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Color Expert Predicts Furniture Colors For Next Year

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When it comes to answering the question, “What is your favorite color?” Americans may shift from past preferences, according to Christine Chow, Director of Membership for the New York-based Color Association of the United States. In a July 25 seminar sponsored by World Market Center and Furniture Style magazine during this week’s Las Vegas MarketSM, Chow talked about style trends that impact which colors will be hot in the coming years: Asian influences, new traditionalism and elements taken from nature. “We are in the midst of a decade where Americans have finally embraced true color: bright colors, multi-colors,” Chow said, “But where do we go next?” she asked. In part, the answer lies in understanding that at the beginning of that decade dominant fashion colors were washed-out pastels, muddy darks and dark greens. As a result, Chow said her association’s 2007-08 interior palette forecast indicates a logical movement towards: refined bright hues playing off complex neutrals. She stressed that furniture marketers need to understand these trends if they want to meet consumer demands. “Color impacts us at levels both conscious and unconscious,” Chow said. She talked about complex hues that feel unusual and sophisticated. For example, she said Americans continue to be attracted to soothing colors and textures from nature. As an example, Chow told the audience to look for colors that are inspired by sunlit landscapes Chow suggests using the traditional pairing of red and blue in future designs, but to look for offbeat ways to use these colors together. Rather than both a bright red and bright blue, how about, pink with indigo? Or consider a true red with a “natural” ocean or sky blue. Such combos update this powerful pairing while making it less aggressive. When talking about neutrals that will be contrasted with bright hues, Chow said, “We don’t mean boring hues that are chosen as a default.” To make them introspective and romantic, they will be color-tinted to offset the colors around them. Consumers will even look to use “metallics” to spice up their neutrals. Look for browns, especially in wood tones, and don’t be surprised if “honeyed browns” come back in. These neutrals will not be dull, but will speak to elements in the natural landscape that are strong and enduring. Golden wheat tones mixed with sienna or coral can almost be described as rural elegance. Weathered grays will continue to make reference to Chinese and Japanese design. While Chow said Japanese designs will remain important, especially as a growing influence in baths, she said the Eastern influence is now is moving towards warmer climates. These include areas—Indonesia, India, Thailand and the Philippines—where they are really interested in melding modern ideas with their local traditions. Many of these cultures stress “natural” woven textures, rattan and wicker, which have an inherent feeling of being low-key and earthy. Chow said it will be interesting to use these patterns in furniture that’s also modern and stylish, for a feeling of “casual luxury.” As another possible global influence to help designers move away from “over-embellishment,” and toward more “casual beauty,” Chow pointed to Indian hand-block prints that use natural dyes on bleached cotton to create a subdued feeling. Chow said we are a generation not only passionate about traditional designs from around the world, but also inspired by vintage American and European designs, along with aged colors and finishes. The trick is to avoid creating something that feels like it was owned by Grandma, Chow said. Our obsession has even led to the rediscovery of the sophisticated and adventurous aspects of 1970’s patterns, textures and designs, as long as they are not kitschy. The Arts-and-Crafts movement had a warm palette of pinked browns, floral and leafy greens that we relate to. It was also about creating natural looks but in an elegant way. This group of colors seeks to connect us with “simpler” and more “authentic” feelings, while not completing rejecting urban style. At the same time, Chow said, we have been through a long phase of Mid-Century American Modern, and it’s time to find something more exotic from that period. As an example, she noted that there is a trendy new store in Manhattan that focuses only on mid-century products from Czechoslovakia. Chow also explained that consumers are very aware of the concept of overall design. They expect fashion and home design trends to line up about the same time. She said, “I like to look at some high-end collections from a few influential designers, whose trends usually takes about a year or two to translate to mainstream.” For example, she showed Marc Jacobs’ fashion line for both men and women, where he had combined deep blues like indigo and cobalt with rich scarlet. However, he softened the look is by giving the colors an aged finish. Chow also spotlighted another designer’s use of watermelon red and ocean blues Chow stressed that The Color Association’s palette forecasts are based on thorough investigations. A select group of professionals, reps from influential companies and independent designers participate in the annual forecasting session. They also ensure the committee is balanced between people who work in interior, architectural and product design. “Our forecast is a result of the consensus that is reached by the committee we select,” Chow said. In addition to the red and blue trends she discussed in reference to the fashion designers, Chow also highlighted the following color and design trends: White: The evolution of sophisticated design trends sees white continuing toward ivory and cream shades as elegant alternatives to bright optic white. Chow said to think of romantic white, not minimalist white Orange: This color is mostly retreating towards softer earth tones, but with contrast continuing to be a key element of contemporary design, an intense exception is bright coral, which contrasts with the neutral shades to enliven and modernize them. Green: As designers move away from Kelly greens, they are going to start using more comforting citrus and ethereal green. The “citrusy” yellow-greens are shaking off “environmental hippie” connotations, and since they have a myriad of positive associations, they could become a new universal shade for all genders and ages. Chow also noted that using blue with green is a hot, contemporary color combo. Yellow: In fashion, “citrusy” yellows are seen as young, fresh and confident. This will translate to home products, where pale butter or deep mango will be found on walls, and banana or acid yellow will be incorporated in home accessories. Yellow can be fun when paired with true blues or “minty” greens, but it can also look sophisticated when matched with khaki or warm browns. Nature Patterns: The new designs incorporate leaves, stems, branches and sometime living creatures like bees and butterflies. The idea is that they should feel alive. This also means that it’s better to do florals in a pattern that feels organic, or random, rather than small repeats. Chow says designers should look to inject one or two ‘surprise’ colors into a palette, rather than reference nature literally. For example, she showed a photo of a sofa that used khaki as surprise accent among floral pinks and purples. Woods: Chow stressed that designers should think of wood color and a texture, not just a material. She also said wood inlays are an important trend, especially when they mix different browns along with contrasting wood textures. Metals: She said “humble” metals—pewter, brass and copper—maintain their nostalgic feeling and will remain popular. On the higher end, however, she foresees bright yellow golds being replaced by rose golds—a gorgeous combination with the purpled browns and creamy whites. Chow’s July 25 presentation at the Las Vegas Convention Center was one of many educational sessions offered during Las Vegas market. Las Vegas Market takes place July 24-28 at World Market Center and Pavilions; the Temporaries and Design Gallery will be located at the Las Vegas Convention Center and open on July 25. In all, the July 2006 Market is the largest Las Vegas Market yet with 1,500 exhibiting companies and 2.6 million square feet of permanent and temporary exhibits.

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