A new view of comfort

Color – Looking Ahead to 1992-1993: Yellows and golds, see colors above, are pivotal to the 1992-1993 interior colors forecast, according to Margoret Wolch, associate director of the Color Assn. of the U.S. These yellow tonalties, evoking natural flax and fruitwood colors, lighten and brighten the entire palette. Rose, violet, lavenders and plum purples complement the rising yellow tonalties. CAUS continues to affirm the luscious, almost tropical, greens, ranging from warm yellow to cool blued tones. Many of these would make excellent background colors, says Walch.

The forecast shows many very lively blues, ranging from saturated mid-tones to wonderfully deep and inky shades.

Reds and browns are rich, suggesting vegetable and berry shades, and mineral soil pigment colors. Like the greens, the reds dramatically move in two opposite directions, showing winey shades and warm terra-cattas. Gentle stucco-like neutrals accentuate the strong trend in reddish shades.

Walch concludes, “The forecast’s many dichotomies … its yellowed and blued greens, its blued and yellowed reds, its equal number of cool/warm and light/dark color … suggest unusual possibilities for ’90s color/designs.” Home, family and tradition are the buzzwords of the ’90s. With Baby Boomers in their cocooning stage and the new emphasis on home as a haven from the pressures of the world, consumer focus has shifted from electronics and trend to updated tradition, from conspicuous consumption to comfort. And home furnishings resources are responding to these needs.

The 90s is being billed as an era of caring about family, people, the world and the environment. Families are shifting their values to quality, to things that stir an emotional reaction, to objects of lasting value, perhaps starting a new tradition of heritage for their children. A survey by Thomasville Furniture found that time is “the currency of the 90s, more valued than money itself. A product that helps ease the constraints on one’s time will have a definite edge in the marketplace.”

Respondents to this year’s Gifts & Decorative Accessories Trends and Forecast survey tell us they are affected by the Middle East crisis, concern about the environment (“recycled everything”) and the uncertainty of the economy. They’re emphasizing quality, service and perceived value, staying focused and watching the bottom line.

One resource sums up consumer attitude this way: “Our customers will readily invest $100 in a quality gift, but they can’t afford to throw away $3.95 on junk. Value is a more important consideration than price for our typical customer.”

What will they be buying? The trends

Neo-traditionalism has new influences. Most exotic is the Russian influence in colors and textiles, rather than furniture, according to furniture designer Vladimir Kagan. Marshall Field of Chicago plans an Americanized Russian room replete with carved furnishings for its room settings. The next influence, says design consultant David Snyder, will be Biedermeier and ’30s German design.

Biedermeier design

Another respondent, believes that “lifestyle is becoming a more important influence than ethnic style or historic style.”

At the recent High Point Home-furnishings Market, resources also focused on new influences. Thomasville found direction in a back-to-basics lifestyle concept that it defines as permanence, stability and character – a blending of old and new. The concept, Country Inns and Back Roads, is “directed toward the hearts of consumers.” Thomasville identifies these consumers as being home-focused, yet time-short. “They want the country lifestyle but don’t have the time to scour the country shops and antique stores that dot America’s back roads.” The collection is classic, comfortable, eclectic American country furnishings that capture the spirit of fine old inns.

Companies such as Stickley reissued turn-ofthe-century Mission Oak pieces – but acknowledged new technology by accommodating computers, fax systems and filing cabinets.

Broyhill found its inspiration in Jena Hall’s vision of European Country. This year, she moves to Northern Isles to focus on floral motifs, field flowers and botanical designs from Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The floral patterns complement Broyhill’s Old Country Collection in Dover cream wash pine and McKenzie honey finishes. The Country mix and match collection is based on motifs from British garden architecture, Country French, Italian and Spanish furniture details and structural features such as board and batten, trellis, lattice work and newel posts, Palladian arches and garden seats.

Lexington Furniture

Lexington Furniture was intrigued with the North Carolina studio of artist Bob Timberlake, reproducing Arts and Crafts furniture and accessories from his studio for a down-home but sophisticated Country look. The surprise is that what is North Carolina to Lexington is also recognized as Adirondack in the Northeast, as Mountain in the Rockies, and Arts and Crafts in the West. Its universal acceptance rests on its aura of comfort and folk art, of American heritage – comfort words in the 90s.

Indeed, Country has moved from cutesy to quality and sophistication, trading contrived accents for realism. This conveys what one respondent calls “nuances, sensitivity and meaningful” products, reflecting family relationships that will be deeper. Crafts are less craftsy, more finished.

With the slowing economy – and the resultant drop in real estate sales – consumers are concentrating on accessories, which Vladimir Kagan calls “the jewelry of the house.” Products with a purpose have more importance.

Victoriana, romance and opulence still have their adherents – part of the role of choice in the ’90s. However, all are simpler. Full-blown florals, for example, have been replaced with smaller, simpler floral patterns.

Southwest has settled in as a comfortable, earthy alternative to other forms of Country. It wears well without cactus, coyotes and mesquite logs. Moreover, it can evolve gracefully with the key colors of ’91: teals, raspberries, muted jewel tones, yellows and rusts.

Textured fabrics, tapestries, chintz and complex patterns are dominant. Details such as cords and tassels, multi-matted prints with intricate framing, cartouches, bows for hanging prints (and just as decoration) and window hardware continue to be important. Comfortable clutter is a hallmark of 90s rooms. They are meant to be inviting, to be lived in, to represent a family haven. This means more frames, mirrors, oversized room accents, pillows, multiple small rugs.

Gardens and natural accents reflect environmental and ecological concerns. Gardens are cultivated (and decorated with sculpture, bird baths and sundials) out-of-doors, but also brought indoors with bird cages (not meant for birds), bird sculptures, birdhouses, real and artificial plants and trees, and all of the components of the garden. Dried grasses and florals in bold arrangements are all the rage. Topiaries represent the florals-as-sculpture school. Wicker has become more sophisticated, with darker finishes, accents of black and dark green and new weaves. Baskets are stronger, for use as decorative functional room decor and storage. There is more rattan and muted, textured fabric coverings – a new look for furniture ostensibly to be used in a garden.

Rattan Garden Furniture

Animal motifs reflect the concern for the wild, for endangered species, for pets. Many resources donate part of their sales to funds that preserve and replenish the world we live in.

Gift retailers are more involved with the materials gifts are packaged in, the ways products are shipped to them, and whether products are earth-friendly.

The ’80s’ focus on jogging, tennis and workouts has evolved into products that make consumers feel good. Aromatherapy, spas and comforting fragrances are in the forefront of this lifestyle. Americans now use scent as home decor. Comforting gourmet foods, rather than exotic gourmet fare, are favored. Inspirational gifts are very popular.

With the emphasis on family, products and home furnishings for children are increasingly important. Frames, children’s collectibles and special occasion accessories have gained in interest. Furthermore, children are a factor because they have disposable income.

In tabletop, companies are making bold statements, using more complex designs, and concentrating on fruit and floral patterns. Elegance is not out, but it’s a more comfortable, casual opulence. Unique serving pieces are the key to many favored dinnerware services. Special occasion dinnerware, especially for Christmas, is thriving. The emphasis is on function, tradition, and color this year. Color in stemware is ubiquitous at every price.

The adult party and social expression business is growing. Respondents note that the possible recession will increase card, candy and toiletries sales. Many say that the emphasis will be on romantic, bright and outrageous cards, rather than on risque cards. Fountain pens, too, are gaining importance these days, not just as symbols of status, but also a statement against disposable plastic ballpoints. And there is increased interest in paper products that can be personalized.

Muted jewel tones drive the market. Greens in many shades are making a strong statement and blues continue to show strength. Soft, muted pastels and bright primaries are both factors in this eclectic year. Neons are also part of the fashion equation. Black is an important accent color, a foil for the brights and a statement with white. Earth tones reflect a continuing interest in nature colors. Teals, purples, rusts, pinks and mauves are the fashion colors. Boosting business

Looking ahead, resources are planning for the Olympics and Columbus celebrations in 1992. They’re searching for niche markets that will give them an edge in a cautious buying year. Unfavorable exchange rates are hurting importers and encouraging exports.

Resources suggest that the ability to maintain growth and financial stability in the face of tight business conditions will make the difference. Watching the bottom line and staying focused are other strategies recommended. Increasing failures of businesses are plaguing resources. And the bankruptcies and mergers of department stores have concentrated the players.

Resources also indicate that the economy compels many to hold the line on prices or to keep increases to 5-10 percent.

Surprisingly, many respondents indicate that they plan to exhibit at more shows this year. Those who schedule fewer shows say they will apply that money to support programs for existing customers.

With all its warts, 1991 is shaping up as a year with potential, dedicated to reality, concentrating on products that represent home and family values – and an opportunity to cash in on that part of the market that resources and retailers can identify as their own. Phyllis Sweed

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