“Taken together, the trends that emerge from the millions of transactions that make up the manufacture and sale of furniture create a vivid snapshot of our world,” says Tashjian. “We deliberately choose our surroundings to meet our daily needs and to reflect our values, aspirational lifestyles and aesthetic preferences. Think about it: what could be more suggestive of how we feel about our lives than how we choose to sleep, dine, entertain and watch the news?”
Esoteric, maybe, but it’s Tashjian’s job to think about such issues. Representing a leading maker of luxury furniture requires being sensitive and responsive to consumer trends. And while it may not always be apparent why we gravitate toward soft champagne sofas rather than bright red ones, or why we entertain in the garden instead of the living room, there’s interest aplenty in noting that we do.
So, what are the current trends in furniture? Tashjian identifies the Top 10.
1. More options than ever. Today’s consumers tend to be a pretty opinionated bunch. We like choices in everything we buy—from new vehicle interiors to cell phone features and bank account options—and companies are generally happy to oblige us.
This is especially true for the furnishings with which we surround ourselves. Take upholstery. To begin with, Century offers more than 250 frames ensuring customers can find the perfect style, both aesthetically and ergonomically. Then come fabrics and leathers—more than 2,500 of them. There also are five different cushion fills for varying degrees of softness/firmness. If that’s not enough you can change the arm style, the skirt style and the finish on the exposed wood areas.
Finally, there’s passementerie, the fringes, tassels, cords and other glamorous trimmings. The point is this: a sofa can really, truly, literally be one of a kind. The consumer decides which choice best fits his or her home and lifestyle.
2. Lots of little drawers. Here’s a trend sure to appeal to the inner child. Visit your local furniture store and you’ll notice a sprinkling of small trinket drawers that pull out from the sides of night tables, the fronts of dressers and other unexpected places. It may be sort of a backlash against the current tendency of manufacturers to make one big drawer that looks like three smaller ones.
“Think of all the little drawers and cubbyholes on the old roll-top desks,” says Tashjian. “People think they’re fun. And that’s why we’re seeing them reappear, in moderation, in today’s furniture.”
3. Fabrics warm up. A couple of years ago, people were covering their upholstery frames in pale subdued fabrics: snow white, creamy white, eggshell and so forth. Now, those light hues are slowly warming up. Pale, buttery yellows and rich champagnes currently dominate retail showrooms, perhaps accented with throw pillows in sage or cornflower blue. Fun, bright, summery silks show up here and there as well.
According to Anne Hood, senior director of upholstery merchandising for Century, the upcoming market will find already-warm upholstery fabrics becoming even toastier with hues ranging from brown sugar to café au lait, apricots and burnt hennas. “We’ll see lots of tapestries and paisleys in the spicy-brandy-rust-colored families,” she predicts. “And accent colors are getting brighter than ever with pinks, yellow-greens and oranges livening up America’s living rooms.”
4. Function trumps beauty for beauty’s sake. Make no mistake: looks do matter. If furniture is not beautiful and tasteful, it won’t sell. But it has to be practical above all else. Fabrics and finishes must be tough enough to withstand active children and even four-legged friends. And designs must look warm and welcoming, not museum-y or magazine perfect.
“People seem to be retreating into their homes and spending more time with friends and family,” says Tashjian. “They want livability without sacrificing style. That’s why so many people are choosing to furnish living rooms with upholstery covered in durable, weatherproof fabrics that are suitable for the great outdoors.”
5. Functionality defined by the end user. What does functional mean? Increasingly, the answer depends on what you want it to mean. That means plenty of adjustable shelves, extra table leaves, home office components you can put together the way the end-user wants or needs.
Sometimes, adds Tashjian, the most multi-functional designs come straight from the pages of history. The drop-leaf table from Century’s Madera collection is an example of an old idea that still works today.
6. Pieces that evolve. Our lives are not static. We have children. Our children grow up. We move to a bigger home . . . or a smaller one. That’s why, more and more, people are looking for hardworking furniture that adapts to meet their changing needs.
Sometimes an entire piece evolves: china cabinets that would easily work as bookcases. If a home is without a formal dining room, just fill the cabinet with books and move it into the living room.”
7. Outdoor furniture goes elegant. Perhaps it’s the inevitable result of conspicuous consumption. Perhaps it’s a longing to reconnect with nature. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that technology now allows for finishes that can withstand even the fiercest weather conditions. Whatever the reason, outdoor entertaining is hot right now. And not coincidentally, outdoor furniture has become more tasteful, more beautiful, more expensive than ever.
“It’s really not even accurate to call it outdoor furniture. It’s leisure furniture, and it’s stunning. People are starting to think of their outdoor spaces as extensions of their homes, and furnishing them accordingly,” Tashjian says.
8. Indoor furniture moves outdoors, outdoor furniture moves in. As just mentioned, gorgeously crafted indoor-quality furniture is taking its place in romantically lighted, flower-twined patios and gardens. Tashjian says the converse is also true. Furniture designed to be used outdoors is so beautiful that people are bringing it inside.
“As mills perfected the high-performance acrylic fabrics used on outdoor seating, they became more and more beautiful, more and more comfortable,” he explains. “Hand and color and pattern selections improved until these fabrics became suitable for the living room. And many people do mix and match outdoor furniture with their indoor designs. Families who have kids for instance, or for those who want to create a relaxed but still elegant coastal look, and it works.”
9. Advances in high-end electronics drive new innovations. Technology changes so fast that it’s hard for mere mortals to keep up. But furniture makers have to try. As expensive television sets that no longer work in traditional entertainment centers become more and more mainstream, furniture makers must figure out aesthetically pleasing ways to house them.
Last market, for instance, Century’s Madera collection included a plasma TV console designed to look like an antique Spanish chest. Touch a button on the remote control and the TV rises on a hidden platform.
10. Home office furniture comes of age. Remember the days when the home office was almost an afterthought? Maybe a converted guest bedroom? No longer. Today, most higher-end homes are built with an office included. Not surprising when you consider the blurred boundaries between work and personal lives.
Homeowners are actually designing this room, rather than filling it with leftover pieces or hastily purchased odds and ends.
Century Furniture Industries, Hickory, NC, www.centuryfurniture.com, is among the world’s largest privately owned manufacturers of high-end residential furniture. Its broad product line of both wood and upholstered furniture consists of bedroom, dining room and occasional collections in traditional, transitional, and contemporary styling.
WRAPPING WALLS IN LUXURY
Glossy Paint Adds Sophistication and Elegance
The hottest trend in home decorating is sheen and shimmer according to the Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institutesm (PQI), Philadelphia, PA. Satin and silk-like decorating is growing in popularity from pillows to bed linens to luxurious textiles. And, as a perfect backdrop for these rich home accessories, try a new paint finish for walls and ceilings.
“Glossy paints are the perfect choices to add sparkle and shine to living spaces and they provide the added benefit of a durable finish,” offers Debbie Zimmer, decorative painting consultant for the Rohm and Haas PQI. “Today’s glossier finishes add a subtle sophistication to any room and complement current shimmery paint trends.”
Here are four paint enhancements that add pizzazz to any living space:
• Not quite ready to make all the walls glow? Then combine both flat and glossy paint in the same area. For example, paint three walls in a favorite flat hue and the fourth or accent wall in the same color, but in a glossy finish for a light reflecting enhancement created by this simple and easy-to-do change.
• Accent a chandelier and dinner candles by painting a dining room ceiling with a glossy finish.
• The area beneath a chair rail can be enhanced with glossy paint to complement tile, marble or wood flooring.
• Make a narrow hallway visually expand by painting it with a high-sheen paint.
Whether you are transforming a space into one of sophistication and luxury, or into a serene and subdued setting, the simple yet creative use of paint sheen can make the space sparkle.
To help identify the top quality paint that’s best for your home, ask for advice at your local paint or hardware store, or at a decorating center. And to understand why top quality paint outperforms ordinary paint, visit www.paintquality.com.
The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute, www.paintquality.com, was formed by Rohm and Haas Co. in 1989 to educate people on the advantages of using quality interior and exterior paints and coatings. The PQI’s goal is to provide information on the virtues of quality paint as well as color trends and decorating with paint through a variety of vehicles, including television appearances, newspaper and magazine articles, and instructional literature.
Rohm and Haas, www.rohmhaas.com, is a worldwide producer of specialty materials, with more than 100 plants and research facilities in 27 countries and company sales of approximately $7 billion in 2004.
EMOTIONAL CONNECTION INSPIRES 2005 CONSUMER PALETTE
The emotional response to color humanizes the color palette developed for 2005 by the color professionals participating in the Spring International Conference of Color Marketing Group (CMG) in Hollywood, FL, in April 2003. The industry experts selected future colors that “convey a respectful, serious nature, yet touch the soul.”
CMG’s color professionals noted that the spa experience adds a spiritual nature to color and refreshes, rejuvenates and cleanses the palette. Consumers desire comfort, stability and security, but optimistically yearn for bright and fresh signs of a better world to come. While special effects diminish, colors appear to be infused with light from within. That optimism is reflected in the color forecast for 2005.
COLORS FOR HOME
Color is a substance, not just a surface. Infused with light, home colors continue to soften and become more serene. Consumers form an emotional connection with color, and these fresh and joyful hues will bring healing to their lives. Many consumers still will be playing it safe with color in 2005, but an optimistic desire emerges for bright and fresh hues.
• Sea Coral—A sensually tactile hue comes home from fashion and cosmetics. Yellow infuses pink with a healthy glow.
• Latin Rose—Baked by the equatorial sun, red is softened and neutralized. Latin Rose embraces us all.
• Twilight Shadow—Serene and safe, this red-infused blue is airy and atmospheric. Twilight Shadow inspires spiritual reflection.
• Eden—A new beginning, Eden creates optimism and rejuvenation. This organic green is a symbol of the desire for rebirth and recovery.
• Sheer—Like sunlight streaming through sheer fabric, this white infused with yellow is clean and bright.
Fashion is a movement, a seasonal blending and layering. Three emerging directions influence the new color for 2005:
1. Rustic: Antiqued, vintage, distressed, tea-dyed, dusky.
2. Urban Sheen: Layered special effects, translucent, complex structures.
3. World Spiced: Textured, refreshed basic shades reinterpreted.
• Clay Pot—International spice blends with global rustic influences into a shade suitable for men, women, accessories and cosmetics. The solid shade, inspired by old tapestries, rugs and textiles is familiar and comforting.
• Good Earth—This rugged and rustic explorer adventures to red rock country and metropolitan rock piles. This personalized, aggressive protector is up-country to urban for menswear, womenswear, accessories and cosmetics.
• Thistle Bloom—This vintage, retro and antiqued dusky purple will be enhanced with special effects such as metallics and pearlescents and aluminized into shimmer and glitz. When behaved, it acts as a neutral in the softest tint, and when muted is reminiscent of
fog-dusted orchids and lilacs. Thistle Bloom signals fashion’s return to purple.
• Late Night Blue—As replacement for black, this saturated blue gives depth, and indicates trust and respect for our heritage, patriotism, the military and their uniforms. It is denim morphed into the darkest of hues and becomes richer than black in menswear, womenswear, accessories and cosmetics.
• Sulphur—Khaki goes green and becomes an urban survivalist shade. An edgy neutral with techno undertones, Sulphur enhances layering and can be iridescent, translucent or shimmering.
Color Marketing Group (CMG), Alexandria, VA, www.colormarketing.org, founded in 1962, is an international, not-for-profit association of 1,500 Color Designers. Color Designers are professionals who enhance the function, salability and/or quality of a product through their knowledge and appropriate application of color. CMG members forecast Color Directions one to three years in advance for all industries, manufactured products and services.