Last year, Fort Washington interior designer and blogger Carrie Leskowitz noticed a trend: Stylish designers, manufacturers, and do-it-yourselfers were suddenly obsessed with dip-dye - plunging curtains, chair legs, and even utensils into vats of dye and paint. It made sense: A few years back, fashion runways had been awash with ombre, and the trend had filtered into hair and even nails - so why not home design?
Leskowitz blogged about the trend, but didn't bother doing any dyeing of her own. After all, she said, trends like that don't last long these days.
"Everything is so global now that the information is everywhere, and it's coming very quickly," Leskowitz said. "There's an arc to a trend. It builds and it picks up speed - and then once it's become so saturated that everyone has done it, the trend is over."
That raises a question: Even as a new year brings fresh trends, how can you put together a room that's up-to-date, but won't appear stuck in 2014 for perpetuity?
The key, said local designers, is applying trends selectively, layering them with neutral, classic pieces, and, most important, staying true to your taste.
"The tenet of good design is really using a certain amount of restraint," said Rittenhouse Square designer Ashli Mizell. "There's a big difference between being trendy and being current."
Mizell sees the design world adopting some bold trends from the fashion runway: Think ethnic prints mixed with unexpected pairings like plaid and leopard print. She's also seeing lots of graphic black-and-white patterns and bold clashing patterns in mixes like pink and red.
Those aren't easy trends to wear - and applying them at home is even more difficult.
"We have to use the trends in a more deft way, because the investment is larger, and the scale is larger. It's not as disposable as buying a sundress."
Mizell said that one tactic was to select luxurious materials, like wool, cashmere, linen, or silk. "Great materials never go out of style," she said, "regardless of their color."
That goes for architectural detail, too. Mizell might not roll out a rug in a trendy chevron pattern - and definitely wouldn't pick one in black-and-white, a fad double-down - but she didn't hesitate to design a home floor recently with limestone laid in an undulating chevron pattern. Because of the materials, she said, it looks classic, not trendy.
Naomi Stein of the Bala Cynwyd design-build firm Design Manifest said she loaded up on trends in designing her own home, mixing chevrons, animal prints, and ikats.
"I really loved the look and mix, so it didn't matter to me if they were overplayed or not," she said. "I think it's important to choose what you love."
That said, she also applied the trendy items in ways she could easily update later, by adopting a backdrop of neutrals.
"One way I avoid creating date-sensitive rooms is by selecting classic pieces of furniture in more neutral finishes, and saving the splash and flash for accessories," said Stein. "Pillows, art, rugs, and curtains are a great way to try out a trend without committing serious money or feeling like you are stuck with the look. Paint could also be a way to go . . . and paint over in three years when you are so over it."
But while trends are evolving quickly, Stein said, one factor has made adopting them somewhat simpler: "The strongest trend right now is the eclectic or mixed look, meaning a mix of modern, traditional, Asian, bohemian, rustic, etc. By nature of mixing so much, the rooms almost become more timeless to me, instead of being stuck in one era."
What if your home is already stuck in the past?
It's far from hopeless, said designer Michael Gruber, who cites the Mad Men look as one recent fad that has run its course.
He doesn't advise sending all that midcentury furniture to the thrift store.
"You can take a midcentury chair and mix it with a modern piece or maybe an antique," he said. "That gives a home a sense of having evolved over a period of time, instead of just having been decorated all at once."
The important factor when mixing things up, he said, is to consider scale and proportions. A low-slung Barcelona chair, for example, would be dwarfed by an overstuffed couch; a more streamlined piece from Baker or even Ikea might be a better fit.
He advises clients to distinguish between investment pieces and more "disposable" items that might be trendy, but can be changed out.
Even for high-end jobs, he'll sometimes turn to West Elm's curvaceous Martini end table or a creative Ikea hack to finish a room. "You can play with those things," he said, "and you don't have to worry about the longevity."
The same rules of thumb apply to metallic finishes, which designers said were moving away from stainless steel and chrome toward gold and brushed brass.
In the kitchen and bathroom, Stein said, she keeps the metallic finishes to the hardware - that way it can be switched out in five or 10 years, when stainless steel is back in again.
When going big with the metallic trend, Mizell advised a classic approach. She recently installed a zinc table for a client's Villanova dining room, but paired it with leather chairs and wool curtains, "to make it feel more sophisticated and quieter."
While it's a bold choice, she said, it's actually an old-fashioned idea, borrowed from French brasseries. The metallic ceilings she favors, covered in silver or gold leaf or tea paper, are likewise a modern take on an old design tradition.
Gruber likes to be aware of the trends, and then ignore them. After all, he said, the most important part of home design is making it your own.
"You have to trust your taste," he said. "What do you like?"