Brass, navy, marble, and more — interior designer Heidi Lachapelle explains how to incorporate today’s top décor elements into your home.
Two years ago, designer Heidi Lachapelle’s quest for a matte brass faucet for her kitchen island took her to a specialty robinetterie store in Montreal. To her dismay, the only available model at the plumbing shop was French-country in style — a far cry from the modern look she was after. So, having exhausted all other options, she decided to have a sleek, brushed-nickel, goose-necked faucet dipped in brass. For Lachapelle, brass is a main event kind of metal, not a mere accent, and she has used it liberally throughout her 1875 Portland townhouse (pictured above). Now, manufacturers are following her lead. She attributes the current brass boom to the material’s warmth and lived-in feel, and notes a shift away from more formal-looking nickel and chrome.
Clients turn to 30-year-old Lachapelle for this kind of ahead-of-the-curve thinking, as well as her facility for mixing traditional, modern, and Boho styles. The interior design firm she runs with her sister-in-law, Katie Judkins, grew out of Lachapelle’s experience buying and renovating old homes with her husband, artist Louis Lachapelle. She also stresses her mother’s influence — “I was raised in a very well-curated home in Farmington and my brother and I spent a good part of our childhood antiquing with her and finding treasures” — and that of her eight-month-old daughter, Chloé. “After I had her, I knew my time was precious and I wanted to invest my energy in something I care deeply about.” So, with a fine arts degree and seven years as visual manager at Anthropologie under her belt, Lachapelle launched her company in May of this year. Right away, people took notice: Her kitchen was a finalist in Remodelista’s annual Considered Design Awards and has been featured on Domino’s website.
Who better, then, to ask about today’s top design trends? Here, Lachapelle explains the popularity, versatility, and staying power of her picks.
The brass being used now harkens back to the aged metal seen in historic homes — particularly on doorknobs — but has a brighter, more contemporary feel, says Lachapelle, who has employed it on hardware and fixtures in her kitchen (above and left). The muted gold material blends easily with traditional décor and brings character and coziness to clean, modern interiors. And yet, the long-running popularity of nickel and chrome has made some people hesitant to incorporate brass. If you’re among them, Lachapelle recommends dipping a toe into the trend by opting for one brass element in a room, such as kitchen hardware or dresser drawer pulls in a bedroom, noting that a mix of metals looks right at home in today’s eclectic rooms.
“In early depictions, Mary was always painted with a blue robe and, for a while, navy blue was called ‘Mary Blue,’” says Lachapelle, adding that the association lends the color a timeless, universal appeal. Given this sensibility, and the shade’s proximity to black, Lachapelle considers it a neutral that can, and should, be used in broad strokes in a room. Her own kitchen cabinets are painted in Sherwin Williams’s Naval — “white felt too cold and black was too harsh, but navy felt perfectly in-between,” she says — and she chose the same shade for an angled wall in her living room (right). A handful of navy accessories picks up the theme, while a layering of cocoa, heather-gray, oatmeal, and caramel-colored furnishings adds richness and depth to the relaxed space.
Marble’s popularity has waxed over the years, then waned as homeowners sought “indestructible” countertops, such as quartz and granite, says Lachapelle. Now people are once again embracing the porous stone — nicks, scratches, and all. “I don’t feel like my countertop needs to be an impenetrable fortress; I like signs of wear and tear,” says Lachapelle of the matte Carrara marble she chose for the counters and backsplash in her kitchen, and that of a client’s, left. Like brass, matte marble has a warmth and an Old World appeal reminiscent of ancient monuments and the tabletops in French cafés. Beyond the kitchen, Lachapelle sees marble showing up on mantels (a reemergence of a historic trend), as well as on bathroom tile, light fixtures, and accessories, such as trays and candle holders. As for the material’s notorious susceptibility to stains? “There’s nothing that spray bleach can’t get out!” she says.
People tend to think they need a large home with soaring ceilings to accommodate large-scale artwork, but the pieces can be just as impactful in a small room, says Lachapelle, noting their ability to visually expand a space. A throwback to the heyday of abstract expressionism, popularized by Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, oversize art anchors rooms and energizes neutral environs with color and personality. Cognizant of the fact that not everyone lives with a painter (the abstract works shown throughout this story are by Lachapelle’s husband), or has the budget for original art, Lachapelle makes clear: “It doesn’t need to be a painting, just a statement.” Framing a large photograph, print, or swath of wallpaper can achieve a similar effect. (For a low-cost framing option, check out framebridge.com.)
Shiplap gets its name from the horizontal planks formerly used to construct boats. In historic homes, the sheathing was covered in muslin or cheesecloth to hide the joints, making a smooth surface for wallpaper. Nowadays, shiplap is being left exposed — and not just in coastal homes, where the material has long been a mainstay. “It has come back in the last year or so with people in my age group [who favor more modern interiors],” says Lachapelle, who appreciates the way the treatment adds texture and a custom look to otherwise blank walls. In her own bedroom, she created a shiplap accent wall behind her headboard (left), giving visual weight to the space. The boarding also makes an intriguing — and inexpensive — kitchen backsplash or fireplace surround. Painting shiplap navy or black, versus the traditional white, offers a contemporary twist; Lachapelle also likes to see the grain coming through a natural finish.