Thinking about taking your interiors to the next level? Laid-back but fashion-forward, Northwest style has plenty of room for mixing up the new with the traditional. Four area designers have suggestions for fresh colors, finishes and ideas you can draw on to achieve a living environment that’s both comfortable and eye-catching.

Go to the walls

For a quick, dramatic update, consider wallpapering one or more of your walls. Yes, wallpaper is back — this time in big, graceful florals and bold graphic and geometric designs. “Just saying the word ‘wallpaper’ triggers some of my clients,” interior designer and home organizer Sara Eizen says. “But it’s a wonderful solution.”

You can use paint or wallpaper to create an accent wall behind your bed, add interest to a powder room, or add color to your kitchen in the form of an inexpensive backsplash. “Paint is magic,” Eizen says. “It can make a room feel completely new again.”

Wallpaper was used by designer Wendy Albee to create the vertical stripes in this bathroom. (Courtesy Albee Interior Design)
Wallpaper was used by designer Wendy Albee to create the vertical stripes in this bathroom. (Courtesy Albee Interior Design)

Wendy Albee, founder of Albee Interior Design, likes to paint stripes — vertical or horizontal — to add an architectural element to a room. “I’m a fan of black and white stripes on a wall,” she says.

The right artwork can transform a wall, but choosing the art can be a challenge. “People can get overwhelmed when they have a large wall and they don’t know what to put on it, “ Eizen says. “I often suggest gathering several of their smaller artworks or family portraits and arranging those to create a gallery wall.”

Designing with a large wall can feel overwhelming, but home organizer Sara Eizen says it’s a great spot for a gallery wall that collects frames in various shapes and sizes. (Courtesy Sara Eizen)
Designing with a large wall can feel overwhelming, but home organizer Sara Eizen says it’s a great spot for a gallery wall that collects frames in various shapes and sizes. (Courtesy Sara Eizen)

Careful with color

Another quick way to update a room is with bold color. But use caution before falling in love with that bright yellow couch. With colors going in and out of fashion rapidly, design pros suggest buying your expensive furniture in neutral colors. Save the color for accent walls, small rugs, cushions and pillows.

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Barbara Hyde Evans, founder of Hyde Evans Design, says that soothing blues and pastels, so popular in the past few years, are giving way to earthier tones. “I’m seeing golds, browns and rust,” she says. “Also emerald greens and jewel tones — all stronger colors that work well with midcentury design.”

Color is coming even to the popular all-white kitchen. Hyde Evans painted a client’s kitchen island a dark blue-green. “It was wonderful with the marble counters,” she says. “The whole kitchen transformed into something gorgeous.”

Keri Peterson, owner of the interior design firm KP Spaces, added teal subway tiles to a client’s kitchen. “That color on the backsplash took the kitchen to the next level,” she says.

Fine tune with new finishes

When it comes to interior updates, often the difference is in the finishes. A quick walk through any home improvement store reveals that shiny, polished surfaces have given way to duller, brushed ones.

“Matte finishes are very popular now,” Albee says. “You see matte black doors, matte black trim, matte black cabinetry — even matte black appliances.” For a quick and relatively inexpensive update, she suggests replacing shiny chrome or polished brass in the bathroom with brushed metal or matte black.

The trend to duller surfaces in homes extends all the way down to the floor. “Wire-brushed wood flooring is very practical,” Albee says. “If you have pets, you’ll never see the traffic.”

Find the fun

Perhaps the most dramatic change in interior design is in eating areas. Designers report that formal dining rooms and dining room sets have vanished, replaced by eclectic and casual spaces for entertaining.

“You’ll have a natural wood table and then some black, or maybe white, chairs,” Peterson says. “There’s no need to match finishes. We’re mixing things up a bit, putting things together in ways that are not expected — but they’re lots of fun. People tell me that they want their home to feel like a vacation home.”