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2023 Design Trend: Nature + Nurture

Decor that takes its cue from the great outdoors and the innovative use of natural materials like cornstarch and mushrooms make this design trend perfect for our conservation- and environment- attuned age.

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Nature + Nurture: A New Approach to the Natural World

Nature and its power to heal and unite is at the heart of the Nature + Nurture design trend. Universal access to nature has become a growing concern among city planners, architects, activists and design and wellness leaders who recognize that access to quality green spaces is inadequate and unequal for some, especially people of color.

In addition, rather than simply paying lip service to sustainability, consumers are demanding brands be truly thoughtful in conserving and reusing resources. Consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated about greenwashing and sustainability claims. According to design manufacturer Human Scale: “Words like ‘recyclable’ and ‘compostable’ only really stand when you are providing instructions for consumers to carry out these actions successfully.”

Rather than fighting nature, consumers want to work with it. They're increasingly interested in probiotics and prebiotics and other organic and healthy alternatives to the COVID-era obsession with all things antibacterial. They want to embrace landscaping for a changing planet by adapting instead of domineering.

Circular design — meaning products are environmentally responsibly manufactured and can be composted or reused when the object’s life span is over — is a growing concern for designers and manufacturers in this trend.

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Photo: RW Guild

Imperfection and Patina

Designers and consumers are embracing material irregularities that give a semblance of the human touch and use naturally produced colors often created with plant dyes. New dye types like bacterial dyes and fermentation are being used to combat a dyeing industry that wastes water, pollutes the environment and is harmful to industry workers.

Products with flaws look forged by natural processes of erosion and weather. Sleek, earthy and defined by a '70s sensibility, the trend for patina is exemplified by high-end designers Roman and Williams whose Soho design shop RW Guild highlights this trend.

“There is an understanding that things can get better with age, not just by staying inert. This is true with ceramics, leather, wood. Our finishes deliberately age — we call them 'living finishes,' since they are meant to change with time. There's a desire now for a certain kind of "worn in" feel," says Robin Standefer, designer and co-owner of RW Guild.

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Consumers are craving a sense of purpose and a reality check in the design world, says Erin Napier of Home Town. "I think the social media world we've all been living in is a cold, monochrome, idealized place, and we're beginning to see a bristling against it. We want connection and warmth, imperfection and nostalgia. We're seeking something real in an artificial world, and it's manifesting in the way we design our homes."

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