For starters, it's helpful to know the difference between a trend and a fad, says Sarah Fishburne, director of trends and design at The Home Depot: "People sometimes confuse trends and fads. Fads are fast. But trends are typically something that have a lot more longevity."
Fads are very specific—certain colors or a big patterned rug, like Chevron, fall into this category. Gray walls or white kitchens, on the other hand, are more of a trend, because even though they are popular, they've been in demand for a few years and experts like Fishburne don't anticipate them fizzling any time soon.
But where do trends come from in the first place? "Trends are heavily influenced by pop culture, fashion, food, music, the streets, and sometimes what is going on in the world politically," says Lori Weitzner, author of Ode to Color.
Fishburne says even our dependence on technology has influenced recent home decor trends. "We're so overly stimulated in our day-to-day activities, when we get home, we kind of revolt against technology," she says. "So even that's influencing the colors we're choosing in our homes." People are going lighter (hello, gray!) and incorporating more texture; they don't want shiny, perfect decor. Even meal services are affecting the way we design our kitchens and our pantries, she adds.
When trends begin to emerge, you may pay a premium simply based on availability, says Fishburne. These newer, buzzy items are generally only available at higher-end retailers or speciality shops to start with. Once a trend begins to be mass produced, competition cost comes down, making it more accessible to the general population.
It's almost like that famous Devil Wears Prada cerulean scene: a big color trend starts with a fashion gatekeeper (like Runway magazine in this instance), then it trickles down to couture designers and more expensive stores, and then it's picked up by mass producers and available for a lower cost. Bottom line? If higher-end designers are starting to use a color or material, it might just mean you could see a more affordable version at your local store sometime soon.
Still, you may wonder if you're really missing out if you're not keeping up with the trends or if you should really care when designers declare dalmatian print wallpaper the next big thing. A trend isn't a hard-and-fast rule, says Fishburne, but some people do like to have some sort of direction—especially when it comes to outfitting the space they live in: "[A home] is a big purchase and people don't want to make a mistake."
Feel free to use trends as a baseline, but only if you like what you're seeing, says Weitzner. "People should decorate and design spaces with colors and items that resonate with them personally and uplift them in some way, as opposed to what everyone else is buying," she says. "There's a lot of supporting data behind color therapy and the idea that, depending on your personality, various colors and tones incite different things."
And outfitting your space with things you love? That's always on-trend.