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Three Local Designers On Hot Topics in Home Design



Although most people change their slipcovers far less often than they change the cut of their jeans, interior design trends are subject to many of the same influences — and the same ephemerality — as fashion trends. Here, three interior designers pick their favorite trends in home decor, along with key pieces to update any room in minutes.


Penny Francis
Eclectic Home
8211 Oak St., (504) 866-6654, www.eclectichome.net

Penny Francis runs an interior design business and a home furnishings store, so she's frequently on the move. She visits North Carolina's High Point Furniture Market in spring and fall and hits New York and Atlanta at least once a year. This summer, she vacationed in Paris and London, where she soaked up new ideas.

  "You get a different perspective on vacation," says Francis, owner of the trend-conscious Eclectic Home. "The environment can speak to you in a way that it doesn't when you're shopping [the markets]. I was reinvigorated and reinspired."

  Among the trends Francis sees in home design is the pairing of industrial and glamorous elements in lighting. "You'll see a rustic iron structure surrounding a crystal fixture," says Francis, who admits to a fixation on lighting and has partnered with one of the manufacturers she carries to develop a line of lighting designs.

  She also sees brass making a comeback.

  "For a while, everything was chrome and nickel," she says. "The brass was aged and retro. Now you're seeing more classics done in brass, like a traditional candelabra base lamp with a black shade."

  In contrast to the grayish oak furniture that dominated in recent years, she loves the move toward natural-looking woods and the new interpretations of lacquered finishes.

  "It's not that 1980s look where everything was lacquer," she says. "Now you may have a Louis XIV commode with a black lacquer finish and brass hardware. Going through Versailles [this summer], I saw original Louis XIV pieces and now I'm seeing them reinterpreted."

  Francis loves to transform a room with wallpaper, another trend that doesn't break the bank.

  "Designers and manufacturers are looking at vintage textiles for inspiration and reinterpreting the graphics larger, which makes it more modern," she says.

  Adhering to the a-little-bit-goes- a-long-way credo, she suggests using these wallpapers as a focal point on one wall in a dining room or powder room.

  "It's worth the investment to have that little bit of drama and texture and pattern," she says. "And if you tire of it, you can easily change it."


Shawn O'Brien
Shawn O'Brien Interiors
6063 Magazine St., (504) 899-3282

An interior designer for more than 20 years, Shawn O'Brien can handle every aspect of putting together a space. Over the years, she's found that one area of design thrills her more than any other: textiles. O'Brien partnered with fellow designer Heidi Friedler in 1996 to open a sample room and has amassed tens of thousands of fabrics — a specialty that gives new meaning to the title "material girl."

  This fall, she plans to open her Magazine Street showroom (previously open by appointment) to the public.

  An avid traveler, O'Brien finds inspiration in trips to New England, China and Barcelona, Spain, as well as in the fabrics she sleuths out.

  "When I'm given a blank canvas, I usually start with a perfect fabric and build on it," says O'Brien, who points to designer Mary McDonald's new line of textiles as a favorite.

  She says she's leery of trends. "I don't want my jobs to look like everyone else's," O'Brien says. "But sometimes [the trends] are great innovations that deserve to stick around."

   Topping her list: durable fabrics such as washable outdoor-grade velvets, polyester "silks" with the look and feel of real silk minus the fragility, faux fur and pleathers. The affordability, longevity and improved feel of such fabrics makes them appealing.

  "Manufacturers are finally making things that are affordable that don't look cheap," she says.

  Adaptive reuse of materials — an outgrowth of the green movement — is another trend she wholeheartedly supports. "Artists and artisans and cabinetmakers are using found materials in their work," she says. "Using existing things has engendered a lot of creativity."

  The development she's happiest about is an increased interest in color. "I'm finding people are getting braver with color," she says. "I'm seeing more whites and brights and clear colors as opposed to neutrals and earth tones. I like that I'm getting to break out with color and use the whole spectrum."


Chet Pourciau
Chet Pourciau Design 3652 Magazine St., (504) 522-2438; www.chetpourciaudesign.com

Interior designer Chet Pourciau began his career working for retailers including Gucci, Macy's and Pottery Barn. It wasn't long before his passion for design led him to earn an interior design degree and open a retail establishment.

  "It's important to have a store because it showcases my work and my sense of design, and it's my office," says Pourciau, who is a design reporter for Fox 8 News and hosts WLAE-TV's Chet Chat. "It invites people in the door and can also bring in design clients."

  Pourciau rattles off his favorite new home decor developments with ease. "One trend that has come back to life bigger and better than ever is wallpaper," he says. "Wallpaper can be trendy or classic and stable; it's all about the texture, design, color and fabrics."

  Prevailing color schemes include black-and-white palettes ("Black is always enduring and simple to work with," he says) and emerald green. "It lends itself to blues and yellows and that makes it easier to work with than some greens," Pourciau says.

  But a different type of "green trend" — the use of recycled materials — lies closest to his heart. "I don't know if it's a trend or if it's here to stay," he says of transforming things like antique glass bottles into pendant light fixtures. "It's always fun to take something from the trash and turn it into a piece of art."

  Pourciau does have caveats when working with trends. Rather than incorporating them into a room's core design, he advises creating a strong foundation with a good paint job and well-designed lighting, then introducing a trend via accessories. A prime example of the type of accessory he says can take a room "from drab to fab": his new Albania Plantation collection of pillows. Made of brightly colored Thai silk on one side and linen on the other, they have leather ties that show off both the interior and exterior colors.

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