Fresh paint, new rugs, updated furniture—magazines, websites and TV shows are brimming with ideas to entice you to make over your home.
But before making those changes, interior designer Michael Trahan recommends a couple of essential first steps:
“Really clean the room. Clean the windows, touch up the furniture, touch up the floors,” the Louisiana native advises.
Springtime launches the home-improvement season, and Michael has suggestions for those who want to spruce up their homes. During his decades as a certified interior designer, Michael has worked on model homes, offices, kitchens, bathrooms and single-room makeovers, plus staged homes for sale. He also is a member of the Color Marketing Group, an association that forecasts color trends for everything from automobiles to fashion to home décor.
He puts his creative ideas to use in his downtown Benicia home. He recently rotated accent pieces on a table that runs the length of his living room wall, packing up photographs to make way for accessories collected over time. “You still get to see the cherished things you’ve accumulated over the years this way. Though I see a couple of the photos are back out,” he says, smiling wryly as he glances at a side table with his wedding photo on it.
Michael’s enthusiasm shows on his whole face as he talks about trends in kitchens, colors, furniture and more. His smile reaches all the way to his eyes, which squint behind his circular-framed glasses.
Michael and his wife, Martha, moved to Benicia in 2000 from Walnut Creek. He worked for other design firms before opening Michael Trahan Interior Design in 1995. Martha accompanies him when meeting clients. “I love more modern, contemporary looks. My wife is more traditional, so we work as a team. A lot of people have a lifestyle that’s more eclectic than one single style.”
When did you become interested in interior design? I grew up in a family that was in the construction business. In high school I worked in the drafting department. I think that’s where I got the bug. But I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I got a degree in premed and when it was all said and done, I was not happy. Instead I went back to college and studied interior design.
What is the most common home improvement project currently? I’m doing a lot of kitchens and baths. That’s where you get the bigger bang for your buck when you sell. I’m also doing one-room makeovers, where people want a new feeling in a space. I take everything off the walls, relocate the artwork, remove the accessories and update them, add new color. It doesn’t take much to see an amazing change.
What trends are you seeing in kitchens this spring? Gray is still the neutral color of the moment for the whole house, and it’s showing up more in the kitchen. When people talk about painting their cabinets, they’re going more toward gray than white.
You’re also seeing a lot of very dark cabinetry with white countertops. You’re seeing more quartz for countertops at this time because of maintenance issues. You have to seal granite. Backsplashes are where you get your color. You’re seeing a lot of glass backsplashes in different shapes and sizes, and mixed metals with glass.
You’re also seeing more kitchen organization built into cabinets for things like spices. You’re seeing more drawers being used, even for pots and pans, and more appliances being hidden away.
You’re also seeing statement lighting in kitchens: a drum fixture or a dramatic pendant.
What’s on trend for kitchen and bathroom fixtures? Fixture trends are slower to change. You’re going to see brass more and more. I know people don’t want to hear that, but it has more of a patina look. People shouldn’t be alarmed. It’s not the shiny brass that was popular in the 80s.
Everything comes back around.
Any other mixing of materials likely to be seen in kitchens? This has been going on for a while, but it’s getting even more popular: Doing the island in one surface and the countertops in a different surface. Or the island will have a different finish or different color from the cabinets. So there’s a mixing of different countertop materials in the kitchen. Also a mixture of finishes: polished, honed and acid wash for countertops.
What else is coming back into style? Even wallpaper is coming back. I think you’ll continue to see more wallpaper being used to bring some texture or pattern on the wall. As an accent, it can make the whole room.
Colors also tend to come back. The new color this year is marsala, which is kind of a burgundy. But it’s lighter than the burgundy that was popular in the 70s. I think overall you’ll see darker hues, darker colors, different textures in accent pillows and drapes.
What other colors will be popular in the near future? In 2016, you’re going to see more farm-to-table colors: yellows and greens. It will be different shades of green than have been popular recently. I think olive is coming more into trend. The other colors that are going to be used are associated with comfort and happiness: blues and greens. They’ve been popular for a long time, but these will be different mixes.
Berry colors are coming back as well. What goes around, comes around.
Are there any styles from the past that you’d like to see come back? No, I can’t think of any. I like change.
What do you suggest to someone who wants to do a relatively quick makeover? The first thing I would do is de-clutter the space and clean it. I love the idea of de-cluttering, especially in the springtime.
Then figure out the best floor plan for traffic flow and arrange your furniture. Sometimes changing your space plan makes the biggest difference in a room.
Remove your artwork and accessories. Then start adding in items. Hand select the art you are going to rehang and edit the accessories. Add a new area rug, new throw pillows, maybe a new lamp if the budget allows. I like to add a tree or live plants. I like the idea of adding foliage. It adds life to a space.
Any similar tips for bathrooms? Paint, update your lighting, change your mirrors to one with a frame, add color or wallpaper, change the cabinet hardware. In the bath or kitchen, changing the pulls and knobs can really update the appearance. You really don’t have to do a complete overhaul.
Are clients more aware of design trends given the abundance of home-improvement shows? They are more educated about design. With the shows and everything that’s available, they are aware of trends. But they may be unrealistic about timing because on TV everything gets done in a week. They don’t show all the planning and work that is done before that point.
If you weren’t an interior designer, what would your profession be? I would probably be doing some sort of designer aspect, maybe designing furniture.
What do you do to relax? We love to travel although we haven’t done that for some time. I like to go to the wine country; I like to go to the city. Because I work from my home, I like to get out.