Furniture Trends Offer Few Surprises at High Point Show

Furniture Trends Offer Few Surprises at High Point Show – Brief Article

Amy Leibrock

HIGH POINT, N.C.–The mood was optimistic this April throughout High Point’s 10 million square feet of showroom space as 2,700 exhibitors launched spring lines for furniture buyers at the International Home Furnishings Market. Most companies showed conservativism in their new lines in light of recent economic downturns and didn’t make many explosive launches. This meant that many existing trends showed no signs of fading and only a few new ones emerged.

The Trends

International Influences: Design inspiration has gone global with pieces drawing on looks from Asia and Australia to France and Cuba. Asian styling, with its emphasis on simplicity, natural materials and clean lines, has made its way into the major furniture collections of Thomasville, Bassett and Broyhill among others.

Country is turning more sophisticated by borrowing inspiration from England and France. Toile is being used to accent everything for the home from bed linens to upholstered furniture, and English and Irish influences could be seen in lines from Pennsylvania House, Marge Carson, Hooker and Stanley.

Tropical looks evoking steamy safaris and sultry luxury were spotted throughout the market. Furnishings in this vein incorporate exotic materials such as bamboo, wicker, rattan, banana bark and motifs of monkeys, elephants, camels and palm leaves.

Animal Prints: Animal skin looks have been hot for a while, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Skins turned up on everything from upholstery to accessories to larger accent pieces. Part of the appeal is versatility. Skin looks, such as leopard and cheetah, work in a variety of settings, from formal to casual, and with antiques or ultracontemporary designs.

Leather: Despite fears of price hikes from foot-and-mouth and mad cow diseases, leather is still a popular upholstery cover, as well as an accent for beds and other wood pieces. Also look for continued popularity of leather/fabric combinations in upholstery.

Mixed Media: Instead of solid woods and fabrics, furniture makers are combining traditional wood, metal and glass with more exotic materials and textures such as bark, twigs, fossil stone, split cane, crushed bamboo and coconut shell.

Children’s Furnishing: Manufacturers are responding to an increased demand for kids’ furnishings. Stanley, for instance, has introduced pieces designed to suit the way kids live today, with features like computer nooks and spaces for game systems.

According to Stanley representative Mary Leigh Wallace, “Parents are waiting until later in life to have children. They’ve got more disposable income, and they’re going to make sure their children have everything.” The more parents invest in decorating a child’s room, the more likely they are to purchase art for them.

Hand-Painted Furniture: The personal touch of hand-painting has enjoyed a run of popularity that is still going strong, especially on imported occasional tables and accent pieces. In October, Ashley introduced four hand-painted bomb chests. The line’s success prompted the company to add eight more this market, according to Kerry Lebensburger, president of Ashley’s upholstery division. Stein World, another handpainted player, has seen its business grow two-thirds over the last year, systems analyst James Frank told Furniture Today magazine.

In the high-end arena, Brown Councill added the Michelangelo chair to its “Masterpiece” collection, which includes artist Mary Cowan’s renderings of famous paintings on leather. Previous chairs featured masterpieces by Toulouse-Latrec, Degas, Van Gogh and Monet.

Licensing: Famous names continue to link themselves with home furnishings collections, with two newcomers entering the furniture arena this spring. Baker unveiled its Bill Sofield collection, and Kincaid presented two styles within Laura Ashley Home. New pieces also were added to existing licensed collections: Chris Madden at Bassett, Bob Timberlake at Lexington, Ernest Hemingway at Thomasville, Joe Ruggiero at Norwalk, Kathy Ireland at Vanguard and Alexander Julian at Universal.

Wall Decor Trends

Sellers of wall decor echoed these furniture trend categories. “Trends are going global this market,” said designer Ralph Tepedino of Vanguard Studios of Vernon, Calif. “There was a heavy influx of Cuban and hispanic art.” Tepedino also noted the popularity of poppies, monkeys, reeds, fig leaves, pears, Italian villa scenes, costal themes and abstract art with soft lines.

“The `Out of Africa’ and Hemingway looks are still hot as a pistol with us,” said Gary Williams, director of sales for Paragon Picture Gallery of Albertville, Ala. “The non-traditional stuff is doing really well.”

“Color is certainly a big thing right now,” said Howard Rosenbaum, president of Rosenbaum Fine Art of Boco Raton, Fla. “After all those years in the muted tones and the earth tones, I think more color is certainly the answer, and furniture has also gotten more modern.” Several of Rosenbaum’s new releases were created by designer Larry Laslo, a hot commodity at High Point with new contemporary furniture designs turning heads at the John Widdicomb Company and Directional.

As for framing trends, traditional double-matted prints are still strong sellers, but the market seems to be headed toward wider mouldings and unique treatments. According to Williams, decorators are looking for “something that really kind of blends but makes a statement.” He pointed out the popularity of botanicals mounted on papyrus with upholstery tack details and mats printed with leopard, crackle and antiqued effects.

“Nobody wants little mouldings anymore,” said designer Jason Kasal of New Century Picture of Manhattan Beach, Calif. “Prints are getting larger and larger.” He said oversized, stainless metal frames in six- to eight-inch widths are selling well.

Williams agreed. “You won’t see many one- and two-inch mouldings. It’s all two-and-a-half-, three- and four-inch sizes. Many credit the large scale of new housing for this demand for massiveness.

For some, the lack of any strong new trends at the spring market means anything goes, within reason. “It’s across the board,” said Tepedino. “Everything seems to be in style.”

COPYRIGHT 2001 Pfingsten Publishing, LLC

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