A post-World War II minimalist attitude delivered rows of Cape Cod houses and basic white appliances. The '50s presented celery green walls, vivid accent colors and over-sized family cars. The '60s and '70s gave us the extremes of psychedelic love beads and tidy ranch houses blooming with bright orange and Baby-Boom children.
Today we are simply busy. Work means e-mail, voice-mail, business trips and conference calls. We are globally linked via the Internet. We cook in microwaves rather than slow-cookers. Earth-friendly mulching, composting and recycling are in vogue, and back-to-nature is politically correct.
Today more than ever our homes are where we retreat for calm and relaxation. We surround ourselves with the styles and colors we find comforting. Lifestyles, home furnishings styles and color trends have a great influence on one another.
"The color palette for 1997 is warmer and more welcoming, providing the comfort and stability we seek," says Jennifer Myers, chairperson of the Consumers Colors Current Committee of Color Marketing Group (CMG). Myers also sees this year's colors as being historic, touched by nature and retrospective.
Although some hues tend to be more feminine, new entries in the "natural" category are providing a strong bridge to masculine looks. "Naturals still are very apparent even at high-end retail," says Cathi Bartz, product specialist with Kirsch. This year's naturals have greatly expanded to include more saturated, darker tones involving browns, blacks and muddy grays.
New accent colors also are entering the scene, spicing up previously monotonous settings. "There is a real practical side to the new colors," says Myers, "They must blend with the naturals. There is a lot of cream and off-white in our homes today and the new colors will gradually evolve and mix with previously purchased items."
The most influential colors of the year are purples, reds, golds, browns, greens and blues. But the new colors are more complex, giving consumers a feeling of greater perceived value and longevity. "In every color family the middle tones, generally the vegetable dyed colors, will continue to be strong," states Myers. "These are the softer, earthy tones that work well with naturals."
Purple is easily the biggest accent color for 1997. Purples are dusty and warm, as in the vegetable dyes, or crisp and clear, as in garden florals.
Aubergine, a red-purple (egg plant), is very apparent in its deepest tones, appearing in tapestries and in jacquard and masculine prints. Aubergine let-downs appear in fruit motifs and other, more contemporary patterns.
Reds are affecting browns and blues as well as purples. We return to history with pure reds in Old World prints, and red-browns/ spice reds in vintage tapestries and jacquards. Lighter, bluer pinks and some light rose hues also are becoming apparent as part of the overall feminine influence. This year's reds, as a group, are much softer and easier to live with.
Golds also are appearing in this retrospective stint, mixing with reds, browns and greens in more traditional prints and tapestries. The bright yellow-gold influence is seen in cleaner, clearer tones in some of the newest whimsical prints while light, buttery tones are very popular in solids and as a natural background in garden/floral prints.
The new, complex browns are very fresh and available in hues that fit nearly every motif. Some have a rich, red cast reminiscent of mahogany and cherry. Others are grayed with deeper taupe looks. Darker taupes, chocolate, tobacco, espresso, camel, brownstone, mink and several versions of black will become increasingly popular.
Brown/black combinations already have shown a strong influence in other areas of the fashion industry and will have increasing influence in home furnishings throughout the year. Animal prints are the biggest statement here, along with a newly awakened popularity of ethnic themes. This trend has its roots in the global community theme of our decade. Browns, blacks and grays are seen as background colors in prints as well as in plaids, stripes and solids.
Greens have enjoyed the spotlight for the past couple of years, but will gradually become less prominent, moving toward a role as an accent color. The nature and gardening themes will keep greens alive for a few more years, and a growing yellow and blue influence will become obvious.
Blue, as in true blue, is back. After being "greened" out for the past few years, classics like navy and denim along with a newer, grayer-blue are being served up full force. Red-based blues will round out the group, and turquoise will appear as a bright accent. Royal blue will play a supporting role in garden themes and whimsical prints.
When it comes to this year's home furnishings styles, eclectic and comfort trends are still going strong. Eclectic settings blend all of our favorites and casual surroundings provide a clear departure from the formality and mania of our outside lives.
"Clearly I don't believe the American people are going to abandon this casual look we've trended into," says Bartz. "And, although casual and comfort are still key words, this year the look has become somewhat more tidy -- trending from shabby toward chic."
Victorian and vintage looks are very big this year as we look to our past for comfort. What is more cozy than furnishings, fabrics and colors that remind you of grandmother's house? This trend makes a lot of sense on an emotional level and includes darker wood finishes, tapestries and lace.
Nature/garden themes will continue to grow along with our awareness of the environment. Ecological influences are huge this year as floral prints now show roots, dirt and all. Last year's fruit patterns are continuing. The trend shows a growing popularity of "outdoor-in" settings, garden spas and quiet places.
A classic globalization theme is influenced by the new global community feelings, environmental awareness and ethnic trends. Animal prints, ethnic patterns and wrought iron are part of this group, which has definite tendencies toward eclectic. The difference here is that each piece in a setting has its own history or personal association.
A new "refined country" theme is emerging as more sophisticated than past country themes. There is a renewed respect for hand-crafted articles and simplicity of design. Crewel work and embroidery are very popular, creating texture on common fabrics like muslin, cotton and linen.
"Texture continues to be very important in fabrics and in hard surfaces," says Bartz. "Chenilles, velvets, tapestries, linens, jacquards, damasks and double cloths are being used in unconventional combinations. Even hound's tooth and plaids are on highly textured fabrics. The overall effect creates interest and depth, and fits in perfectly with a broader eclectic trend."
What might the extended forecast hold? This year's contemporary themes may show some signs. We are already seeing more metallic influences, soft shine, smooth lines as well as lighter woods. A Scandinavian influence is slowly entering our homes.
This trend most likely will continue as we approach the turn of the century, including cleaner lines and perhaps glossy metals. We will not, however, give up comfort for hard surfaces and cold starkness. Comfort is here to stay, at least for a while.
Window Treatment Trends
In line with the overall color and style trends in home furnishings, window treatments will continue to have a casual feel, as well as a new, lighter, feminine influence. This trend, however, means more than just sheers and lace.
Tab-tops, ring-tops, tie-tops and swags continue to be popular because of their lighter, more airy appearance. The decorative poles, rings and finials used in these designs are becoming more and more diverse. Decorative sconces and brackets are used to drape scarves in gentle, casual frames. Verdigris, gold, white, off-white and mahogany hardware finishes are popular in direct relation to this year's color trends.
Textured fabrics, tapestries, velvets and damasks as well as lace, fit in with the Victorian or vintage themes that are evolving. Wood blinds with tapestry ladder tapes also are popular in this category. Wood poles and wrought iron fit with vintage settings, garden themes, global/ethnic themes and some country settings.
Stylish blinds and shades are used as undertreatments to control light and privacy. Coordinating patterns from vertical to horizontal blinds, and vertical blinds to pleated shades, are becoming more popular as our casual look becomes more coordinated. Larger pleats in cellular shades and wider slats in horizontal blinds are growing in popularity, perhaps related to the larger, taller furnishings that are coming into our homes.
Color Marketing Group (CMG), founded in 1962 and based in Alexandria, VA, is an international, not-for-profit association of 1,500 color and design professionals. CMG members forecast Color Directions[TM] one to three years out for all industries, manufactured products and services. For more information, call CMG at (703) 329-8500, or write to 5904 Richmond Highway, Suite 408, Alexandria, VA 22303.
Kristine Vernier is manager of marketing communications at Kirsch, Sturgis, MI