Let's Not Forget Functionality
This love affair first appeared during the Victorian era in the
mid-19th century. For at least 60 years, decorative hardware was
incorporated into lavish window treatments with lots of layers,
ornamentation and trims. Over time, decorative hardware and lavish
window treatments took a back seat to the simpler styles of the
mid-20th century. Elements of this simplified style include draw
draperies on traverse rods in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, followed
by bishops sleeves and the stationary continental rod and pocket
of the 1970s and 1980s.
Then came our current crush on decorative hardware, which started in the 1990s. The state of affairs was so bad then that decorative pole sets were thin metal rods with shiny finishes capped with plastic finials made to look like brass or other plated finishes. Certainly, these looks were stale and dated by todayís standards.
Leading retailers, designers and decorators sensed a wave of change in the early 1990s. This coincidentally occurred with Amoreís transition from decorative accessories into decorative hardware. We were supplying Pottery Barn with decorative accessories when they asked us to manufacture a quality metal decorative rod and finial.
The high-end market had custom wrought iron or brass, but there was a big gap in the middle market. Our metal adjustable pole set was a big hit, and we updated it with a high-tech, low-gloss powder coating in black, brown and steel grayóa real contrast to the then-current market of plating and shiny brass finishes.
Our pole sets used real metal finials and a heavier metal rod for a greater perceived value to the customer. It was the first quality adjustable metal rod, and it was love at first sight for the retailers, decorators and consumers.
MOST IMPORTANT ATTRIBUTE
Without a doubt, the reason most customers fall in love with decorative hardware is finish. Think about this: Great hardware in the wrong color will not sell. But in the right color, even lousy hardware will sell. So we have to have the right colors and these colors change over time.
The market for finishes has developed from the single colors of the í90s to a much more textured and layered look today. We look to fashion and home furnishings for where colors and color combinations are heading.
At the upcoming International Window Coverings Expo, we will introduce our largest selection of new colors ever. This will give decorators and designers a distinct advantage as they will have a full range of finishes to blend with all fabrics, trims and home interior color schemes. Our hand-painted finishes have as many as five subtle undertones so they really make for a perfect love match with trims and fabrics for window and room settings.
Great finishes are very important. But so, too, is functionality. If the hardware does not provide a solution to the problem, then it canít be used. Many designers are faced with special situations and they want hardware to help to solve their challenges. We have listed some of the common problems and how our decorative hardware solves the problem.
Over the last 10 years, we have seen decorative hardware improve in finish and functionality. You can expect even more creative uses of decorative hardware and it being mixed into traditional window treatments, but in non-traditional ways. For example, cornices may be embellished with metal decorative stampings, like oversized buttons.
We also have seen more uses for scarf holders and crowns to support window treatments, either alone or in combination with rods. Often the designer is looking for a peg-style knob to support stationary side panels where no rod is needed, a look particularly appropriate for arched or eyebrow windows.
So it stands to reason that our new Accents line of decorative metal stampings is offered in 30 finishes, which provides for a real creative edge and the ability to personalize to a clientís tastes. The motif style stampings feature many different themes, from tropical palm trees to safari monkeys, elephants and giraffes to sports themes such as golf clubs. Traditional themes abound, too, with acanthus leaves and scroll-like rosettes.
The stampings are available with many mounting options so they can be used as buttons on pillows or headboards, pinned to tab tops, or screwed into wood poles for stationary panels instead of rings. The stampings can accent a pole bracket, almost like a finial. They can be mounted to hold a hidden clip projected away from the wall, or mounted on round metal post-like columns that hide the mounting screws inside.
EUROPEAN TRENDS INFLUENCE AMERICAN MARKET
First, letís clarify this by agreeing that the two markets are different in many respects. Our American interpretation of European style is exactly what you would imagine, and not at all how it really is. Ask your client about Europe and they will imagine a romantic French country or Tuscan style and finishes with lots of textures and undertones. Itís a Ralph Lauren sort of feel, and we can thank Ralph, Hollywood and Madison Avenue for this framework. It sells lots of decorative drapery hardware for us.
The truth is that the Europeans, being surrounded by such old and timeworn history, are into very contemporary and high-tech style. Our American market just isnít into that look. So our challenge is to integrate the best of European ingenuity into an Americanized version that will sell. This led us to introduce the Chateau Collection of Drapery Hardware, which will premier at the Baltimore show.
This new concept in decorative hardware combines the high-tech functionality of European track systems with the designs and finishes that Americans love. Rather than reinvent and reengineer track systems and components, we have aligned ourselves as exclusive importers of the Stila brand of track systems. This high-quality track allows us to fabricate a decorative casting across the top or a decorative metal banding across the front of the track, and the brackets to support the track can be positioned anywhere across the backside of the system. Itís like no other track in the American market. The totally fresh concept is somewhere between a decorative cornice and a traditional pole set.
We also will introduce panel-track systems with click-in panel holders. These are three- and four-track systems that give a whole new set of design options. The panel tracks have a hook-and-loop face for easily attaching fabric to the panels. You can do a Japanese screen effect, or you can layer textures by putting a mix of different fabrics onto the panel carriers.
THE NEXT 50 YEARS
We will see many different and great window treatment designs as we move into the next phase of decorative drapery hardware. How long with the market stay strong?
Itís not that the same hardware will remain strong, as you can see from the discussions above, hardware has been evolving and changing over the last 10 years. You will see more change as designers and decorators use their talents for making their clients feel special about their windows and home environments.
If history holds true, it looks as if decorative hardware has another good 50 years to go. Now thatís true love!
Greg Harkinson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of Amore Drapery Hardware (www.amoredraperyhardware.com), a leading company in metal decorative drapery hardware. He has 15 years experience in decorative accessories and hardware. Amore is an industry partner with WCAA and an industry member with Drapery Pro.