By: Shirley Hammond, FASID, RID, NCIDQ
Hopefully, many of you have read ASID National’s recently released 2023 Trends Outlook. It is an in-depth study of current national variables important to the interior design profession, practice, and process. The national perspective led me to question how Alabama’s trends align with national perspectives. Are we similar? How are we different?
Thus, to find the answer, I interviewed three interior design practitioners in Alabama. Purposefully, the three have different types of practices and are in different parts of the state so that we might get a closer look at who we are and what we are experiencing in Alabama.
The portion of the ASID National Trends report selected to address is clientele “lifestyle trends.” Specifically:
In addition to:
Health & Wellness:
National Implications are that ID’s are particularly qualified to design interior environments suitable and supportive of mental health and the reduction of stress and “unease.” Although new healthcare construction is slowing, hospitals are remodeling/upgrading to attract and reassure patients. Home healthcare is increasing. ID’s must carefully research products and sources using evidence-based interventions for desired results. The hospitality sector is increasingly concentrating on wellness in hotel design.
Reb Baker, ASID, NCIDQ, RID has not noticed increased requests for health and wellness features in the retail sector.
Lynne Dunn, ASID, NCIDQ, RID is seeing increased requests for commercial waiting rooms with easy-to-clean finishes and durable surfaces. She is finding that hospitals are looking like luxury hotels. However, budget restrictions are requiring the use of generic finishes. It is a balancing act between luxury vs. budget. For comfort, lift chairs and “hip” or perch” chairs are in demand for hip and knee problems where working at a raised position is more comfortable.
Wayne Holder, ASID, NCIDQ, RID is noticing increasing requests from seniors for aging-in-place conveniences. In demand are handicap-accessible entrances, wider door widths, reduced trip hazards (flush thresholds, non-slip rugs, etc.), spa therapy (interior and exterior), automated plumbing appliances, home elevators, and large windows for increased light.
Family & Home:
National implication findings indicate that more affluent households are pursuing smaller household footprints to allow for more discretionary spending on products, services, and home improvement.
Conversely, less affluent households have constrained spending. Multi-generational housing is increasing and requiring accommodations for mixed-generational use. The national population is shifting geographically– moving from the Northeast and Midwest to warmer climates and leaving suburbs for urban areas. Population movement is requiring design and re-design for the new locations.
Reb Baker, ASID, NCIDQ, RID is observing an increasing number of senior clients. His small-upscale retail business is serving a larger number of seniors looking for recliners and lift chairs (that don’t look like recliners) with comfort and style. Clients are more willing to hire ID’s for expertise. They want a convenient and comfortable home that does not look like a nursing home. Even if they live in a retirement or assisted living environment with lots of medical devices, they want those items concealed but accessible. They want “regular” furniture and stylish finishes.
Lynne Dunn, ASID, NCIDQ, RID occasionally designs home offices with clients looking for adjustability. For example, in demand are tables for supporting children’s homework as well as adult work. Multi-generational homes are requiring flexibility.
Wayne Holder, ASID, NCIDQ, RID is seeing a high demand for coastal properties. His client base is more affluent in all age groups. With the influx of new clients, construction is rampant in his geographic area. He sees a multicultural increase in the sub-contracting sector but not necessarily in his client base. Because of the increased housing demand and slow supply chain, projects are taking longer to complete.
Wealth & Luxury:
National implications show a rise in discretionary spending for home improvements and remodeling. However, recent wealth reduction due to volatile markets has caused spending delays. A recession threat, inflation, and increases in interest rates alter spending patterns. Caution leads to hesitancy in home-buying. Spending is stronger for fashion and personal items and luxury consumers are looking for value and exclusivity. Wellness is considered a luxury. Thus, buyers are willing to pay for designs promoting wellness and well-being. Luxury travel is boosting demand for hospitality upgrades promoting relaxing, luxurious, and aesthetic environments.
Reb Baker, ASID, NCIDQ, RID is experiencing a readiness and willingness to spend for value as well as patience to wait for the product. Since the pandemic, and currently, lead-time waits are lengthened, and full deposits are rare. Partial deposits are the norm and business models have had to adjust to fit the timeframe.
Lynne Dunn, ASID, NCIDQ, RID is noticing hospitals competing against each other. They look for quality rather than luxury. She is seeing adjustability rather than grand finishes.
Wayne Holder, ASID, NCIDQ, RID is noticing his incoming clientele wanting a small-town perspective with exclusivity.
Work & Retirement:
National implications point to employers’ concerns for employee mental health. In particular, the trends for women in leadership roles show a value for working remotely to alleviate stress in managing a balance in work vs. family responsibilities. Well-designed home offices with separations for work from family responsibilities are a high priority. Private and quiet environments separated from socialization areas are vital. Hospitality needs are addressing the same need for separations between quiet and interactive spaces. Individual control is needed in both home and commercial offices to support a multigenerational workforce.
Reb Baker, ASID, NCIDQ, RID has noticed a huge upswing in the demand for home office furniture that doesn’t look commercial. Clients are requesting functionality, smaller scale, and style. Men and women of all ages are attuned to aesthetics. Clients are spending to “get what they want” for style, comfort, and flexibility.
Lynne Dunn, ASID, NCIDQ, RID states that “reducing stress is what we have always done” by providing an organized and functional environment. An analysis of the space left and right, how and where you store, and simple placement and adjustability are the keys to a well-designed and stress-reducing environment. Additionally, task chairs for comfort are a high priority. Separation of quiet and collaborative spaces is important. Returning to the use of panel systems with varying heights is still important for separation and flexibility. Also, technology within furniture is driven by the desire for flexibility. For example, height adjustments may be operated via blue-tooth technology from cell phones offering individual control for “hoteling” (shared-use spaces).
Wayne Holder, ASID, NCIDQ, RID is noticing senior clientele moving to retirement communities where they can remodel and upgrade for more personalized environments. Trends in these communities are for more space and amenities such as more bedrooms, a study, a solarium, and a living room. These active and long-living seniors want their environments to promote their energy. Property swaps with adult children are more common where the “big house” is swapped for handicap-accessible condos.
Environment & Sustainability:
National implications confirm that ID’s can help clients make sustainable choices by sharing knowledge of the environmental impacts of products and materials. Marketing this expertise is on the rise.
Reb Baker, ASID, NCIDQ, RID just recently received a first client request for fabrics without “off-gassing.” The desire for cleaner air has become important in the retail sector.
Lynne Dunn, ASID, NCIDQ, RID states that her commercial clients are interested in sustainability if there is no increase in the cost.
Wayne Holder, ASID, NCIDQ, RID notes that environmental interest “comes from the heart” and is targeted toward the surrounding Mobile Bay. Mobile Bay Keepers are vigilant. However, he sees a mixed philosophy of electric + gas-powered vehicles. There is interest in geo-thermal projects that are receiving governmental rebates due to their efficiency. He is aware of more localized transportation hubs for ports, rail, and trucking. Additionally, there is an increase in “force-five concrete construction” due to increasingly stronger weather patterns. The push-pull is the influx of people requiring more construction but with the desire for the beauty of the local natural environment.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Equality:
National implications find that wealth is related to life stage and that GenXers’ & Millennials’ wealth is increasing due to home equity, savings, investments, and inheritance. In addition, by mid-century, the Hispanic population should comprise the largest portion of the U.S. population and both Black and Hispanic households will have more discretionary income. Thus, tomorrow’s communities will be more diverse, and ID’s must become more knowledgeable of cultural traditions and preferences.
Reb Baker, ASID, NCIDQ, RID stresses that his business practices are inclusive. Additionally, he is focused on philanthropic work to be incorporated within ASID AL to form a “Way Station” for the homeless.
Lynne Dunn, ASID, NCIDQ, RID serves a generic clientele where she strives to standardize larger companies so that all clients receive the same amenities, except “special needs” requirements. However, since Covid and the difficulty in keeping employees, employers are giving their employees “extras” to retain talent.
Wayne Holder, ASID, NCIDQ, RID is noticing that as older sub-contractors are retiring, a more diverse group of sub-contractors is entering these specialties. He is hoping for an increase in communication and expanding skills.
So, in conclusion, based on this small sampling of ID practitioners, how is Alabama trending? Do we align with national perspectives? Are we similar? How are we different? Do our similarities and/or differences as a state interior design community matter? Based on your own experience and observations, you decide.
Reb Baker, ASID, NCIDQ, RID
Issis and Sons
1493 Montgomery Hwy
Vestavia Hills, Alabama 35216
Lynne Dunn, ASID, NCIDQ, RID
Senior Interior Designer
Kyser OfficeWorks, Inc.,
2400 Spruce Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36107
Wayne Brinson Holder, ASID, NCIDQ, RID
Brinson Interiors, Inc.
Point Clear, Alabama
Established in 1984