Design Trends 2023: We Can’t Get Enough of Eco-Friendly, Colour, Curves and Cocooning

by Laura Goldstein

In 1981, it was Faith Popcorn and her TrendBank who first coined the interior design term, cocooning. She defined it as “The need to protect oneself from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world.” Today, nothing could be closer to that truth.

Returning to their former in-person glory after several years of Covid shut-downs, local and international Design Fairs from IDS-Vancouver’s New Futures, New York Design Week, Salon del Mobile, Milan and Maison & Object, Paris all expressed similar interpretations of design trends for 2023: OUT with the paired-down, straight lines and neutrals and IN with colour, curvaceous furniture and sculptural lighting all wrapped in eco-conscious comfort!

1. Eco-Friendly & Sustainability in 2023: Who knew a vegetable could be so inspiring?
If you watched the award-winning documentary, Fantastic Fungi on Netflix you know about the incredible communicative and medicinal properties of mushrooms and their mycelium roots. Fashion designer and eco-philanthropist, Stella McCartney recently collaborated with B&B Italia to re-imagine Mario Bellini’s iconic 1972 Bambole Chair for her Fungi Forest iteration. With it’s hand-drawn mushroom-patterned upholstery, the chair can be completely disassembled for recycling when the time is right.

Brooklyn-based biodesigner, Danielle Trofe of Danielle Trofe Design has taken this ecological phenomenon another step further by working with living organisms to produce contemporary, sustainable lighting. By allowing the mycelium to grow around clean agricultural waste such as hemp, corn stalks or husks, over a few days, the injected mycelium binds the waste together, forming a solid shape. She packs the materials into 3D -printed lampshade molds. “Grown in a lab, the mycelium product is very sustainable and there are no off-gases or leeching into the earth,” says Trofe from her Brooklyn-based studio.

Her very cool collaborations with restaurants and boutiques also include Mushlume Lighting Lampshades and Pendants adorning the Westley Hotel Calgary Downtown Tapestry Collection by Hilton. 

Renee Switzer, Co-Founder and Principal of SwitzerCultCreative in Vancouver has championed B.C. and international makers of high-end furniture and lighting for over 25 years. “Danielle’s approach to organic sustainability with her Mushlume Lighting Collection is so simple yet fascinating and complements both residential and commercial design,” she explains. “I’m also a big fan of Kirk Van Ludwig’s Autonomous Furniture out of Victoria because the beautifully designed contemporary pieces are sourced from re-purposed wood and use non-toxic finishes.”

Peruvian-born sculptor and furniture craftsman, German Aguirre of German Aguirre Design Atelier in Vancouver, expresses his interconnectedness with nature as “of the earth.” A former guide in the Amazon during a gap year at school he is influenced by the ephemeral nature of mandala abstract art. Showcased at IDS Vancouver, his intricate organic tabletop designs of his Mycelium Seed Line Collection, are created with huayruros, quionoa, chia, shihuahuaco seeds and black beans meticulously patterned in layers of eco-friendly resin. “I grew up admiring the artists of Peru and their use of stones, wood, engravings and natural elements,” Aguirre explains. “I want to tell a story through my pieces with a modern interpretation.”

2. Furniture & Fabrics: Curves In all the right places
The voluptuous curved configurations in jewel and earthy hues of the 1920s Art Deco period are trending for 2023. Undulating sofas and chairs in luxurious fabrics are an emotional enticement to sit (or better still, lie down) in cocooning comfort.

“We’ve noticed our clients have started shifting their aesthetic from paired down white interiors to colour and have become more adventurous with softer furniture shapes. It’s all about comfort and less architectural,” says Jennifer Heffel, Owner and Principal Interior Designer, HB Design, Vancouver. “Lots of beautiful emerald greens, mocha, amber, caramels, rich navy and not just in principal rooms but kitchens too.”

All things textural from soft furnishings like pillows and throws to upholstered furniture that began in 2022 (including the sherpa fabric craze,) have morphed into a total sensory experience in 2023. Italian brand, Poliform’s St. Germain Sofa and Le Club Armchairs come in multiple configurations with removable fabrics in scrumptious colours and are as snuggly and soft as an oversize sweater. They’re available in certified natural and regenerated materials in nubby bouclé wools, linen, velvets and viscose jacquards.

3. Kitchen Culture
You almost expect dinner ready and waiting for you in the newly opened HABITAT by Aeon in Vancouver because they showcase 8 full-size kitchens for 2023 from Italian modern to traditional and rustic. Streamlined functionality are key to this year’s kitchen designs with attention to sinks, faucets and prep-chef accessories.

“Coloured cabinetry and islands, a trend towards charcoal or even lighter woods, almost the colour of teak will be popular in 2023,” says Jennifer Heffel of HB Design.

4. Pantone Colours of the Year: The bible of colour marketing 2023
Who can forget that iconic “cerulean sweater” speech in the film, The Devil Wears Prada? Meryl Streep, playing the editor of a fictional Vogue-ish magazine, condescendingly lectures her naive assistant, actress, Ann Hathaway on how colour forecasters dictate everything – from fashion to interior design, graphic arts and architecture and yes, even nail polish. Then, unbeknownst to the general public, those pre-selected colours filter down to the choices made by Jane and John Doe.

The Pantone Color Institute is a U.S. consulting service that forecasts global colour trends and advises companies in brand identity and product development using colour as a strategic asset. They have deemed Viva Magenta  2023 colour -of- the -year along with Digital LavenderOyster Mushroom(!), Mocha Mousse and Bluing. Paint companies like Benjamin Moore also predict colours-of-the-year: Raspberry Blush , a vivid mix of coral and pink, is their newest charismatic statement colour for interiors in 2023. 

5. Let there be light: Decorative and Sculptural Lighting for 2023
Pendant lighting, floor lamps and wall mounts are so sculptural they’ve evolved into pieces of art in their own right and can’t help but illicit an emotional response. The statement lighting reflects our love of nature and brings elements of the outdoors – indoors.

Israeli lighting company, Aqua Creations and their sculptural, abstract interpretations of sea life, are stunning additions to residences, hotels and restaurants. Made by hand in gorgeous hues of pleated silk, the spectacular coral reefs in the Red Sea have influenced co-founder Albi Serfaty’s designs, such as Morning Glory. His newest collection of pendant and wall mounted lighting is entitled Lakes: Light On Water, re-imagined by looking at aerial views of bodies of water.They are geometric interpretations of the shape of lakes drawing attention to water ecosystems and were recently launched at Design Miami ” he says from his studio near Tel Aviv. 

Requiem by British lighting designer, Lee Broom, premiered at Salon del Mobile, Milan. The hand-sculpted limited edition pieces mimic the marble drapery sheathed across ancient statues. Because all the electrical components are hidden, they appear magically suspended in mid-air.

6. Wallpaper: It’s okay to be a wallflower
Wallpaper and wallpaper murals just keep getting bolder and more colourful in 2023 with florals and tropical designs front and centre. Stunning Japandi and  Chinoiserie motifs have been made possible with digital printing techniques, according to Swedish design studio, Rebel Walls who ship world-wide. Just like sustainable fabrics, wallpaper in natural fibres like grasscloth, silk and bamboo add texture and warmth to any room. Art Deco is not only trending in furniture design as eye-catching geometrics and abstracts that popularized the 20s and 30s are showing up in wallpaper motifs. 

In 2023, let’s be adventurous. Try a new trend or two. After all, adding calm and sophistication to our homes is the essence of cocooning and we all need a little joie de vivre.