High Point Market Report Fall 2011

High Point Furniture Market this fall was the most positive in energy and attitude that we’ve seen in a few seasons; the slight uptick we had in the economy this year gave vendors the confidence to plan for growth.

Of course there were the usual parties, lectures and events, including a concert by the B52’s!  They really rocked the plaza.  And of course, we shopped till we dropped, especially for area rugs as we are greatly expanding our selection at Posh Living. We had a chance to mingle with successful industry professionals and glean some of their wisdom too…

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Anticipating more demand from buyers, manufacturers expanded their product lines this Fall – but they were definitely playing it safe.  While it is true that many new pieces were introduced, most furniture lines seem to have trimmed down substantially from the variety they’ve offered before, focusing on the likeliest best-sellers. Trends that began in the last couple of years, such as Belgian linen looks, distressed paint and driftwood finishes, are now predictably entrenched in all of the major furniture showrooms. While we can’t fault the vendors for not wanting to take risks in a slow economy, there does seem to be a general lack of creativity at the moment.  We saw several vendors offering the same imported wood cabinet as their own “design”, and there was enough industrial “salvage” metal cabinetry for every twenty-something in America to turn their apartment into an urban loft.  We passed row after row of metal lockers, cart coffee tables, and tractor-seat barstools – a surprising investment for an industry whose best customer right now is the Boomer generation. Presumably they are looking to connect with the next generation of consumers.

Traditional furniture shapes are still going strong, but new finishes such as driftwood tones and pickled and limed woodgrains give them a lighter, more updated look.  Suites of dining room furniture and matching end tables are featured less, as the traditional decorating look becomes more collected, less “done”, and more likely to be purchased over time.  A shopper may buy a table and chairs one year, and a cabinet for the same room a few years later.  [flickr id=”6329754128″ thumbnail=”thumbnail” overlay=”true” size=”small” group=”” align=”right”] We saw a lot of pieces that could be used in different rooms, and finishes that mix well with other wood or paint tones.  Carving and heavy ornamentation are definitely out. Some of the styles we noticed and liked at Market were:

Made in USA:

New this year, the Made in America Pavilion is a great idea, although the displays were a bit meager – most were small vignettes for manufacturers who had large showrooms elsewhere.  I guess we expected more splash, but we did find some new sources and smaller, close-to-home companies that also meet our sustainable sourcing needs.   [flickr id=”6329803650″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”large” group=”” align=”right”]   It was really helpful to have one place to find Made in America manufacturing – something we’ve always looked for.  Our clients appreciate the quality and shorter lead times of American furnishings.  In another building we were introduced to Lincolnton Furniture, a North Carolina company over 100 years old that has recently revived its manufacturing operation after being shuttered for years.  Featuring solid wood, classic bedroom and dining pieces sourced from Sustainable forests, Lincolnton has an impressive product and story that had them recently featured on Brian Williams evening news show…we enjoyed meeting family members and finding pieces that may work in our showroom.

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Coastal  and Timeworn:

Coastal looks grow even stronger with each Market; themes of Nature abound with shells, grasses and blues and greens everywhere.  Timeworn finishes such as a driftwood-gray tone can be used in so many interiors, from beach-front to shabby-chic, French and cottage. This is a look that is not going away – trend forecasters have already predicted a color palette called “Shanty” for next year that features driftwood, stone, and worn nautical finishes.

They also chose a “Tender” range of colors: romantic, handmade, timeworn – think mini-florals, pink and taupe linen, French touches.  [flickr id=”6329051349″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”large” group=”” align=”right”] Already appearing in showrooms: French furniture frames in driftwood tones, worn white paint, the romance of crystal mixed with shells and coral and found objects.  Light fixtures were covered in shells or wired to mimic coral branches. Even manufacturers with modern styles had touches of the coast in graphic art and fabric prints.

Travel:

It does seem odd that a country would have a furniture trend, but Britain is having a moment. Since HaloStyles upholstered a Chesterfield sofa in a giant Union Jack a few years ago, Britain has taken over.  The Union Jack is appearing on furniture, art, pillows, bedding and rugs, and morphing into different color palettes from neutral to pastels. We loved this fun chest [flickr id=”6329049987″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”true” size=”large” group=”” align=”right”] and a desk with a map of London on top: [flickr id=”6329050713″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”large” group=”” align=”right”]

We did see a lot of American flags and stars also, so perhaps the Stars and Stripes trend is not far behind. [flickr id=”6329803650″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”true” size=”large” group=”” align=”right”]

The ethnic trend is also holding on, especially in the eye-popping accents like Ikat print pillows, Suzani prints on occasional chairs, ottomans upholstered in rugs.  We saw a lot of Moroccan tile designs and fretwork patterns, even on modern pieces.  Ethnic accents were, for the most part, more clean and simple and easy to incorporate into different types of interiors.

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Return to Quality:

It may seem surprising that coming out of a recession we would see consumers moving away from cheaper products. However, there is a definite return to quality as shoppers want to find pieces that last and reduce waste in the long term.  There were a lot of new and interesting products, such as this lovely organic wool bedding by Sleep & Beyond, which made us re-think our approach to bedding.

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And, of course, there are always the things we can’t believe exist – entertaining, but not our style at all!  Remember, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!

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To see a slideshow of  all High Point Photos, click on the thumbnails:

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