Researching and relating information about color and the texture of fabric for the home furnishings industry was much more challenging than I anticipated. I was expecting to acquire very clear information concerning the current and forecast future color palettes for home furnishing textiles. I wanted to be able to pass this information to readers who have not had the benefit of a formal education in color and textile fabrics. What I found was that the basic information available, although simple, was extremely interesting.
The more I pursued the experts the more I realized I should be writing the article for people just like me -- individuals who work in the textile industry who may be making decisions and servicing others in the trade, yet have little or no understanding of the important element of color.
I would like to share some very simple terms and decorating guides that you may find helpful. If you already are aware of this information, I hope you will continue to read on. I also will provide a list of forecasting agencies and some interesting information on how these groups select color palettes that are used in the industry. These groups and educational resources are available to provide information and guidance on many levels.
One of the most helpful tools I found was the Interior Design Color Wheel, issued by the Color Wheel Co., West Covina, CA. The information included on the wheel was straightforward and complete, and the wheel itself is simple to use. The company has a variety of wheels to chose from at a very reasonable cost.
The following definitions are only a few of the helpful ones printed on the wheel:
Hue -- Another word for color. Tint -- Adding white to a color. Tone -- Adding gray to a color. Shade -- Adding black to a color. Value -- Lightness or darkness of a color. Cool colors -- Greens, blues and violets (also called receding colors). Warm colors -- Reds, oranges and yellows (also called advancing colors).
There is a wonderful illustration on the card that will be helpful in making color selections and understanding color value in relationship to room design balance. A full explanation of color combinations completes the handy wheel.
Color Is Back
In order to have a better understanding of the concepts of color that are being taught in specialized educational institutions such as Parsons School of Design and Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), both in New York, I attended an interior design class given by Professor David Brocheman.
Brocheman suggested to his students that textile manufacturers and distributors might have the most influence on what the color trends will be. They choose what fabrics in specific color lines will be marketed to the home textile industry. They consider what their customers are looking for through their own research methods, then dictate preferences. Producers eager to please, work their technical wonders to provide a product as close as possible to distributors' specifications. Even the slightest variation of color can be the difference in whether a specific color or an entire collection is successful.
During the 1980s the interior design industry flourished. Colors were hot and business was great. Companies were willing to take chances on fabrics in dozens of colors. Customers were buying, and buying big. Fabric jobbers were booking designs in as many as five or six dozen colors. But a dramatic shift in the economy and the tentative climate in the industry during the late '80s and early '90s made companies that service the textile industry wary. Distributors were unwilling to take chances to be left with unsellable merchandise.
According to Brocheman the textile industry retreated to the safety of neutral colors. Even accent colors were safe and transitional. Gray, which was the predominant neutral of the 1980s was complemented by rose and mauve tones. These soft hues blended easily with shades of green. The results were complementary and soothing. They also made a very smooth transition possible into the strongest neutral of the 90s, taupe.
The economy has finally rebounded and the interior design trade definitely is back with a vengeance and a zest for color. Manufacturers are producing articles in dozens of shades to attract the interest of design professionals. Whether you choose to use small amounts of it to accent and add interest to a room, or use multiple vibrant or hot color combinations to create unusual and unique effects, color is definitely back -- bolder and brighter than ever. Decorators again can safely use color to create their unique interior designs. Heavy fabrics like chenille and bold colors, especially rusty earth tones, add depth to the designer's work.
It seems that there are a multitude of factors to consider before anyone will make a prediction as to future color trends. Something I expected to be definitive and obvious was everything but that! It seemed the list of "hot colors or trends" included the entire color spectrum and all its half tones, soften hues and feminine influences!
Most of the experienced professionals I spoke with indicated that the color forecasting associations were responsible for deciding what color path our industry was destined to travel. As part of my research I set out to discover as much as I could about the very interesting and systematic procedure used by forecasting groups. Color is a basic element in the design industry, but color forecasting is time consuming and complex.
There are many forecasting groups. The one I found most quoted is Color Marketing Group (CMG). Simply stated, this not-for-profit international organization of color design professionals meets semi-annually to develop forecast palettes for manufactured products and services. Members bring unique information specific to their own areas of expertise. Workshops and interaction between members results in the formulation of Consumer and Contract Color Directions Forecast and Color Current palettes. This information is available to CMG members, but palettes are available to non-members at a cost.
Color Box, a color forecasting service located in New York, researches and gathers information in the United States and Europe. It then develops comprehensive color stories specifically for the American fashion market. Each color box contains a collection of carefully developed palettes presented in detachable cotton pom-poms for easy use. These palettes can be adapted easily for use in the home furnishing industry and an annual subscription, which includes four boxes, consecutive seasons, can be purchased.
CMG, Color Box and their counterparts provide direction for our industry. They successfully predict color trends that offer a creative ALIGNment between the supplier of decorative fabrics and the interior design trade.
Information also may be obtained by contacting fiber companies directly. They play a key roll in color forecasting. DuPont issues a color card twice a year to key mill customers as well as color trend presentations. It coordinates the trend predictions with the color cards it provides free to its customers. Hoechst Celanese, Lenzing Fibers and Wellman Inc. also provide similar services.
Importance of Color
A simple rule of decorating in which color is used to link one part of a room or rooms and connecting areas lends itself wonderfully as an illustration of the importance of color. Choosing the right color scheme is critical for the success of a designer's work and even can tie together furnishings of different styles.
Monochromatic schemes can use any shade, tint or tone of one main color. Colors that are opposite each other, or complementary, can add interest and excitement. Having a true understanding of the value of color and how to use it can set the best interior decorator apart. Imaginative use of color can be the critical edge to secure success in this highly competitive profession.
Linking the natural environment to the interior design of the home is an excellent way to use the textures and colors found in nature. There are dozens of shades of green and earth tones that may appear right outside a window or glass door. They can be drawn into a room by complementing those colors in the fabrics chosen for the window treatments, top treatments, printed upholstery or even a decorative throw pillow. A huge potted plant placed next to that window or door also will add continuity between the outside environment and the room that is being decorated. Use all the wonderful new shades of green with transitional complements of yellow-green to yellow. Natural earth tones work so well with this formula that the living area and the natural environment create a wonderfully complementary situation.
We must listen to our customers and make sure we offer a choice of fabrics whose color and texture provide the security and individuality they need to make their houses, apartments and offices comfortable and reflective of their personalities. A house needs a loving personal touch to be a home.
The key word is personal. What colors do your clients want to use in their homes to create the warmth they desire with the traditional and ethnic tones that make their homes a part of the fabric of their families? It is a primary responsibility of those who have the ability to provide a complete collection of fabrics that will work for their customers -- textures that will complement climate and colors that will appeal to all tastes.
Colors provide warmth, stimulation, a sense of well-being and excitement. For each of us the same sensation can be created by a different color hue in a variety of shades, tints and tones. Texture adds interest and may draw attention to the room furnishings or blend the outside environment with the room in a very unique way.
The wonderful selection of textured fabrics available allows tremendous freedom for the creative designer. Color is a basic element of interior design, but its influence on our lives is wonderfully complicated. It affects our personal well-being and completes and individualizes our homes and workplaces.
Susan Scanlon is executive marketing and sales manager for Decrotex Inc., Richmond Hill, NY, importer of high quality polyester and polyester blend fabrics for more than 18 years.