Compared to its flashier cousins like paint color, lighting, and furniture, millwork is often an underappreciated stalwart in interior design. And yet it’s often the millwork of a room the one that sets the tone that all other elements will follow. Stalwarts, by definition, are less susceptible to change than others, meaning that millwork trends are a little more slow-moving than others. That said, our pros are observing certain shifts.
Craig Montoro, of design and fabrication workshop First Third, says that with clients having ready access to visual resources online, he’s seeing less of a particular trend and more an amalgamation of several. “The results are more playful and whimsical,” he says. “We are seeing a trend towards the creation of spaces that integrate functionality and furniture into the original design intent, considering form and furnishings in parallel—millwork treated more like furniture, and furniture more like millwork.”
Read on for Montoro’s and other design experts’ observations of what’s prevailing in millwork trends.
Wild for white oak
Pretty much all of our pros agree that white oak continues to be the golden child when it comes to selecting wood.
“We haven’t seen much change in tastes in the kinds of woods requested and the styles and patterns in which they are used and applied,” says Montoro, who recently worked with General Assembly on the millwork for an apartment reno in the cherished Apthorp building in New York City. “The majority of our work is either white oak or black walnut. With white oak, the tendency towards a finish with a cooler color has persisted.”
“Its clean lines and blonde white tone make it a really beautiful species to work with in almost any setting,” interior designer Shannon Tate-Giordano says. “It’s a quiet wood so it holds a clean minimal elegance and lets the artistry, lines, and shape of furniture pieces and millwork be the star of the show. White oak can be a bridge between old and new; [it] can be a quietly elegant player in a traditional home peppered with modern furnishings [or] in a modern home adding depth.”
In one of Tate-Giordano’s recent projects, a renovation of a Queen Anne Victorian home in the Boston suburbs, the existing millwork was a marvel of intricacy, from the detailed fireplace surround to the wall trims and arches. “They just don’t make homes like that anymore,” she says. “The level of detail is mind boggling—it’s the pulse of the house.” To adjust it to modern living while still harmonizing with its history, she worked with contractor Craddock Builders to design new elements, such as a large storage cabinet, formal dining table, and kitchen dining chairs in white oak and ash stained to complement the aged, patinated hue of the existing oak trim.
When the mind wanders, it often has you looking at the ceiling—and these days they’re likely to be interesting.