through proprietary technology, Volcanics features larger translucent chips, offering more depth and clarity. Volcanics take its cue from nature with 12 colors such as the brownish-red dominica, the green-toned basil and blue-infused santorini. For more information, call 866-544-4622 or visit www.lgcountertops.com.