Tuscan is out, or haven’t you heard? That’s the buzz, at least, among East Valley interior designers who say the heavy, ornate look of Tuscan decor (which actually isn’t anything like what’s found in Tuscany) has seen its time come and go.
With dark-stained woods and a rich color scheme as its trademarks, Tuscan design seems to be weighing down homeowners who now want something a bit lighter and simpler. Of course, that leaves the question of what to name this new “theme” supposedly taking Tuscan’s place.
After all, says Scottsdale interior designer Mary Knot, “We are a nation of labelers.” Three East Valley designers weigh in on what they expect the next “it” look to be in interior design. And yes, each look wears a label.
Inspired by the home style one would see along Southern California’s coast, Knot calls the Santa Barbara look “a classic, clean design.”
“It’ll be as much in style in 20 years as it is right now,” says the owner of Mary Fisher Designs in Scottsdale.
Soft yellows, avocado greens and muted terracotta reds are its signature colors, while furnishings include a mix of Spanish- and Mexican-inspired accessories, hand-painted tile walls and light granite countertops.
The Santa Barbara look was at its height in the early 1920s in California. It died down after the 1940s in lieu of more ornate and decorated styles. But with an influx of California residents to Arizona, and a desire to return to a simpler, clean look, the Santa Barbara style is seeing a revival.
“People here who’ve gone to La Costa and some of the other California resort
regions for vacation like the look and feel of the architecture there, and they’re asking for it,” says Knot, who offers a few more labels for the look. “It’s like a country Mediterranean coastal design.”
Eleonora Chapfield, executive director of Woodcrest Cabinetry in Scottsdale, says the elegance of the Santa Barbara look makes it popular, especially in kitchens. A signature of the style is lightly painted cabinets, and light wood or concrete floors. The idea, she says, is for the room’s design to look “effortless, not heavy or overcomplicated with details.”
“This look is like a pair of flip-flops,” says Chapfield. “If you put rhinestones on them, they’re elegant, but you can still wear them comfortably.”
There’s that T-word again. But interior designer Tom Reimers, owner of DS The Studio in Scottsdale, assures us it’s not the Tuscan we once knew.
“This look is still very traditional, but just not as heavy, not so ornate,” he says. “The fabrics are still heavy, but the color palette is neutrals and softer colors, with punches of red.”
Reimers says this Tuscan has reinvented itself as a more friendly, less suffocating version of what it once was, and homeowners, he says, are eating it up.
“There’s a big push for this at the furniture shows,” says Reimers. “The look is definitely very eclectic.”
Leather, chenille and silk are brought together in one room, while wood is given a blond redo, then distressed for an Old World look.
Reimers says this “modified Tuscan” is a mixture of styles from France, Italy and England, borrowing looks such as stone fireplaces, oversized framed mirrors, and gold and brown accessories for splashes of color.
The final product, says Reimers, “is elegant, and I’d say inviting.”
Interior designer Beverly Lloyd-Lee of Scottsdale didn’t hesitate when asked what she thought of the Tuscan craze. “Overkill, overdone and heavy.”
Her hope, she says with an almost pleading tone in her voice, is that something more graceful will soon take its place.
“One of the most graceful looks I know of is Spanish Colonial,” she says. “That would be so appropriate for this climate.”
Think soft and airy, a muted color palette and light-stained woods. What sets Spanish Colonial style apart, says Lloyd-Lee, is that it leans heavily on ironwork. Its curved and intricate iron chandeliers, chairs and furniture legs are its signatures.
The palette for fabrics includes camel browns, rustic oranges and muted tomato reds.
“People are telling me they want their rooms to feel happy,” says Lloyd-Lee. “That’s what this look does.”
The history of the style — with its simple and timeless look, says the designer — dates back to the early Spanish colonies of North and South America and is heavily influenced by Spanish and Portuguese design.
“It works with (furniture) pieces that are either contemporary or antique,” says Lloyd-Lee. “As long as they have integrity — then, 25 years later it won’t be outdated. Things that have merit and honesty never really go out of style.”
Beverly Lloyd-Lee, ASID Interior Design
23013 N. 87th St., Scottsdale, (480) 419-3445
Mary Fisher Designs
Scottsdale, (480) 473-0986, www.maryfisherdesigns.com
DS The Studio
10050 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, (480) 348-1776
8355 E. Butherus Drive, Scottsdale, (480) 367-8510, www.woodcrestcabinetry.com