Millennium Design Trends Focus on Tranquility & Opulence

Millennium Design Trends Focus on Tranquility & Opulence

Jennifer Wong

Recognizing new trends in furniture design and color is an important way for framing companies to stay in tune with the needs and desires of consumers

Like any other design industry, the framing industry must constantly keep on top of the trends shaping consumer choices in fashion, furniture design, and home decor. Attending furniture shows, watching color trends, consulting interior designers and traveling around the world are just a few of the methods framing companies employ to keep their frames and their frame shop owners happy and successful.

And as we enter the new millennium, several trends in design and color have emerged. In general, trends today reflect consumers’ desire for a slower paced life filled with more tranquility and tradition in their home environments. There is a renewed interest toward living in harmony with natural elements, and designers are combining wood, metal, glass and stone in many of their looks.

In direct opposition to that trend, designers are also seeing a resurgence in formality led by opulent `Old World’ furniture and the use of luxurious fabrics like silk and damask. There is also an increased interest in discovering one’s heritage and blending that with other styles resulting in an overall eclecticism in style.

A Look At Color & Texture

Two notable color and trend forecasting organizations that influence interior design and the frame industry are the Color Marketing Group and the Color Association of the United States.

“Moving into the new millennium, everyone is anxious about keeping up with the rate of change that’s going on in the world fueled by the Internet, e-commerce and mass media,” said Hall Dillon, chairholder and president of the Color Marketing Group, (CMG). “We need calming, soothing and relaxing atmospheres.

CMG has forecasted blue as the most important color of the next decade, supported by an array of pale neutral colors. Blue evokes tranquility and serenity and acts as a counterbalance to the frenzy of technology in our lives.

As a complement to the blues and neutrals, spicy oranges, reds and golden browns from Morocco and Australia add excitement to their forecasted color palettes. “We need some lightheartedness and a little energy, as well,” said Dillon.

When color tones down, texture becomes paramount, adding character, detail and color enhancement. “We are becoming more tactile,” said Dillon. “It’s not just about what we see, it’s about what we feel. You can layer many translucent colors to create a richer, more complex color.”

“Color is really about life,” said Margaret Walch, director of the Color Association of the United States (CAUS). “We expect to see more complicated color because Americans are realizing how important color is in their lives. We are really responding to art exhibitions and the colored wall. We’ve never really explored until now how frames and matting can make their own statements.”

“One of the more interesting things I saw recently was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” continued Walch. “It was an exhibition from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection of Japanese ukiyoe prints. The museum used patterned mounts instead of wood or paper. They used several fabrics, rather like a kimono of many patterns. Not only were they beautiful, but I think people appreciated the elaborate, multifaceted mountings.”

The Influence of Home Decor

Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of Public Relations for the American Manufacturers Furniture Association (AMFA), discussed the major trends in the furniture design and home decor industries.

“Naturally there are two absolutely opposite trends happening at the same time,” said Hirschhaut. “The first trend we’ve been watching is a continued trend that is 10 years old. It can be defined as casual living, sort of like `casual Friday has come home.’ It is comfortable, stylish and informal. We’ve seen light colored woods and soft slip-covered upholstery.”

“Let’s shift that exactly 180 degrees,” Hirschhaut continued. “One of the trends that we saw in this market was a return to formality with very strong, traditional lines.” She described a line of furniture that included rich, ornately carved mahogany pieces and very crisp, tailored upholstery in silk and damask. Hirschhaut mentioned another successful collection that was inspired by Malcolm Forbes’ family’s collection of furniture from their European chateaux.

“The beauty and formality of classicism continues to be an important part of design today,” said Linda Omelianchuk, designer for Larson-Juhl, Color Marketing group member and co-chairman of the CMG International Trends Committee. “The sense of history from European architecture, art and furniture will always be a significant influence in home interiors and picture framing.”

The Larson-Juhl new designs targeting this classic look have been extremely well received, confirmed Steven McKenzie, senior vice president of marketing.

Walch, of CAUS, definitely sees the return to formality. “We are seeing a return to a richness that is being rediscovered by a whole new generation of newly married, young householders,” she said. “This is the year of formal furnishings. There is a movement to antique silver and also a very patina-ed, gold-leaf color. This is a natural for framing.”

Big is Beautiful, Silver is Sexy

Mona Astra Liss, spokesperson for Nielsen & Bainbridge, noted the trend of using larger and larger mat sizes to add drama to the overall effect of a framed piece of art. She also said the current trend of using off-centered mats creates “an overall visual symphony of color and proportion.”

“Frames are going wider and more opulent, agreed Ricki Gardner, senior print buyer for Artistree, a division of Michaels. “We’re seeing many kinds of silvers that are doing really well. The silver uptrend is coming from such places as India, Morocco and Asia.”

Gardner is a member and current chairman of the Colors Current Committee of CMG. She cited the importance of knowing where trends will go in her work. “There was a huge silver statement that showed up on the fashion runways in 1996. We knew it was coming,” said Gardner. “Since then, we’ve gradually introduced silver. Initially, we mixed it with gold in the framing industry to create a champagne color because it was too strong for homes since silver hadn’t arrived there yet.”

“You have to look at where the trends are going and at the color palettes to see what will work,” continued Gardner.

Nielsen metal frames have been experiencing booming sales in their lines reflecting the great surge of interest in metallics, particularly in silver, where they have many variations of the color from platinum, frosted silver to a silver moss color.

“Metallics are being widely used in fabrics for wall coverings, furnishings, window treatments and bed covers, as well as in the fashion industry,” said Mona Astra Liss, spokesperson for Nielsen & Bainbridge. “Our designs complement current interiors reflecting both traditional and contemporary styles,” said Liss.

Tradition Still Rules

Hirschhaut of AMFA noted another strong trend in furniture design reminiscent not so much of a luxurious gilded age, but rather of the strong, traditional look of the early 20th century. This was led by Thomasville in 1998 with a furniture line inspired by the life and times of writer Ernest Hemingway. This line of furniture has been so popular that Thomasville now enjoys one of the most successful licensing programs in the home industry.

Gardner, of Artistree, confirmed the appeal of this look as both frame design and prints rise to meet the new `old’ trend. “We’re seeing art evoking this `Hemingway look’ with hunt scenes and world maps being very popular,” said Gardener. “It’s a `man’s man’ style reminiscent of cigars and martinis and the den.”

She noted an increased trend toward more masculine-looking wood frames to complement these prints. “Men are starting to get involved in selecting art for their homes and offices,” Gardner added.

Asian Influence is Going Strong

A third major trend in home furnishings and interior design is inspired by the Asian philosophy of Feng Shui. Research shows that homes are less the entertainment centers that they were during the consumer boom of the 1980s. Values have changed. Refuge and a sense of calm are new goals.

Two furniture companies among many pay homage to this Asian influence in their designs. One of them is from Century Furniture, whose Omni Collection is almost entirely dominated by soothing spherical shapes. This look is the realization of simple elegance in the home. “Our work day is computers, cell phones and beepers, so when we go home we want something that is very soft to the eye and comfortable to the touch but still has an elegance to it,” said Hirschhaut of AMFA.

Another collection by the Bernhardt Furniture Company was constructed of mixed media. This is a trend that is being seen in nearly every category of home furnishings. “We’re seeing combinations of materials. Wood with metal or stone with glass and metal or any possible combination that speaks to living in harmony with the natural elements,” said Hirschhaut.

Hirschhaut emphasized the importance of texture in all of these styles. “Texture is paramount,” she said. “It’s the element that causes excitement in a room setting.”

Gardner, of Artistree, described the look of texture in custom and ready-made frames. “We’re seeing a lot of frames that look like they’ve been stuccoed. Bamboo and cane are very strong right now.”

“We’re seeing faux tortoise and fur, leather, silver and gold braiding, little mirrors and beading on frames,” Gardner continued. “Nature is also an influence. We’re seeing designs of leaf patterns in the art work as well as in the mats.”

In tune with the consumer desire for texture, Bainbridge mats offer a comprehensive range of fabric mats. The mats offer looks ranging from denim to suede, earthy flaxen, rich raw silks, grass cloth and linen. Liss mentioned the current consumer favor for natural fibers in home decor as an inspiration for Bainbridge mats.

“The growing reverence of nature and the environment is creating a consumer appreciation of natural wood,” added Omelianchuk of Larson-Juhl. “This is why we have introduced our Valagio wood veneer collection. The clean, universal appeal of shapes in this collection also complements the strong Asian influence of purity and simplicity.”

The company’s most recent collection of frames, Primitive, reflects a growing interest in multi-culturalism that is going to continue to be one of the strongest influences in all areas of design. This design was inspired by Larson-Juhl design team’s trips to Tunisia and Spain where they discovered the beauty of indigenous tribal art.

“There is a desire for people to understand their history and heritage, and at the same time, appreciate the differences in cultural diversity,” said Omelianchuk. “The Primitive Collection expresses this feeling of tribal ancestry and it translates well into framing contemporary styles of folk, Western, ethnic and modern art.”

“Eclecticism is very important in home decorating,” said McKenzie of Larson-Juhl. “These new trends are important because they allow for an expression of individual style,” he continued. “Custom framing is the one element in a home decorating scheme where a consumer can truly put their own signature on their home.”

Indeed, the diversity of trends offered to the consumer from all industries is revolutionary in and of itself. Similar to the lifting of the tyranny of a mandatory skirt length in the fashion industry, consumers are now offered the freedom to choose from an exciting array of styles that best expresses their own unique style and the way they want to live. And this spells more business for framers.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Pfingsten Publishing, LLC

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