It was challenging I am sure to show up at Montauk Sofa on King St. in sub-zero temperatures at 8 a.m. the morning after the opening night party at the recent Interior Design Show in Toronto, that went into the wee hours, all for a panel discussion to count down the top hottest decor moments of the past quarter century, but Sophie Dow Donelson and Karl Lohnes seemed up to the challenge.

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Montauk was introducing their new “Expert on Expert” discussion series, which the Montreal-based luxury furniture manufacturer will be rolling out this year in all its showrooms (Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, New York and Chicago), with different experts, part of the celebrations of the company’s 25th anniversary. A big topic of discussion at the inaugural event last week was the imminent opening of their new multi-level Montreal showroom, scheduled for this summer.

Jane Lounge Sectional

“Cool factor” is one of the first things that comes to mind whenever I go to visit Montauk and look at their couches and beds – better yet, sit in one of them. Montauk sells iconic furniture at higher price points (the Jane Lounge Sectional on display in Toronto retails at $14,500 in basic fabric, $18,920 with upgrade fabric) but their stuff is unmatched when talking comfort.

And unmatched when talking impact level, as well – like the classic big rounded armed slip cover white sofa Montauk is so famous for. That’s where the eyes go as soon as you enter the room where one of them sits. As Sophie said, there is so much to be said for investing in one piece of high quality, impeccably made furniture, every decade or so, and taking care of it since it’s really an investment, as opposed to buying a piece of “fast furniture” from a big retail shop that generates little decor payoff in one’s living room and will in no time be crowding up a land fill site. Minimalism, paring down the elements of a room, highlighted by one, signature furniture piece, will never go out of style.


So designers and media and people from Montauk got together before heading back over to IDS at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for energy-boosting green shooters, high octane coffee, mimosas and some talk about interior design trends, past and present. Danny Chartier (Creative Director of Montauk Sofa) and Tim Zyto (Founder of Montauk Sofa) were there. Sophie is a design expert, author and former Editor-in-Chief of House Beautiful. Karl is a columnist, broadcast personality and Editor-in-Large of Style at Home.

Montauk showroom in Toronto

Some takeaways from the panel discussion:

“Design is very analytical,” Karl says. “You can look back and say look at how the 1980s are influencing us today. If you follow suit, you can predict that trends over the next five years will be based on what history tells you. Everything that goes around doesn’t come back the same way. You often see it reverse itself. For example, brass was all the rage in the early 1980s. But it was all the rage in very traditional aspects of lighting and light switches and hardware. Now it’s back again in a huge way, to a new generation, but on the modern side of things.”

Shag carpet is coming back – “I have a niece who is 31 years old, who is dying to have a shag carpet,” Karl adds.

The first noteworthy trend they both referenced from the past was “shabby chic”, the idea of English decorating (Rachel Ashwell comes to mind). “Every homeowner wanted it and every designer jumped on board for awhile,” Karl says. Laid back, but luxurious, with all that femininity and frills and lots of fabric.


DIY was huge in the 1990s especially as TV shows on interior design started to ramp up. “People started realizing that $1400 spent on a room looked like a weekend project,” Karl says.

“Calvin Klein minimalism” is how Sophie described the 1990s – that paring down, iconic, beautiful look. “‘Minimal monastery’, was a quote I saw,” she says. “Lots of white on white, taupe on white, really streamlined. That started happening in the 1990s and now here we are again.”

Very modern shapes, lower, deeper, wider furniture (like Montauk) was also referenced. “I have become a big fan of larger pieces in a room, but less of them,” Karl says. Little clutter, a few favourite pieces, big art, drama, he adds

“Go bigger always works, bring that drama,” Sophie says.

Country-style decorating will always be with us, comfortable and relaxing for the average person, but the style of that will always evolve. Shabby chic evolved into country. Stainless steel came in around since 2000 – and it has just stayed. White kitchen cupboards, black granite counter topics with the stainless steel appliances was “in” around 2000 – a classic kitchen. The 1990s was about opening the kitchen up to the main room.


“Men love to show off the kitchen appliances, bells and whistles and toys,” Karl says, referring to past research from 20 years ago. “They love the toys. Black granite showed prestige back then. The stainless steel showed us the popularity of an industrial look without being too industrial. And the family room open to the kitchen needed the big, open sectional sofa, and a flat television hung on the wall. Think about that – that wasn’t too long ago.”

In 2005, the trend was about allowing the consumer to be a decorator, the launch of Domino magazine, saying that African patterns could go with stripes and stripes could go with polka dots. You could really mix and match different elements together in a room.

“It was a nightmare for awhile, really,” Karl says, laughing. That’s where professional designers really came into play – even becoming editors to help organize all the different elements of a room.”

In 2010, we saw the resurgence of mid-century modern.

Montauk Toronto showroom

“It became crazy because all the 50-year patents came up on all the old furniture, and everyone started manufacturing it, and it became easier,” Karl says. “So consumers didn’t discover the great old pieces their grandparents had in their basement, the designers and the shops did. Consumers discovered them in store windows. What a pleasure today to be able to incorporate a clean-line modern style from the past. Vintage modern is a great way to create an eclectic look in a room – but doing that while not spending $16,000 for a chair.”

In 2015, they both referenced homes decorated then that still feel on trend. No updating needed. Wallpaper came back in a big way that year, along with concrete painted floor tiles. Graphic patterns – not curly or flowery patterns – are still pretty hot, because it simplifies looks. All are great backgrounds for an Instagram selfie, Sophie adds. Pink came back in a fleshier, browner tone, and the new greys (it’s warming up a bit) are another talking point. Pink will flip over to its opposite, green, Karl adds.



“What we see often flips,” he says. “So go from cool to warm, warm to cool. If it’s pink today, it will be green tones in five years.”

In 2020, two big themes are converging – health/wellness and sustainability, big picture pillars that are rooting interior design trends (plants a huge trend now in interiors, for example). Square furniture is here to stay. It’s what people think of as modern, Karl says – including curved furniture. Texture fabrics – fur look, a lot of boiled wool. It breaks up simple lines and gives it a bit of character.

Montauk showroom in Toronto

New Montauk bed on display at IDS 2020 in Toronto


“Expert on Expert” discussion series

Karl Lohnes, centre

Sophie Dow Donelson, centre

Montauk Sofa Creative Director, Danny Chartier

Montauk booth at IDS 2020

“Expert on Expert” panel discussion