High Point Market, the extravagant semi-annual home furnishings trade show, was energizing, exciting and, yes, exhausting this year! With more than 11,000,000 square feet of merchandise, this fall’s market was truly a designer’s heaven! I think it is always grand when you find a new design direction! High Point Market fall 2013 was literally full of design inspirations that are most definitely worth mentioning, so let’s take a bit of peek of what I saw.
The vigorous return of mid-century modern design was a revelation for me this year. While I had read about and heard about this trend, it didn’t have a huge impact on me until I saw it with my own two eyes at High Point. The trend is definitely here—and here to stay. So what are we talking about here? Technically mid-century refers to the middle of the 20th century, from 1945–1965, but the design influence even crept into the 1970s. The modern style of furnishings makes sense for the post-WWII era because it complemented the quick, simple home construction of the time. Subdivisions emerged with one-story homes that featured lots of windows and open floor plans with one room blending into another.
The furniture of the time was similar with its clean, unadorned, geometric shapes. Pieces were designed for flexible uses and could be stacked or nested. Tables sported the same visual attitude, with coffee tables, side tables and dining tables all featuring the same tidy presence. Only the table dimensions and height indicated its purpose while the remaining design elements were redundant. This, I believe, is why so many people purchased tables in sets back then. It was all very matchie-matchie and interchangeable with the dining table serving as a bridge table, puzzle table, sewing table and more.
As for the early 21st-century interpretation of this look, furniture is staying very true to the past but the lighting has become an extravaganza. I must have blurted out the word “stunning” at least 55 times a day as I admired ceiling pendants, chandeliers, table lamps and sconces. They were beautiful! Directly from the past or refined a bit.
For me, there is only one negative aspect of this design direction: While it will most assuredly marry with contemporary styles, trying to blend these pieces into a classic French or English interior try the patience of even the most seasoned designer. Embracing the mid-century modern look, I truly believe, will require a complete redo for many of us—meaning, ladies and gentlemen, you will need to start from scratch. And, as I have mentioned in prior columns, mid-century pieces are usually expensive due to the refined details. I did, however, find an amazing line called Caracole, by Schnadig International Corporation, that is at a very friendly price point and breathlessly gorgeous.
Page 2 of 3 - Scaled Down Chairs
In addition to mid-century modern furniture, my fellow designer and I spotted another unusual and interesting trend: the wee chair. Essentially, typical furniture groupings included a small, child-scale chair. On top of that, in many cases, three of these little chairs were often grouped together, giving the impression of a bench. Very interesting! According to one of the showroom staff, designers such as Alexis Hampton are using these wee chairs in their designs for the shock value—and, indeed, seeing them was a bit of a shock. This wasn’t an isolated instance either. Most furniture lines included a wee chair, including Century, Wesley Hall, Pearson, CR Laine and Stanley, just to name a few.
Colors Turn Blue
High Point showcased 2014’s color forecast, including a palette that ranges from tiffany to teal to all the blues in between. Using a mixture of blues, such as classic English blue with turquoise, is scrumptious, as is mixing with orange, beige or even a delightful pink. There seems to be no limit to what you might mix with these rich saturated blues! Emerald green is still very strong as well, but I also noticed Kelly green emerge, so clean and preppy! I predict classic English blue will be the color focus for 2014. After a bit of research, I found out that yes, indeed, I am correct! Pantone, Inc. has announced cobalt blue is the hue for 2014. Based on what I saw at the market, it will be everywhere!
Butterflies Flutter In
I saw butterflies fluttering everywhere this year at High Point—even real artifacts like artist Christopher Marley uses in his amazing works of art. I spotted butterfly fabrics and decorative pillows. I found butterflies in enormous scale framed for the focal point of a room. Not to mention hundreds of hand-cut paper butterflies artfully pinned above a chest in a radius design for a 3D display…amazing! On the real side of the spectrum, there were meticulous arrangements of butterflies, insects, mineral, fossils, botanicals and deep sea organisms on museum quality paper—a bit shocking at first glance but you start to appreciate them.
Definitely consider adding some flutter to your world in the spring 2014! The strength and tenacity of the Monarch butterfly—with its delicate wings and drive to endure the travel from Canada to Mexico—leads me to the next design focus: horses. While totally different, butterflies and horses are both incredibly strong as well as gentle.
Horses Rear Up
Horses were rearing their beautiful heads in grand style this year at High Point. These handsome, magnificent animals make a strong statement in most any interior, from contemporary to classic Kansas farmhouse. On canvas, in framed watercolors or even as sculptures, the horses added so much power to a room.
Page 3 of 3 - Generally, I feel a need to understand what a particular design influence means. So I pondered the abundance of horses and formed my opinion: Animals have played a large part recently in our interiors and I think even if unconsciously their presence is important and profound.
Horses show strength and power through their amazing size and muscle, but they are also some of God’s gentlest creatures. (Horses are even used as therapy animals.) Years ago, when I was involved in English riding and jumping, I learned that each horse definitely has its own personality—much like people do. I had my favorite horses, just like all of us have our favorite people. According to the instructor, horses understand people as we like to think we understand them. She said one of the best things a grieving person can do is be around a gentle horse because they sense unhappiness and make an effort to comfort.
Is this why horses have once again found their place in our interiors? During the difficult times we face—the economy, the bizarre behaviors by both parties in Washington, the shootings—we grieve for our country and the complicated actions we are witnessing. Maybe that is why we feel a need to bring equine symbols of both strength and comfort into our homes right now. We invite items into our homes that make us forget some of the tough times and smile at what nature has to offer to calm our moods. So, whether you find an antique bronze or a handsome watercolor, bring a horse into your home. I guarantee it will charm and comfort you.
Wow, I have become quite the philosophical designer this morning! Good design is thoughtful design, and I hope you see what is behind these design inspirations.
My trip was just what I needed to regenerate excitement in interiors, and I hope you enjoyed hearing a bit about my finds! Have a wonderful and enriching week!
Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID).
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