For furniture, gray is the new beige
Which styles and colors will we be seeing in furniture showrooms -- and, ultimately, homes -- in the months ahead?
One reliable barometer is the High Point Market, the giant home furnishings trade show held twice a year in High Point, N.C. For insights from the recent fall show, we turned to two design pros who were there: Kathy Basil, manager/buyer for Hirshfield's Design Resource, and Nancy Woodhouse, senior designer, Gabbert's Design Studio. They shared what they saw, what they liked and offered a few tips on incorporating new looks into existing decor.
Hottest hues. Lilac was in full bloom, according to Basil. "I saw a lot of it in upholstery," she said. "One pillow showroom had a whole section devoted to lavender and mauve-y colors," she reported. "It felt fresh and pretty." Is this a flashback to the mauve that dominated color palettes during the 1980s? "It's not as one-dimensional as that," said Basil. "That mauve was depressing. This is a little more elegant, a little more blue. It almost rides on being a neutral."
On furniture, Basil saw lilac paired with rich dark wood finishes, clear acrylic and white -- but not with medium-toned wood, she said. "It wouldn't look good."
Purples are popular, Woodhouse agreed, but they aren't the only color story. She also noticed a lot of Chinese red (a bright shade with a hint of orange), deep blues inspired by peacock feathers, punches of chrome yellow and that other '80s favorite: gray. "Gray has become the new neutral, replacing beige tones," she said. Today's grays are warm (almost taupe), which makes them easier to incorporate into decor than cooler shades of gray, she noted. "It's more user-friendly." Although gray's rise has been building for several seasons, it shows no signs of waning. "Gray is here to stay for a long time," Woodhouse said.
'60s flashbacks. The "Mad Men" influence continues, with many furniture styles that evoke the swinging '60s. Prints are big and bold, especially on chairs, where "statement fabrics" are the look du jour. Think big butterflies, oversized florals and Asian-inspired dragons, just a few of the examples Woodhouse spotted. "Prints are blown up to a bigger scale," she said. Other '60s influences include bold geometric patterns, in both upholstery and wall coverings, cut-velvet fabrics, modular furniture and Lucite. "Lucite's making a big comeback," Woodhouse said. She saw it combined with traditional elements, such as a Lucite coffee table paired with a classic wing chair, and animal-print upholstery with Lucite legs. Other retro furniture details include tufting, channel-quilting, contrast cording, buttons and nailheads.
Metal of the moment. All that glitters is now gold. "Gold was everywhere," Basil said. "We heard a couple of markets ago that gold was coming back, but this market, boom!" She saw gold dominating light fixtures and furniture hardware, in both shiny and brushed finishes, overtaking pewter and brushed nickel. One of her favorite pieces was a decorative seashell with a natural heavily textured exterior and a shiny gold-leaf interior. "That juxtaposition of rough organic with gold is just beautiful," she said.
Gold also re-entered the palette for fabrics, in a golden camel hue, Basil said. "It's a way to keep your gray and add a new twist, warming it up and adding another dimension."
Finishing touches. Painted finishes, from formal to casual, are having a big impact on furniture, according to Woodhouse. She saw everything from whitewashed, gray-washed and metallic finishes, to painted special effects, such as Harlequin patterns, flowers and even lace. Customization options are increasing, making it possible to take a traditional piece, such as a bombe chest, and give it a fresh, fun hue of your choosing -- even to match a favorite paint color. "More and more (furniture) companies have that capability," she said.
Moroccan influences. Moroccan-inspired patterns have been appearing on fabrics, rugs and wall coverings for several seasons, Basil said, but now the signature pointed arch shape of Moorish architecture is making its way into furniture pieces, such as upholstered headboards. "That's an investment," she said, an indicator that Moroccan style is here to stay for a while.
Rope chic. Rugged rope was a busy multi-tasker at market, according to Basil. "We saw it all over the place. I saw a lot of showrooms where they hung (light) fixtures with thick rope. That's something new." She also noticed a rope ship's ladder hung in a showroom, its wooden treads repurposed as shelving. "It's almost a '70s feeling of macrame," she said. "But you have to be careful with rope. Skinny and tiny looks cheap, while thick and heavy looks good."
Runway to living room. Woodhouse was struck by how quickly fashion trends are moving from the runway into home decor. "It used to be that home fashion followed apparel, and it used to take about a year," she said. "Now it's just a couple months." One example is bright chrome yellow as an accent color. "It just came into stores in fashion, now we're seeing walls painted that color, and big pieces done in that color."
That's good news for those who like to stay on top of trends. "There's more instant gratification," she said.
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