YPN Breakfast Panel: 2018 Design Trends

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At our March  YPN Breakfast – 2018 Design Trends, we had Chicago designers share their insights about this year’s hottest trends. The panel included Brynn Olson from Brynn Olson Design Group, LLC, and Dan Rak from Dan Rak Design. Get the scoop on the on-demand design elements clients and investors are using to add value to their properties.    

 The hottest trend is staying timeless and unique.


Replace backsplashes for an easy major upgrade. Geometric patterns with sharp edges are on trend, or go for a timeless subway tile, Brynn Olson said. Bold color and pattern are popular design elements this year, but if you’re afraid of committing to that on a larger scale, Dan Rak said going for a trendy backsplash is the stress-free solution, because it’s easy to replace but could make a huge difference. Reface cabinetry with Shaker style cabinets. Olson said to look out for styles with clean edges and not to forget about adding an inset detail. Rak recommended going bold and cool by adding a mix of black and white color to your cabinets. If you prefer a classic and clean look, “you can never go wrong with white.” His favorite dark colors for cabinets are Benjamin Moore Onyx or Iron Mountain. His favorite white colors are Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White or White Dove. Implement mixed metals. Hardware is important. Polished nickel or polished brass without lacquer are  two timeless trends that can completely transform a kitchen. Instead of just knobs and pulls, look at large, interesting designs for hinges and other hardware throughout the house. Go quartz for countertops. “Stay away from anything with glitter,” Olson warned. She said to look beyond the Caesarstone brand and recommended Difiniti as a great alternative. Butler pantries are back. Olson said butler pantries are in demand and are becoming the designated area for dishwashers in many homes.


Timeless fixtures are a must. Olson advised saying no to frosted glass, but yes to milk glass or clear glass. A timeless but trending shape right now is globe fixtures. Olson recommends shopping for light fixtures online at ShadesofLight.com, or at other cost-effective stores like west elm and Pottery Barn, emphasizing that going for more timeless pieces instead could appeal to a wider market.


Treat your windows like royalty. “Watch out for bad drapery,” Rak cautioned. Drapes should be hung as high as possible and hemmed at the floor. This makes a room appear much bigger. Her favorite is ironed Emery linens from Pottery Barn. Make sure to straighten pleats, which Rak said is possible by pinning with double-sided tape. Less is more.  Reduce clutter by following Rak’s advice: “Clear display shelves and surfaces, and opt for fewer larger objects. Open space is okay.” And clear the walls of undersized or improperly hung, crooked objects. Emphasize unique, high-quality pieces. Some of Olson’s tricks on how to make the most out of your wall space are to dress large walls by adding cool, abstract art, which will maked it look “like a million bucks.” Her go-to is find inexpensive prints from online stores, such as Etsy.com. “Then, go to west elm, buy a 30×40 frame and arrange the prints in groupings of four.” Make sure to perfectly align proportions and color matching.  You can also transform your furniture by adding layers of detail. She suggests layering on about six neutral-colored accent pillows on your sofa and topping off with a luxurious throw over it. “A quick piling of cozy could completely transform a totally fratty looking sofa.” Clients or investors could keep the items or work them into the deal.


Bring interest to a room with bold colors and patterns. Rak believes painting doors and ceilings a dark color makes a huge difference. Olson noted that applying wallpaper on ceilings is a great way to draw the eyes up when entering a room, plus it looks like art. Adding wallpaper to the powder room or master bedroom works great, too. A huge trend is grasscloth wallpaper. Staining your floors a different color is a great way to freshen up a room. Dan’s favorite stain for red oak wood floors is Jacobean Ebony 50/50 mix. Gray walls are here to stay, some say. Olson swears gray is the perfect neutral. She raved about how Benjamin Moore Shoreline is like the perfect blue jean. “It goes with any lighting, natural light, no light. It’s literally the perfect gray.” For those looking for a more California cool vibe in line with the crisp and clean colors trend, she advises going for an in-between like the Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter. She calls it greige: the perfect beige, bone tone, and grey combo. Dan’s favorite overall neutral is the Benjamin Moore Silver Satin 856. “It pulls together a lot of things and makes the room feel light and fresh.”

Join us for April’s Working With Investors breakfast.