Here’s what you need to know

Interiors trending for 2023 delivers some chewy old chestnuts and some pointy new angles. The sages have massaged the same clutch of stylistic ideas into slightly different confections with a new background colour thrown up the walls. 

These include the return of the all-white kitchen (hurrah), what’s termed “New Gothic” (sophisticated steam punk meets rough-luxe), the return of the brown room from the 1970s (please, God — no) and fainting “Scandinavian Pastels” (pretty but nothing new here). 

Trending is largely a marketing ploy launched from the top down. The interiors industries depend on moving new season furniture, accessories, paper and paint.

There are wallpapers, digital panels and stencils to draw off Victorian botanicals and art deco geometrics; dial up the palette and scale; Arts & Crafts design, Huckleberry for House of Hackney for clients Castle of Trematon; huckleberryhome.co.uk. 
There are wallpapers, digital panels and stencils to draw off Victorian botanicals and art deco geometrics; dial up the palette and scale; Arts & Crafts design, Huckleberry for House of Hackney for clients Castle of Trematon; huckleberryhome.co.uk. 

There is one quiet, reliable, confident look, that’s lasted decades, and which is set to continue its elegant progress into next year. To give it a handle, the PR writers, Instagram and bloggers have dubbed it “New Heritage”. 

Basically, heritage decorating blends the English country house style of great decorating houses like Colefax and Fowler, together with homely fashionable pieces snagged from the high-street and flashy and modest modern inclusions, many of which already have their kick out feet in the mid-20th century.

It’s old meets and marries new, and an anecdote to the add-water-and-stir of dragging home all newly minted, similarly inclined, safe furnishings and accessories. 1950s to 1980s inspirations have flooded the market in new furniture and accessorising. 

 Forbidden Bloom, €375, divinesavages.com.
 Forbidden Bloom, €375, divinesavages.com.

The look might be “cool” and contemporary but often not recognisably period anymore. New Heritage dives into the archives and shakes up what we find, infusing individuality and features into just about any contemporary room. Throwing mid-century pieces in front of original period features — edgy but comfortable and New Heritage is all about comfort not a crackling aesthetic tension.

CUDDLE UP

Layering styles together has been a popular and practical approach for centuries, as it can put together beloved accrued family bits and pieces, inherited antiques, new design, and solid classics lines in one room. There’s a familiarity about many of the major pieces; they often remind us of the things we saw and used everyday in the home we grew up in. 

Covid and world events of 2022 have intensified our desire for a feeling of protection and calm in our home spaces. 

Starting from scratch we need to be a little sly to make the look organic. Here’s a few key strategies and pieces to have a go at a period stir up using genuine vintage and used items or buying all new from the shop-floor. Remember to have some focal points that speak of the past.

SIT DOWN

One great armchair and/or one great sofa: Look towards late Victorian and Edwardian-inclined seating. Rolled arms, rolled backs (low Chesterfields), deep buttoning and gorgeous upholstery. Here’s where the New Heritage moment comes. 

The outline of the chair might carry bandy-legged Queen Anne lines rooted in the 18th century, but you can apply as dazzling a contemporary fabric or eye-watering shades as you like.

A Queen Anne contour wears a fabulous new patchwork outfitting. Look for good used chairs to reinvent and repurpose. Boho accent, €3,000, footstool available, madchair.co.
A Queen Anne contour wears a fabulous new patchwork outfitting. Look for good used chairs to reinvent and repurpose. Boho accent, €3,000, footstool available, madchair.co.

If you love the traditional florals and stripes of collections including Graham Sanderson, Jane Churchill or The Designer’s Guild, there are heritage choices in fresh colour-ways that respect yesterday and celebrate today in a single design. 

Keep your eyes open for well made used chairs with vintage silhouettes that can be recovered (if the frame is properly jointed, you’re laughing). Replacing the stuffing and padding will bring the chair or sofa up to modern fire safety standards — a reputable firm will always include these new materials as standard.

DRAMATIC ART

To avoid the room looking twee or as random as a damp scented, second-hand shop, we need to make specific and bold decisions. 

Consider one huge piece of artwork you see or dream up — a painting, print, wall painting or stencil ornamenting — something you clap eyes on and cannot live without. Get personal. Confession — I attack my own abstracts. I haven’t a clue, but with a big canvas, and some tubes of acrylic, I fudge my way through a wall-filler over a weekend.

There are regular art auctions online which include the work of affordable Irish artists. If you’re short of money and want something expansive, team the authentic with digitally printed “glicees” with knife and brush strokes, made by the yard in the Far East — try Harvey Norman and The Range.

Hang any framed pieces low enough to form a relationship with surrounding pieces or other paintings — this gallery wall approach is a slam-dunk for a classy space.

FADED RUGS

Leafing through the hanging rugs on display in any furniture outlet or dedicated specialist rug showroom, you will find faded, broken up patterns in faux antique rugs. Some are the texture of canvas (we used to flip over old rugs because we liked the rough backside better), others have a synthetic velvet pile, and some have a deeper indulgent real wool or cotton and tribal underpinning.

An antique-style rug with an acid-washed appearance roots this floor with a little indicated heritage. Nova rugs in various designs from €95, harveynorman.ie.
An antique-style rug with an acid-washed appearance roots this floor with a little indicated heritage. Nova rugs in various designs from €95, harveynorman.ie.

What they all have is period informed designs and motifs that ring a distant bell with just about everyone. Go for a reduced, acid-wash style and pale colour if you don’t want the rug to wear the room. Conversely, amp it up with rich jewel colours — deeply warming for a room full of otherwise skeletal modern furnishings and rain grey plank flooring. Rugs can also go up on the walls.

COLLECTIONS

The best heritage spaces seem to have been naturally laid down by progressive generations of the family, and with this come individual ornaments, artefacts, and crucially — displayed collections. 

Introduce valued ornaments to salvage, childhood kitsch, battered antiques, framed photographs, beach finds and additional fake-phoney nostalgia stuff from the high street (go easy on obvious, resin pretenders). Just about all of it can be shuffled into a maximalist museum or placed discreetly around a more bare bones room.

If you prefer a formal look, there is inspiration from grand house illustrations to show how to place a bronze statue in a pool of lamp-light or set out a three part clock garniture. Combining the more unexpected contemporary items around the room, the look won’t be tweedy or stuck up, but it will have a historic ring, and recycling old things is after all sustainable behaviour.

KITCHEN PLAY

New heritage in the kitchen doesn’t have to be wall to wall bespoke in-frame fielded door fronts and an AGA (but it certainly helps). 

Go for a painted, panelled kitchen over glossy units. Embrace the return in 2023 of handles, knobs and other touches of nostalgic hardware and surfacing — taps, wood counters, Shaker peg-rails and rectangular ceramic sinks — a major shift coming this spring. Hint at craftsmanship wherever possible. If you fancy a cosy dash of applied colour in painted cabinets, sunset colours — yellow, coral, and terracotta are all on the rise.

A harlequin set of chairs ranging over a century are given new life in a simple Shaker-inclined kitchen. Similar large rug, Morris & Co, Boughs, €923, rugs.ie. Picture: Carpetright
A harlequin set of chairs ranging over a century are given new life in a simple Shaker-inclined kitchen. Similar large rug, Morris & Co, Boughs, €923, rugs.ie. Picture: Carpetright

A harlequin mix of chairs around a kitchen table of any era can be highly personable. Don’t be afraid to mix up wood types, just keep the choices light and airy. Weathered wood and stone for floors and detailing are honest inclusions with architectural thump. 

Look out for traditional baked encaustic tile choices, gorgeous in hallways too. Leave a little age on show where you scrub up a piece of furniture or re-purpose something for use or display. 1970s and 1980s imported oak Dutch refectory tables shipped here by the container load, are now highly sought after, and can be stripped and waxed up into genuinely stunning pieces.