By Wesley Mancini
This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Rug News andDesign.
Color is a moving target and to make it even more abstract “color is market specific”. It is so market specific it has its own idiosyncratic trends from customer to customer, region to region, price point to price point, and category to category. For example, a high end West Coast furniture manufacturer may show hand-woven coarse textures with stylized transitional patterns in a rich neutralized palette while another high end furniture company from the South may have a more whimsical approach to both pattern and color using brighter, happier, more vibrant color combinations. An upper end Texan furniture company would show opulent textiles that verge on traditional motifs, heavy in chenille shown in lush leather friendly colors.
By “category to category” I mean a dining room chair, a reclining chair, an occasional chair, etc. would all have different colors and types of fabrics used from one to another and yet they are still “chairs”.
While the international market is vast, color variations here range from electric modern (Italian) to faded historic (English) to nomadic and beyond.
The contrast between volume driven moderately priced companies verses the fashion forward upper end also runs the gamut. An upper end company will take risks and show unique color combinations to set themselves apart from their competition. The volume houses will stay true to colors that retail where price drives the sale. This store floor would tend to be a sea of neutrals.
In the decorative jobbing market, colors vary dramatically from jobber to jobber. Each jobber has their individual aesthetic, and therefore, their own unique color palette and design direction. Some jobbers are known as being old money “classic” while another may be more affordable and transitionally focused. Interior designers know which jobbers they would gravitate to, based on their clientele’s needs.
In retrospect, color nuances and trends start at the high end where the risks are taken. Whenever you read about trends one must assume that is the market they are talking about. If a color combination has a shelf life it may filter down to the moderately priced customers. If it is selling, then and only then would a commercial house use a neutralized version of the new palette but this would come several seasons after the color first hit the market place (sometimes years). Many colors never see the light of day at a moderate or commercial house.
Taking a cross section of the upper echelons in the textile world color trends for 2013 continue to support non-yellowed neutrals. Neutrals, while we know are the basis of the industry, have their fluctuations season to season. This trend highlights taupe, linens and beiges with either pink or greenish casts. While the yellow cast has been eliminated from the overall color palette, it’s made way for yellow to stand out on its own. Here we have clear vibrant yellows that vary from bright “daffodil” to toned down “ochre and butter”. Blues evolve into the turquoise realm towards greenish blue except for royal navy which has a red cast. Plums and violets continue to show true as being a fashion color. This family has life at the high end but rarely turns into sales on the retail floor. Greens vary from bold yellow greens and vibrant emerald to grayed and muddied. Mid-toned bluish pink and reds with a blue cast are being highlighted while oranges simmer down to being less vibrant and more neutralized then previously shown.
There are color combinations that evolve into the mainstream. Besides the ever present and ubiquitous neutrals, leather friendly colors may alter but in a less dramatic way than other areas. Here, fabrics need to work with shades of leathers and suedes. Tapestries are a great way to accent leather furniture. Illustrated here in pattern Cianna, a pattern with a coarse visual texture, is comprised of teal blues and rusts. In the past the teal would have been navy, while the “look” may be somewhat familiar, it is fresh to the category.
Make no mistake, I am not being a color snob here. Each market has its “learned aesthetic” and as a designer, a successful one must learn these separations and categories. The focus for any designer is “sales” and color is at the forefront of this goal, however elusive.