From 1997 to 1998 alone, decorative hardware sales by manufacturers grew 24 percent, according to a report published in Home Textiles Today, August 1999 ("Product Probe: Window Hardware"). Seeing the opportunity, new drapery hardware manufacturers have sprung up all over the globe in the past decade, and the increase in competition has driven each of them to develop innovative new looks to differentiate themselves. At the same time, technology is empowering consumers, and they are realizing the day is coming when they will be able to get what they want, when they want it, at a price they are willing to pay.
In home décor, trends have begun to mirror apparel fashion to the point where the lines between home and fashion have crossed: it's not about how we look or how our homes are decorated, but how we live. And because living style is a very personal choice, consumers are empowered to select home décor products that fit their unique styles. The neat, little boxes that home décor styles used to fit have been replaced with broad styles that fit real people's daily living. The strong "comfort wave" of the '90s is evidence of this trend.
Today in decorative drapery hardware, innovative and trend-conscious companies such as Kirsch are developing products that will appeal to a broad variety of home owners. Through extensive consumer research, we know what consumers want, what rooms they will use them in, what finishes they like the best, etc. As partners with the retailers who sell our products, it is our responsibility to bring them products that will sell through in the stores, not products that just look nice on the shelf and don't turn over. Good profit margins have encouraged retailers to expand the space allocated to decorative drapery hardware. This is creating a win-win situation by resulting in a much greater selection for the home owner.
In the beginning, decorative hardware was either wrought iron looks or wood poles with basic finials. In metal, like the famous story about Ford automobiles, you could have black, black or black. Today, the hottest looks in decorative hardware encompass many materials, in many finishes, in many, many different styles or designs.
For as long as anyone in window treatments can remember, soft window treatment styling drove the choice of the window hardware. Period. Window hardware was always a secondary purchase. The growth in demand for decorative hardware at the window has caused a dramatic change in window treatment styling. The two, soft treatment and hardware, go hand-in-hand to create the total look. For designers, this has created an even greater opportunity to enhance the window treatment sale. It is an exciting time to be in the window treatment business!
Soft Treatment Styles and Fabrics
Like all of home décor, and increasingly in commercial décor, soft treatments and the fabrics they are made of are being driven by the demand to feel good at home. We want beauty, we want comfort and we want to bring the outdoors in.
In window treatment fabrics, effortlessly casual sheers have taken the market by storm with fluid, luminescent beauty. The need for comfort has driven heavier window treatment fabrics to carry lots of texture in combination with a very soft hand. In solids, color and texture are most important. Floral prints have become oversized and sparse with whimsical and sketched designs. Hand-drawn nature prints and botanicals are strong with the ever-present leaf motif in outline form. Plaids and stripes have softer colorations and watercolor-like lines. Geometric, boxed prints are hot—it's hip to be square!
Mari Lyn Bushnell is manager of fashion development, Kirsch, Freeport, IL; (815) 235-4171; www.kirsch.com.