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From showroom to living room

By Kim Palmer
(Minneapolis) Star Tribune

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  • Spring market

    High Point’s six-day spring market is in early April, but it’s an exclusive event.

    In other words, don’t bother trying to register unless you’re a retailer, wholesaler, architect, builder, decorator or interior designer. High Point Market, which encompasses 180 buildings in the downtown showroom district, is for the trade only.

    The rest of us can visit the furniture and design shops and outlets in the Triad city but likely won’t bring anything home other than a list of retailers close to home.

    Info: highpoint.org/explore/shopping-furniture.



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 fall shows, 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.

Hottest hues: Lilac was in full bloom. “I saw a lot of it in upholstery,” Basil said. “One pillow showroom had a whole section devoted to lavender and mauve-y colors. 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. “... 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..

Purples are popular, but they aren’t the only color story, said Woodhouse, who 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, she noted. 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 remniscent of 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 examples Woodhouse spotted. “Prints are blown up to a bigger scale,” she said. Other ’60s influences include bold geometric patterns in both upholstery and wallcoverings, 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. “We heard a couple of markets ago that gold was coming back, but this market, boom,” said Basil, who saw gold overtaking pewter and brushed nickel in light fixtures and furniture hardware, in both shiny and brushed finishes. 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 white-washed, 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 wallcoverings for several seasons, Basil said, but now the signature pointed arch of Moorish architecture is making its way into furniture, 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 multitasker 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.”

Fast-moving fashions: 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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