Koskiniemi is the showroom manager for Donghia Furniture and Textiles, Inc. at the Dallas Design Center, Dallas, TX. A certified interior designer with the state of California, Koskiniemi is the former owner of a full-service bedroom and window coverings workroom that also manufactured a small line of custom upholstered furniture. She is an advocate for continuing education requirements and has "a great deal of respect for the wide variety of expertise in the window coverings industry."
D&WC: What interior design directions can we expect over the next few years?
Peggy Koskiniemi: There is a convergence of design aesthetic that both commercial and residential designers are opting for. Commercial designers, while staying within strict performance requirements and budget constraints, have been creating more "residential" looks for many of their spaces. Their attempts at making commercial spaces less severe and more inviting are often accomplished by using more textural surfaces and warm color palettes.
Residential designers are no longer content to use the all too predictable formula of using a correlating stripe, plaid, solid and print fabric to pull their rooms together. Many of them are creating less cluttered looks, with more emphasis on clean lines in upholstery, great lighting and the effective use of negative space. It's all very Donghia-esque.
D&WC: Do you see any trends in the kinds of materials or products that are being specified today?
Koskiniemi: It continues to be an interesting debate as to whether designer-driven or consumer-driven trends really exist, or if the mass merchandising and mass marketing of the manufacturers dictate what's hot and what's not. The correct answer probably hinges on which consumer group you happen to be discussing. Sophisticated clients will always want the finest quality products that they can afford. They are confident enough to choose what is appropriate for them rather than be overly influenced by the latest trends.
With that said, we all know that trends exist whether we help create them or not. New introductions for fabrics used in home interiors are currently in step with fashion apparel fabrics without the lapse of a single season. The topic of color trends is a common ingredient in nearly every shelter magazine. I have observed that no matter what the color trends happen to be at the moment, only about 20 percent of drapery and window covering fabrics seem to be affected, with the remaining 80 percent staying in the neutral range.
When it comes to discussing trends in types of fabrics being specified, I would say that designers are demanding more in the way of performance. Commercial designers have a wider array of fabrics that meets aesthetic requirements, abrasion requirements and are inherently flame resistant. These fabrics are always superior to those that require topical application of a flame retardant chemical because the color, hand and dimensional stability are not compromised. Many fabric companies are now offering to print or weave patterns that are similar to what they already offer, but have the performance requirements needed to satisfy commercial applications.
D&WC: Are window treatments becoming more elaborate? If so, how?
Koskiniemi: Window treatments in themselves are not becoming more elaborate. However, we have a much wider range of luxury fabrics to choose from. Workrooms and upholsterers need to continually upgrade their skills by attending seminars such as those sponsored by Draperies & Window Coverings magazine. They need to know how to work with everything from the new gossamer non-woven fabrics to the plushest linen-terries and mohair velvets. Greater care is required for many of these fabrications, and it's not so easy to set up an efficient production line.
One of Donghia's most popular recent introductions is a fabric called "Mirror-Mirror." There are a multitude of embroidered 1/2-inch mirrors, placed about four inches on center, to create a star-studded silk. It looks fabulous in the evening, especially in a candle-lit room. You can imagine that the seamstresses don't love it quite as much as the designers and their clients! Generally speaking, elaborate fabrics lend themselves to simple designs and simple fabrics lend themselves to elaborate designs. With the advent of so many elaborate, luxurious fabrics, our window treatment designs are becoming more simplified.
D&WC: What opportunities exist for interior furnishings and window treatment suppliers to help the designer or retailer with product knowledge and support to meet future design needs?
Koskiniemi: Every time we talk to a client is a new opportunity to share our product knowledge. It's as much about performance as it is about aesthetics. Designers already know what appeals to their particular tastes. They rely on us to help them define their needs and lead them towards appropriate choices. Many responsible companies, like Donghia, invest a considerable amount of money in performance testing. The specification process becomes much easier when the physical properties are defined.
The best-case scenario is when we all share knowledge. Interior furnishings and window treatment suppliers can benefit equally from feedback that the designers and retailers offer. This is another valid reason to network with the entire design community through organizations like IFDA.
"It's as much about performance
as it is about aesthetics."
D&WC: What market segment do you think will be most important for interior furnishing suppliers next year and beyond?
Koskiniemi: I am hearing that the hospitality market is slowing down with the economy. Luckily for us, we have several large hospitality specifiers in Dallas who continue to be very busy. With all the corporate layoffs in the telecommunications industry, that segment of the market will certainly be affected in our region. The single market segment that seems to be insulated from cyclical downturns is the high-end residential market. My guess is that the residential market is one that we can bank on, and all of the others will react according to economic growth.
D&WC: How can designers and retailers best prepare themselves for success?
Koskiniemi: Preparing to be successful is a lifelong endeavor. Every day can be a new effort at personal development. Best-selling author Stephen Covey refers to it as "sharpening the saw." Joining professional industry groups like IFDA can provide opportunities for networking and continuing education. The very best way to broaden our horizons is by traveling. When we have the opportunity to develop relationships with people from all over the world, it brings us to a higher level of understanding.
We all have our own ways of measuring our success. I feel the most successful when at the end of a project I get a card that says, "You're the greatest!" It's a good idea to collect these and display them where you can see them when you are having a tough day.
What could be more fulfilling than knowing that we have tremendous opportunities to influence the quality of our customers' daily lives?
D&WC: How are current environmental concerns influencing interiors? For example, the increased attention to health and ergonomics, indoor air quality issues and factors regarding the aging populations.
Koskiniemi: Interiors are strongly influenced by all of the above. However, the process seems painfully slow to evolve. Because the cost/benefit factor is often difficult to predict, the influences are mostly driven by consumer demand. Homebuilders, for example, are often reluctant to use products that will enhance accessibility because of budget constraints. Irma Dobkin, the chair of IFDA Education Foundation and a design educator, often talks about handicapitalism. She refers to the term when describing the profitable opportunities for designers to specify for a market that has often been considered as more philanthropic than prosperous.
D&WC: How will designers and retailers have to change their thinking in order to accommodate these issues?
Koskiniemi: Optimally, we will focus on the function of the spaces we fill. We understand that we have the opportunity and the responsibility to make our clients' everyday lives more comfortable, safe and enjoyable. Products we specify today should suit them in sickness and in health and as they age in their familiar surroundings. This is a strong reason to be an advocate of educational requirements for interior designers. The National Council for Interior Design Qualifications (NCIDQ) has developed a standardized test that is recognized in many states.
D&WC: Looking at the business side of design, how will firms have to market themselves in the future?
Koskiniemi: As information is more accessible to the designer and the consumer, it becomes more important for manufacturers and distributors to broaden their marketing strategies.
As consumers, we all want products that are durable and attractive. We want products that leave a minimal environmental footprint and are made from sustainable resources. Most of us do not want to contribute to exploitation of workers involving child labor or harsh conditions. Besides all that, we would really like to know that some of the profits of the companies we patronize go to charitable causes. We can credit Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben & Jerry's) and Paul Newman for helping us become such idealists. Manufacturers will have to market themselves to well-educated consumers who have narrowed the gap between real and perceived value.
D&WC: How is international design and trade influencing interior furnishings in the United States?
Koskiniemi: With fewer trade restrictions, certainly there is a wider array of imported products for designers and specifiers to choose from. We are witnessing a strong consciousness to consider all factors when selecting new products, not only the lowest cost. After the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) announced that by using ramen wood for window blinds we were destroying the rain forests, many designers and retailers began insisting on using slightly more expensive domestic basswood blinds. The Internet has been a godsend for the effectiveness of grass roots political action. With information more readily available to us, we can decide if we want to purchase products from manufacturers that exploit child labor or have intolerable labor conditions. While the advantages of less restricted trade brings more choices to the marketplace, it continues to be our responsibility to lead the consumer to appropriate products based on our convictions.
I recently received a letter from Yu Yong, the president of World Decoration News in Beijing, China. He expressed that as the economy of China is continually developing, and living standards are rising fast, people there are putting more focus on recognition of the outside world. He states that with the coming entry of China into the World Trade Organization and the hosting of the 2008 Olympics, the distance between China and the rest of the world is decreasing. We anticipate that several Chinese representatives will participate in the annual IFDA conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL, on November 1 to 3, 2001. For more information on the annual educational conference, visit our Web site: www.ifda.com.