On Trend: What’s coming up in surface design for 2020/2021

Published: 5 July 2020 - 5 a.m.
By: Jane O'Neill

Surface has always been used by interior designers and artists alike to create illusions and representations of our 3D world.

Design academics Vanessa Northway and Malini Karani, from Heriot-Watt University Dubai share their forecast for the future of surface design. "Surface design makes the most of our visual sensory system and can greatly modify spatial character. Today interior designers are going well beyond merely painting or applying a surface coating or facing.

We are however, seeing another new and interesting development – the reevaluation of surface design in a post- COVID era. Few other events in history have changed the world as much as COVID-19 has, and it is therefore only natural that it should usher in changes in the design community as well. "The rapid spread of COVID-19 has significantly changed what design may mean for a world that will never be quite the same.

This is true especially of large commercial spaces such as salons, retail, hotels, hospitals. However, the situation does not need to be viewed entirely through a negative lens. The challenges brought on by the pandemic also offer an opportunity to come up with fresh ideas and new ways. For example, what we now know about remote work can help interior designers create office spaces that allow for a balance of isolated concentration and meaningful collaboration."

Minimalism and fl exible furniture are in

Flexible furniture
"Social distancing is possibly one of the biggest changes brought on by the coronavirus outbreak. "It means to deliberately increase physical space between people to avoid further spread of the virus. Studies show that staying at least six feet away from other people lessens chances of catching COVID-19. Flexible furniture is therefore likely to be a hot trend. The advantages are obvious – they take up little space when not needed (think stackable chairs), allows you to arrange space the way you like and ensure social distancing. "Such furniture can come equipped with castors that help it move quickly and easily and reconfigure space as needed."

Minimalistic design
"This has been in style for a while now but it’s likely to become more popular in the post-COVID era. Simplicity and a lack of clutter and with no compromise on functionality are the hallmarks of minimalism. "Such a style also makes hygiene easier to maintain – surface designs that are minimalistic are easier to clean, have fewer nooks and crannies that could potentially trap germs and make it easier to carry out multiple rounds of sanitising in a day."

We'll be seeing more of bamboo

Antimicrobial surfaces
"While frequently washing our hands, wearing masks and practicing social distancing are effective steps in slowing the outbreak of COVID-19, pathogens, along with bacteria, mildew, and mould, can live on surfaces for up to several days. "In light of the pandemic, surface treatments have come up for closer scrutiny. Studies show that the virus can live for up 72 hours on materials such as plastic and steel but can last for only our hours on copper. Antimicrobial surfaces can therefore either kill micro-organisms or stop their growth. "Other examples are the use of quartz or antimicrobial laminate countertops, bamboo and cork flooring. Epoxy also has antimicrobial properties and can be used to seal floors. Synthetic textiles such as acrylic, polyolefin and polypropylene are hydrophobic (i.e. they don’t absorb water), thereby making them resistant to mould."

Design changes
"We expect to see changes in design in commercial spaces, taking into account changes in behaviour. For example, there is already an increased preference for automated doors, so people can avoid having to grasp door handles. "Similarly, customers are now consciously choosing fabrics that can be sanitised efficiently and are less susceptible to damage in the process. In restaurants, you are more likely to find leather upholstered chairs that are easy to wipe down, rather than velvet chairs. "According to the United StatescEnvironmental Protection Agency, sanitising reduces the number of germs on hard surfaces or objects by at least 99.9 percent, so it is natural for consumers to opt for easy-to-sanitise furniture and fittings in a post-COVID era. Finally, with working from home being the new normal, there will be increased focus on actually creating a functionality from scratch that includes the right seating, lighting, temperature control and more, rather than compromising the dining room or family room shared with kids."

Students from the interior design course

"Despite the above trends, the biggest one is that aesthetics will still trump. We expect to see concerted efforts by designers to come up with creative ideas, fresh thinking and ways by which design can combine both aesthetics and post- COVID design. "Given that owners of all commercial establishments want their spaces to look inviting in order to attract customers, designers will now be pushing the envelope when it comes to combining visual appeal with safety and hygiene."

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