Every time I attend the furniture market in High Point, N.C., I am amazed at the creativity I see. Just when I think everything has been done before, I see something new — a fresh detail or shape, an unexpected color combination, a mix of finishes that wouldn’t seem to work together, but somehow does, and patterns combined in inspired ways. The results can be surprising, sometimes even shocking, but I always come away with a new perspective.
Observing the trends in interior design is fun but also contradictory, because, for every trend, its opposite is also present: organic vs. artificial, matte vs. glossy, light vs. dark, traditional vs. futuristic. These countertrends are the yin and yang of interior design. I try to be pragmatic. What will appeal to my clients? Is it functional? Is it beautiful? Or is it just too weird? Here are some of this year’s noteworthy trends:
Neutrals still rule. The gray, black and white trend continues, but this market demonstrated less of it, along with a bit more color. A movement toward warmer colors, including warm neutrals like cream and ivory — not just pure white — was seen all over High Point. Browns and golds appear to be making a comeback, lending almost a 1970s and ’80s vibe to the palette. Greens of all shades, from olive to forest to lime, were found in most showrooms, along with blues, from navy and hyper blue to light blue, and almost always used with deep backgrounds and painted trim. The soft, pale pink and skin tones that we’ve been seeing for the past few years were still present, and used mainly as accents. Lacquered furniture in cream or white was ubiquitous, with many manufacturers offering their pieces in any name-brand paint color, for a customized, personal look.
Gone were the deeply carved, ornate curves of the Old World styles. Taking their place are hexagons, octagons, triangles and circles. These simple geometric shapes, along with straight lines, made up the majority of all furniture, including upholstered pieces. The exception was Polart Designs, a manufacturer of “funky and hip” outdoor furniture. Their shocking, ornate French-style pieces made of outdoor resins in a variety of bright colors were a departure from all the straight lines. Their skull chair was a showstopper fit for a rock star or Goth fan. Also noted: tables that fit together like puzzle pieces, and wood and marble tables with inlaid geometric patterns.
Luxurious faux furs, hair-on-hides, embossed leathers, velvets and bold, large-scale prints were found all over, but the biggest buzz was about the newest performance fabrics. Manufacturers such as Sunbrella, Crypton, Great Outdoors and Perennials have engineered their fabrics so that they are super-durable, stain-resistant, fade-resistant and cleanable — practically bulletproof! These fabrics are now part of most furniture makers’ offerings — and no longer just for outdoor use. You can find these new heavy-duty fabrics in prints, solids, textures, even velvets, and they don’t feel like the stiff, patio-furniture fabrics of old. But be warned: They can cost well over $100 per yard.
Finishes old and new
The explosion of gold that hit the past few markets continues. Brass finishes, both polished and brushed, were seen on lamps, cabinet hardware and accessories, and worked well with the warmer color palette now emerging. Silver finishes are hanging on, but starting to wane. Black iron and bronze finishes, especially for lighting, such as chandeliers and sconces, have become a classic. Rope-wrapped frames, sometimes used with shells, mixed in well for coastal looks on furniture and lighting. Tables sometimes combined wood with raw, irregular edges for the tops, acrylic fillers, inlaid geodes or crystals as part of the design, along with sleek metal legs. Lucite furniture and accessories also continued.
The stiff, dusty, polyester floral arrangements that your Grandma used to have are gone. While most interior designers agree that real plants are always best, the new wave of artificial plants look so much better than they did in Grandma’s era. Natural, botanical looks that incorporate wood and other organic elements have definitely caught on. Mosses, orchids, succulents, bamboo and other plant types have replaced the baby’s breath, ivy and roses of earlier decades.
Good, bad or ugly? You decide
• Leather fringe on chairs and even chandeliers.
• Humorous dog art made to look like famous people, by Empire Art.
• A bed in a cabinet from Arason — a new option to the sleeper sofa or Murphy bed.
• A “bookcase” lamp from Currey & Co.
• Wire figures to sit on your sofa, from the Phillips Collection.
• Banquettes and settees in any room.
• Large mirrors hung with fabric side panels to simulate a window where there is none.
• Sliced geodes on furniture, used as hardware or lighting.
• Traditional French-style furniture manufactured in brightly colored resin for outdoor use.
• Statuary with a neon-bright flocked coating.
• Coastal looks that included light fixtures made from oyster shells or rope.
• Custom painting on leather furniture, from Hancock and Moore.
Robin Strangis is an interior designer and owner of Loring Interiors in Minneapolis.