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A Surprising Design Forecast from FS

Furniture World Magazine

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INTERVIEW WITH JAYE ANNA MIZE AT FS (FASHION SNOOPS)

Stay tuned for changes in home furnishing design aesthetics, customer moods and purchasing preferences that will roll out in 2023-24.

It’s been over a year since Furniture World spoke with Jaye Anna Mize about consumer behavior, culture, lifestyles and future home furnishings trends. She is Vice President of Home Interiors and Lifestyle at FS (Fashion Snoops), a leading global trend agency and consumer behavior think tank. FS works with retailers and brands in the fashion, beauty and home furnishings industries serving clients that range from luxury to mass market.

We asked her to share insights and buying suggestions based on FS’ Fall-Winter 2023-24 forecast, launched on www.fashionsnoops.com.

Throughout this article, Mize references the terms Design Aesthetics, Cultural Aesthetics and Seasonal Design Shifts. The distinctions are based on FS’s seasonal forecast that begins by defining key Cultural Sentiments that address core consumer movements affecting design. From there, FS determines how those movements interact through color and design priorities from a cross-market application, calling them Design Aesthetics. The Seasonal Design Shifts Mize talks about are forecasts for emerging home furnishings over a designated time frame.

A Traditional Resurgence

Jumping right into a conversation about what home furnishings shoppers will be looking for over the next few years, Mize said, “The fun part is that retail showrooms are going to be more maximalist with a mix-and-match approach to the way rooms are put together.

Consumers will be receptive to a variety of eclectic style choices running through their rooms and homes.

“We will see more traditional-inspired furnishings in a multitude of flavors from Venetian to Russian—think Catherine the Great! Quality over quantity will become even more important. This is a conversation we started two years ago, which will hit furniture hard in the next year with the Nuance Design Shift coming to the forefront. There will be more ornate designs, opulent curves, scalloped architecture, gilded window sets and Victorian-era decorating.

“We’re seeing a resurgence of Italian, French and English architectural influences, partly due to revenge travel. It reflects a desire for home furnishings shoppers to incorporate escapism in American homes more than ever.

“Millennials and even some sectors of Gen Z are really getting excited about traditional, although for younger Gen Zs this interest can be from a secondhand-sustainable perspective.”

Nuance Seasonal Design Shift

Old-World Venetian and golden era home furnishings are re-purposing and reformulating the design landscape. FS’ latest report says that Nuance’s origins stem “from the desire to create meaningful moments, travel continues to inspire heirloom-like pieces, encouraging the mix of old and new forms.”

Mize observed that except for a shabby chic period in the ‘90s, a romantic home furnishings moment hasn’t emerged in quite some time. “During the pandemic, we had the Cottagecore aesthetic. Now consumers are in traveling mode, bringing hardcore travels—their Italian, Grecian and French flairs—inside along with beautiful earthen palettes. I wouldn’t necessarily call it maximalism which seems too kitsch. It’s more refined with a focus on craftsmanship and often a connection with a maker. This new traditional design features burl wood, scalloped edges, carvings, large-scale botanicals and textured velvets. These are coming back alongside more washed linens and jacquards. We are seeing nested and conversational seating arrangements as well. Unique plays on old-world Scandinavian fireplaces and mantelscapes have popped up everywhere.” Takeaways from this shift in consumer preferences include what FS identifies as Old-World Charm, Mix of Old and New, Italian Romance, Large Scale Botanicals and Timeless Serenity.

“Better quality case pieces have trended modernist over the past few seasons. For ‘23 and 24,” Mize said, “retailers should prepare for a more romantic era of traditional with softer plays on waves and arches. Especially here in the U.S., people will look for items that connect them with their roots. Get ready for a resurgence of antiquity themes, sometimes with an added touch of whimsy. Small details, cozy and nook-focused furnishings as well as secondhand and ‘found’ furniture has become popular. People want to incorporate maker craft furnishings and artisanal finds in their homes.

“Furniture World readers should also be on the lookout for the continued integration of velvet into a multitude of different areas. It’s a very bold look.”

 

Diffuse Seasonal Design Shift

According to Mize, Traditional is one slice of the pie. “Another,” she explained, “is Diffuse, a softened focus on traditional that FS calls Contemporary Farmhouse, an elevated farmhouse look. Included are natural combinations with tons of reclaimed woods and brown marble coming to the forefront, often paired with brushed brass for a fresh look. Clay, amber glass and really fun new artisanal interpretations of recycled waste are part of this aesthetic. Oak is a key element in Contemporary Farmhouse design, but with a much softer look than some of the whiter oak finishes people are more familiar with.” FS’ takeaways include: Returning to the Foundations of Life, Daily Rituals, Farmhouse Reimagined, Conscious Craftsmanship and Authentic Creation.

“Mize noted that “From a detail perspective, Diffuse designs have deeper ribbings, lots of playful inlays and paneling. It’s a slightly different twist on Farmhouse that expands its appeal to urban settings, as well as suburban and second homes.”

 

Euphoric Seasonal Design Shift

FS describes Euphoric as taking “us on a journey through exciting yet uncharted territories. As consumers desire innovations that allow a momentary escape from our physical reality, futuristic forms create fluid transitions into a metaverse full of unique immersive spaces.“ That’s quite a mouthful and a new way to look past more traditional design to a more digitally inspired future.

“The youngest furniture shoppers,” observed Mize, “are looking for metaverse and tech-integrated furnishings. Alphas and younger Gen Zs have developed a preference for items in the real world that mimic their decorating choices in gaming platforms like The Sims or Fortnite. It’s a small beginning to an enormous shift toward what we call Euphoric Design.

“At the recent High Point Market,” she continued, “Nathan Anthony showed furniture designs that fit perfectly within this metaverse-inspired aesthetic. There were funky bases, legs that had more depth and a lot of interesting fabrications reminiscent of clouds, incorporating rolling curve shapes. Also, huge iridescent, opulent shines are really important to this shift.”

“Euphoric Design includes some interesting nostalgic throwbacks that are, in some ways, a new version of a futuristic ‘60s and ‘70s aesthetic with an otherworldly feel.” Mize calls some of the more playful, contoured creations ice cream constructions. “They are,” she said, “comfortable and crafted of a soft-looking resin. It’s an Eames aesthetic updated for this metaverse feel. Urban Outfitters has started to address this market in a fun way. It’s a minimalism that’s monochromatic but feels elevated and almost futuristic. There’s a sense of harmony, repetition and balance.” Key takeaways from FS include: Futuristic Dreamland, Conforming to Our Surroundings, Innovative Developments, Continuing Curves and Monochromatic Minimalism.

Elaborating on Gen Z preferences, Mize said that this group is “much more willing to shop secondhand than for what they consider fast fashion home. They are done with plasticky furniture that looks like it might fall apart in six months. This is true across younger consumer groups who want their furniture purchases to have a quality feel that’s in line with their sustainable mindset.”

“Soft browns and earthier greens are coming to the forefront. Sky blue will become popular in Spring 2023. Color prints and patterns will be important at retail.”

 

 

Transcendental Design Aesthetic

“This story is highlighted by a darker home-set coming to the forefront,” Mize explained. “The focus is more spiritual, balanced and harmonious. Transcendental is associated with a consumer desire to decipher what spirituality means to them in this new age. Millennials are redefining how to incorporate spirituality, mindfulness and self-care into their lives.” FS describes this Design Aesthetic as a consumer need to take “note of the consumer’s new rituals and applications towards soul care that center around symbology and the darker elements of nature.” Takeaways include: New Awakening, Meditative Quality, Contemporary Symbology, Systemic Balance and Moody Ambiances.

 

 

Symbiotic Seasonal Design Shift

FS reports that Symbiotics reflect a consumer desire to find comfort in natural materials. They are willing to “push creative boundaries as they develop a deeper appreciation for mother earth. With sustainability at the forefront of design, the conservation of our planet’s resources influences the eagerness to adopt innovations that represent future impacts.”

“The Symbiotic story is deeply nature-inspired. We’re seeing it play out in fabrications that mimic eco-spaces,” explained Mize. “It’s an almost intense nature infusion. Featured are green colors and materials like recycled stained glass, seaweed textiles and kelp yarns that grow like crazy and are a vast sustainable resource. Designers seem obsessed with ocean themes right now and are using material applications that have almost a forest-like feel.” Takeaways for Symbiotic include: Designed by Nature, Reciprocal Earth, Eco Alternatives, Cavern Comforts and Raw Richness.

“Coming to the forefront with Symbiotic,” added Mize, “are zinc-treated applications, cement, composites and non-woven rattan, raw earthy stones and imperfect elements. Architects are experimenting with materials used in new homes and hospitality that feel a lot more organic. Details include everything from aluminum and concrete mixes to glazed patchworks, organic shapes and soil textures that mimic mother earth in every way possible.

“There are also elements of Brutalist design playing out but with added cozy, more familiar elements. These were everywhere at the Milan show, where we saw a new use for reconstructed wood applications that will probably only be adopted at a high-end luxury design level.”

 

 

Refuge: A Cultural Sentiment

FS describes this sentiment as “one where we come to accept the constancy of change, conflict and uncertainty. We learn to adapt, seek out products, environments and modes of expression that can respond to our every need or desire and prep us better for what may come tomorrow.“
Mize said that grounding as a design theme “speaks to the Refuge storyline. Earthen experiences are translated over into home architecture and decor in interesting ways. These mimic or get their inspiration from caves and underground spaces. Refuge is associated with an approach to design that focuses on mindfulness.

“Some applications may seem a bit forward, but are still high design. They feature transformed textile materials used in ways that might look like a tree mended them together organically.”

She believes that this trend is rooted in the lifestyle choices of Gen Z. “They have more transient lifestyles, shuttle between Airbnbs, live in refurbished vans or off the grid. They seem desperate for a connection with nature. Many Gen Zs and younger millennials feel this disassociation as a desire to be surrounded by nature, right now seen primarily in higher-end designs.

“Refuge aesthetics are coming to the forefront at hotels that want to embrace off-the-grid design and a more mindful hospitality,” Mize added. “For most home furnishings retailers, this aesthetic will take two years to hit. Then, watch for themes like cavern comfort, more raw richness, and lots of reciprocity with the earth.

“At retail, we are likely to see more grounded bedframes as bedroom wellness becomes more important. These will be increasingly sophisticated, incorporating unique upholstered treatments compared to typical wood or metal construction. There will be some really nice mindfulness styling coming to the forefront focused on personal care and rituals. Refuge-inspired designs will incorporate the natural foundations of life curated for consumers in an authentic way.”

Seen at High Point Market

Mize said, “Elements of the Nuance, Euphoric, Diffuse and Symbiotic Seasonal Design Shifts were on display at the 2022 Fall High Point market. Jaipur Living, for example, had a flora and fauna party that featured a Symbiotic setup. Gabby’s bird sanctuary display spoke directly to the Nuance theme, and Nathan Anthony was completely Euphoric. It was like Tina Nicole and Khai Mai are designing for the metaverse and channeling a younger Gen Z and Alpha mindset. Also displayed were more contemporary pieces that fit solidly into the Diffuse arena, taking Farmhouse in a new direction.

“Almost every showroom had a teddy bear textured upholstered bed that added a feeling of soft femininity. We also saw free-formed curves that seemed to be channeling Sarah Ellison, the Australian furniture designer who creates what I call ice cream-inspired furniture, including comforting sofas and ottomans. It’s a very millennial and Gen X aesthetic.

“Lots of eco-innovations are another solid bet for retailers going forward. You can find every type of slub fabric out there right now. At the most recent Milan Fair, we saw upholstered applications that mimic fashion sweaters. Even sparkle lurex fabric, typically used for 1970s fashion, has found its way into upholstered furniture designs.

“Looking forward to the ’23-’24 seasons within the seating category, fabrics will continue to become more slubbed and almost antique-ish with fun looks plucked right out of the ‘70s.”

Newfound Heritage Lifestyle Movement

Furniture World asked Jaye Anna Mize to comment on how furniture retailers might acknowledge the trend toward buying pre-owned furnishings.

She observed, “So far, retailers can take comfort in the fact that the only demographic group that is heavily invested in buying non-antique second-hand furniture is the Alphas, though more generally, people will be buying and refurbishing more second-hand Americana.

“The Nuance and Diffuse Seasonal Design Shifts and a lifestyle story called Newfound Tradition in our forecast speak heavily to that trend. The Newfound Heritage story is an overarching movement that spans multiple years. It addresses the consumer need to act as modern-day curators/archivists of their homes and personal histories. Traditional design motifs appeal to people searching for timeless modes of maximal expression. The result is often an eclectic and globalized sense of design. For them, mixing nostalgia with travel along their journeys is key.

“We didn’t talk a lot about nostalgia yet,” Mize realized toward the end of our interview. “In times like these, when there is a sense of political, economic, daily chaos, older generations gravitate towards traditional design.

“There are some interesting statistics that reflect the nostalgia described in our most recent forecast. Between 2021 and 2022, Pinterest saw a 20 percent increase in searches for modern traditional. During the pandemic, people took up hobbies that gave major boosts to platforms like Etsy. Chairish reported that 31 percent of people in the millennial and Gen Z cohorts increased their interest in buying used vintage or antique furniture online.

“At FS,” she said, “we’ve broken this idea of nostalgia down into three additional themes called Newstalgia, Return to Tradition and Cross Culture.”

Newstalgia: “This theme addresses a willingness to buy items such as chiclet chairs or the creations of Wilkes, Eames and Herman Miller. Newstalgia includes the secondhand surges we’ve seen in the market. Even Ikea has incorporated this secondhand thinking into their designs by mimicking vintage razorback chairs or heritage Scandinavian design. There are retro revivals, particularly in upholstery with reintroduced paisleys, plaids and retro prints. Hobby culture, including pastimes like crocheting, knitting and needlepoint, are pushing Newstalgia forward as well.”

Return to Tradition: “Consumers want handmade items that speak to a historical legacy. The hobby resurgence is a part of this mix but focused on localized design. Food culture has moved in this same direction as has a desire for furniture purchasers to know the maker of the wood furniture they purchase. Along with that, we are seeing heirloom materials and localized design, Victorian decorating and fun elevations/reinterpretations of traditional designs becoming more important.”

Cross Culture: “This theme looks at how traditional design can be appropriated. It is a topic of concern, especially for younger consumers. Cross Culture has come to the forefront in adventure and discovery conversations, globetrotting and multicultural mixes.

“At present, Cross Culture is mostly of interest on the contract hospitality side. In the retail home furnishings space, we are talking more about materials and construction like using antiqued metals, refurbished mahogany and old-school joineries that reference cultural stories. The paisley prints, more scallops and ribbing I mentioned previously can all tie Cross Culture in with the Diffuse and Nuance Seasonal Design Shifts. When considered from a retail perspective, the design landscape is becoming more eclectic than ever. For retailers, that means bringing diversity to product assortments and considering cross-generational attributes that really speak to nostalgia.”

Buyer’s Tips for 2023

Mize observed that the rate of change in furniture trends as they’ve played out at retail—colors, themes, schematics, product assortments—have generally slowed down over the past couple of years. “Categories that will continue to evolve more rapidly are outdoor spaces, decor, tabletop and soft goods, including top-of-bed pillows and throws.”

She suggested that no matter how Furniture World readers are positioned, or who their customers are, they should focus on color. “Soft browns,” she said, “and earthier greens are coming to the forefront. Sky blue will become popular in Spring 2023. Color prints and patterns will be important at retail along with the colors tiki brown, burnt sienna, brick red, chai spice and stormy sky blue. These are colors that are comforting while still feeling fresh. Browns, in general, are becoming the grounding base across the board, outweighing traditional greys and blacks. Ochres, compost green, Spanish moss and olive hues are green casts that are close to becoming new neutral colors. I believe that the color compost will advance to the fore as the new navy. We haven’t been in this warmer brown territory, even for wood tones, in a long time. They’ve been grayed out but will be carried back onto retail floors as the palette for a new traditional wave.

“Younger generations are going to diversify between secondhand and new purchases with an emphasis on investing in quality over quantity. In 2023, it will be a good idea for retailers to adjust product mixes toward smaller pieces and away from big ‘Bubba’ items. The market will be more accent-driven. People will look to improve their home decor but not necessarily replace mainstay items like beds or large upholstered pieces. Chests of drawers and side tables may perform better.”

Youth Furnishings

Mize told Furniture World that she sees a lot more emphasis on youth furnishings. “Kids Home,” she told us, “is blowing up in a big way. People spend much more on furnishing their kids’ bedrooms than ever before. Some FS clients, the Big Lots, Targets and Walmarts of the world, are increasingly focused on finding more innovative changing tables, storage shelving, beds and top-of-bed products.

“The reason is that parents already have their bedrooms sorted, so now they’re looking for new and interesting ways to keep their kids, who are spending more time at home, busy in their rooms.”

“This phenomenon has also extended to colleges and universities,” said Mize. “Check out RushTok, one of the biggest trending things on TikTok. Students are getting rid of existing beds and dorm furniture so their parents can outfit dorm and sorority rooms to the nines. It is true that retailers are worried about a recession, but there’s still a lot of money out there to be had by chasing interesting home furnishings categories.”

Retail Trend Cadence

When asked how retailers, who are more promotionally-minded, might address some of these forecasts, Mize noted that every retailer has its own trend cadence. “Not every organization can be fashion-forward,” she observed. “Sometimes a retailer needs to be one or two seasons behind the actual timeline of a trend. We forecast two or three years out in advance, but it is the storyline and the way that a trend will hit that is most important. Consumer behavior tends to roll out in a continuous wave that might hit a New York City staple like Bergdorf Goodman early and then a mass-market furniture retailer in middle America a year or two later. Many of our retail clients are still working off our 2021 or 2022 reports, while others are already studying consumer behavior forecasts and planning their buying strategies for 2025.”

Even though every retailer is different, Mize believes that no matter where a retailer’s product selection is along the curve, it is important to have a strategy and timeline. “Without that,” she concluded, “it’s difficult to deliver inspirational seasonal displays in place to anticipate customers’ buying moods and preferences for style, selection, color and display.”

 


 

Russell Bienenstock is Editor-in-Chief of Furniture World Magazine, founded 1870. Comments can be directed to him at editor@furninfo.com.