Design trends for 2010
Hot fabrics and cool furniture attract new customers.
Upholstery Journal | February 2010
from Industry Experts
The upholstery business is both “utility” and “art.”
Utility relates to how people enjoy the comforts of well-made furniture for relaxing, watching TV, visiting with family and friends or taking a nap on the sofa on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Upholstery shop owners are well versed in the utility of furniture. From frames to springs and from foam to trims, they know the ins and the outs of crafting furniture that is comfortable, long lasting and highly functional.
Furniture as “art” is a bit more challenging. Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but it is also a continually moving target, as fickle as the fashion runways of New York and Paris and the furniture markets around the world. Traditional, contemporary, antique, retro, earth tones, pastels, brights, textures and an unlimited combination of these elements may catch the eye of consumers. It’s all about homeowners expressing individual tastes in home décor, which makes choices limitless.
Knowledge is power
Staying in touch with changing trends of furniture and fabric design is important to upholstery business owners because these trends represent fundamental growth opportunities, according to Tom Koster, furniture market manager for Tri Vantage, a national fabrics and hardware distributor. The more you know, the more you can sell and the more likely you will become a highly valued resource for customers.
“An upholstery shop owner who is current on fabric and furniture design trends will add value to his company’s services and be more attractive to customers. No doubt about it,” Koster says. “The knowledgeable owner is not just an order taker, but can also suggest fabrics and trims and design directions. This knowledge is especially important when working with professional interior designers, and even landscape designers. Staying in touch with the latest in design opens up all sorts of cross selling opportunities, from draperies and pillows to throws and other decorative accents.”
Keeping abreast of fabric design trends can be a challenging task for the busy upholstery shop owner. New collections are introduced by leading textile companies three or four times every year, and fabric trends change rapidly, heavily influenced today by the even more volatile fashion industry. Colors and fabric textures you see on a model today may end up on a sofa tomorrow.
Gina Wicker is design and creative director for Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, the makers of the Sunbrella brand of performance fabrics, which each year garner highly coveted ADEX awards for design excellence. Wicker and her team drive fabric design trends that will appeal to all types of consumers decorating both inside and outside spaces. Wicker says that fabrics can provide the essential unifying element for home décor plans.
“The typical home represents years of acquiring and collecting furniture—an heirloom sofa, unique table found at a consignment shop, as well as new furniture,” she says. “Homeowners look for ways to make everything work together. They pair non-traditional fabrics on traditional frames for a totally personal expression. They use fabrics throughout the home—inside and out—as a way of creating a unified look and feel.”
According to Wicker, there is not one design trend in fabrics, but several that are all working together to create a world of opportunity for upholstery shops. Textures are among the leading design trends, including jacquards, nubby yarns and chenille, while floral designs continue to transition to stylized geometric forms. Look for cool gray and other neutrals as the dominate colors, accented by colorful pillows that can be changed out with the season and as tastes evolve.
“Regional influences are not as important today as they may have been in the past,” Wicker says. “You don’t see a distinctive Northeast or a Southern style. It’s not that simple. People are highly mobile today and there is a greater mixing of styles and design influences from all around the country.”
Performance fabrics add value
One of the most important trends that upholstery shop owners should tune into is growth in fabrics that are as durable and easy care as they are beautiful and comfortable. A leading proponent of this trend is Joe Ruggiero, HGTV host and a recent winner of a Pinnacle Award during the fall 2009 High Point Furniture Market. Ruggiero’s signature home collection includes an extensive offering of Sunbrella performance fabrics that have been styled for interiors.
“Today’s consumer is looking for value and value translates into performance,” Ruggiero says. “If a furniture frame is worthy of being reupholstered, it deserves a fabric that is not only beautiful and soft, but also fade resistant and easy to clean, even with bleach. Not only will consumers be thrilled, but so will upholstery shop personnel; our new performance fabrics are great to work with—they really hug the frames and tailor beautifully.
“For workrooms that also provide draperies and pillows, performance fabrics are ideal,” Ruggiero continues. “What’s the leading complaint for draperies? They fade. True performance fabrics don’t fade. For throw pillows, you can craft zippered covers than can be tossed into the washing machine and used to vary the look.”
While fabric trends are essential for savvy upholstery shop owners, trends in frame design are equally important. One of the country’s most influential furniture designers for the past three decades is Richard Frinier, who was instrumental in establishing the Brown Jordan name as the leader in cutting edge design for casual furniture. Frinier, who recently received a lifetime achievement award from the International Casual Furnishings Association, continues to influence the industry with his furniture and fabric creations.
“Performance furnishings and fabrics once reserved for exterior spaces have become so elevated and so refined that they have transcended the notion of being defined either for interiors or exteriors; they blend seamlessly inside and out,” Frinier says. “This is the biggest trend in furnishings and upholstery that has emerged in very recent years, and it continues to be a strong trend for the future.”
Frinier sees several other trends influencing furniture design. People want to be comfortable and grounded, yet enjoy trendy accents in fabrics and embellishments. Consumer fascination with wellness and the spa lifestyle is influencing fabric and furniture design for homes, hotels and resorts. Fashion influences on furniture are coming on strong, combined with international inspirations resulting from an earth wired by the internet.
“Furniture design trends have become more liberated in the wake of socioeconomic trends around the world,” Frinier says. “This means that we are pushing through to the future with a diverse offering of architectural styles and design details. As home furnishings follow and mirror the fashion industry, we see styles reflecting everything from visions of the future to blasts from the past pulled through the looking glass of today.”
“Staying up-to-date on fabric and furniture trends opens up so many opportunities for growth for upholsterers,” Wicker says. “You will work more effectively with interior designers and you can cultivate other sources of business, such as landscape architects and even furniture retailers. Fabric manufacturers, distributors and decorative jobbers offer invaluable design tools and knowledge. They are eager to help upholstery shop owners who are ready to move to the next level in their design expertise and offerings.”