mercredi 20 mai 2009

Flower power returns as a major theme in home decor

Floral patterns are a perennial favorite in home design. But in spring, they're the design salve that winter-weary eyes always welcome.

In an interior, flower motifs reflect the multiple personalities of their live outdoor counterparts. Like fresh buds in a vase, they're especially desirable because they bring the outdoors inside. They can be bold and bigger than life, but also romantic, bringing softness to hard-edged furniture. They can lend a funky sensibility when patterns are offbeat, oversized, surprisingly colored or dimensional.

Botanical motifs can focus on a single bloom or they can be part of a mixed bouquet -- a potpourri of blooms and colors.

Even the style of the flower pattern offers considerable range, from the realistic, inspired by English and French country gardens, to the painterly, plucked from works by old masters.

In bold, large patterns, fabric designers sometimes take liberties with hue -- like modern renditions of Marimekko, the Finnish textile company known for its edgy, graphic designs, or the super-sized neon florals that fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi did for Target a few years back.

Much of the inspiration starts, after all, with fashion. Retailer Bergdorf Goodman is exuberant with blooms this spring, reflected by ready-to-wear designers from Jean Paul Gaultier to Ralph Lauren. This year's handbags are outstanding for their unusual techniques: Carlos Falchi's python, hand-painted with blowsy posies, and Valentino's leather bags, decorated with applied flowers, for instance.

The runways even turned out a new fashion accessory: a pink peony-bedecked netbook, sported like a sassy handbag. Fashion designer Vivienne Tam introduced the tricked-up laptop for Hewlett Packard. The Mini 1000 features a glossy red keyboard and sells for $699.99 on

So it's no surprise that flowers are again packing a punch in home design -- on everything from bright enamel, flower-shaped napkin rings (just under $3 at Crate & Barrel) to sofas and rugs in all price ranges, depending on your verve with commitment of design and dollar.

"Lively floral motifs continue to be a strong trend this season," says Wendy Thayer, a spokesperson for Garnet Hill. "They make you happy, and when infused with a sense of color and design, vivid floral home textiles are an exciting way to create a cheerful, upbeat space."

What makes this crop of floral fashions fresh is scale, bold graphics and unorthodox color combinations. Simple two-color patterns pop, like a scattering of agapanthus or African lilies -- white on lemongrass in a brilliant shade available as a lampshade from

As in fashion, flamboyant combinations such as hot pink with orange call out to fiery personalities. But all-over patterns can be equally attention grabbing when multiple patterns have vivid, engaging hues, such as coral teamed with lime green.

Even subtle colors can make a statement if the colors are fresh and the patterns are crisp. A new hydrangea-themed bed linen pattern from Martha Stewart's home collection for Macy's is a case in point. Green-stemmed hydrangeas in delicate rose, blue and lilac, mixed with cream, have a crisp look because they appear drawn in ink on a white ground.

Appliques also add an unexpected dimension. Besides alighting on pillows, where they've been popular for some time, appliques are being stitched to lampshades at Anthropologie, where they recall wonderful vintage hats from the 1940s.

"Our customer loves pieces with bold color and graphic prints or detail," says Kathy Gross, Anthropologie's divisional merchandise manager. "They're consistently drawn to optimistic colors, which are even more meaningful in this economic environment."

So what can florals do in a living room?

A dynamic floral-patterned sofa or chair in a monochromatic space can have arresting effects. A new armless wing chair called Jardin from Crate & Barrel -- and a matching ottoman -- has the vibe of a lush tropical scene. But it's the unusual teaming of plum, lime greens and russet that make it current. Pick up one of the hues for draperies, or play it against an all-creamy setting, and it's a standout.

On the other hand, Garnet Hill hints of the drama that a single, tight-skirted ottoman can introduce in an otherwise neutral room. One pattern, with stylized floral medallions broken up by art nouveau-like blooms, combined with a geometric band of diamonds, gets its attitude from a contemporary palette of rose pink, chocolate and mustard.

Accessories, of course, are the easiest way to plant floral motifs. Add a floral-printed pillow as an accent, drawing from a solid hue of a sofa. Set the table with flower-patterned serveware or plates, then echo the blooms with real cut flowers as a centerpiece.

Like blooms that spring to life then fade in the garden, floral-patterned accessories, especially those with more spring-like hues, might have a shorter shelf life, to be changed out at the end of each season. But like some perennials, they may return. Or, if you really fall in love with a flower pattern on a rug, sofa or bedding, you just might decide to keep it around year-round.

jeudi 30 avril 2009

HIGH POINT MARKET: Retailers challenge wood furniture resources

Retailers are giving case goods suppliers at least three major challenges this market: Develop stylish clean-lined transitional or casual contemporary product and/or updated traditional looks that resonate with the consumer, offer the best possible prices, and get the goods on retail floors ASAP.

West Bros. Furniture’s Imperial View dining room is among the many scaled-down case goods collections at market. It is made with maple solids and is shown in a clear brown finish called Saratoga.
West Bros. Furniture’s Imperial View dining room is among the many scaled-down case goods collections at market. It is made with maple solids and is shown in a clear brown finish called Saratoga.

Suppliers who meet those criteria say they have been rewarded with solid commitments and orders, despite low attendance.

A case in point is SLF, which is showing nine bedrooms in its new SLF Direct program that features three-piece groups in transitional, contemporary and traditional footprints priced as low as $999, compared with SLF's typical range of $1,299 to $2,499. Based on the response thus far, it expects to cut at least 80% of the groups.

"We just hit the right price point and styling at a time when the customer needed it," said SLF President Greg Noe. "In looking at the market, we picked segments we felt there was opportunity in."

At least four of the groups are in production and should hit retail by mid-July.

Hooker Furniture also is sharpening its price points. Its new Envision program offers nine bedrooms at a $1,995 retail price point for four-piece sets, which the company says is at least 25% below its usual pricing. Based on dealer commitments and orders, the company plans to cut all nine groups.

Dealers like the prices and the largely transitional nature of the designs. They also like the scaling, which is tailored to smaller homes.

"Some retailers that we haven't done business with in years have come in and ordered it," said Bruce Cohenour, senior vice president of national accounts and business development. "Our dealers are looking for solutions and we offered it to them."

A.R.T. Furniture is seeing commitments and orders for its A.R.T. II Generations program, which offers four-piece bedrooms priced from $1,799 to $1,999, compared to a more typical $2,499 to $2,999 price range for four-piece groups. Based on commitments and orders, the company expects to cut all four groups.

The same program offers two formal dining sets priced at $999 for a table and four chairs, compared to a more typical $1,999 for an A.R.T. set.

These and other vendors say the sharpened prices result from the largely clean-lined and in some cases scaled-down nature of the groups. Companies such as West Bros. and Aspenhome also are offering scaled-down looks.

Exhibitors say retailers also like new functional features, including hidden jewelry storage behind mirrors, touch lighting in nightstands and electrical outlets in servers and nightstands. These and other features are available in collections at vendors including Hooker, Aspenhome, A.R.T. and Hekman.

While companies are working to sharpen prices, they aren't abandoning the better and best parts of their lines.

A case in point is Hooker, which is receiving strong reaction on Kinston, a casual contemporary 75-piece case goods collection built off a successful home office program, made with bamboo veneers and hardwood solid frames in a contrasting dark finish. It has a panel bed priced at $999 and a revolving mirrored lingerie chest set to retail at $1,099.

Pulaski says it is doing well with new transitional and updated traditional bedroom groups priced at $1,999. However, its most successful group is a European traditional bedroom called Edinburgh, with a four-piece targeted to retail at $3,499.

"It's got to look like a lot more than it is (priced at)," said Page Wilson, vice president of sales and marketing. "It doesn't necessarily mean being cheap."

Milan, Stripped Down

DESPITE the economic gloom, Milan seemed as frenzied as ever during the furniture fair here last week. Hotels were full, even at vertiginous rates, cabs scarce (empty ones, at least) and roads choked with traffic. There were hundreds of parties, including one every night at the flagship store of Skitsch, a new Italian furniture company.

Behind the bravado, some manufacturers cut costs by introducing fewer products than usual, and designers swapped sob stories of canceled projects and dwindling royalties. The number of people visiting the Salone del Mobile, which ran from April 22 to 27 in the labyrinthine Rho-Pero complex, fell from last year’s record of 348,452 to 304,702, according to the organizer, Cosmit.

There was also an uncomfortable awareness that the investment decisions to green-light this season’s new products and ventures, like Skitsch, had been made over a year ago, when the industry’s prospects looked very different.

“The market is obviously much tougher now,” said Alasdhair Willis, chief executive of the British furniture company Established & Sons. “But we won’t see the full effect of the recession on the fair until next year.”

Young companies, like the five-year-old Established & Sons, can still grow, albeit more slowly, by expanding into new countries. The chief casualties of the economic crisis are the larger, longer-established European manufacturers, whose sales have fallen. These companies have, at least, weathered recessions before. Some also have the advantage of being privately owned, and therefore free from the scrutiny of external investors.

“Family ownership is a great strength, especially at a difficult time like this,” observed Rolf Fehlbaum, chairman of Vitra, the Swiss furniture group founded by his father in 1950. “You need that passion, commitment and craziness.”

Yet the economic storm has also aggravated the European manufacturers’ longer-term problems of fierce competition from China, and their own failure to meet consumers’ demands for sustainable products. The most depressing sights in Milan last week were the seemingly endless “eco-installations,” typically featuring twee New Age music and digitally animated trees, and apparently bent on guzzling as much energy as pointlessly as possible.

That said, there were some gems to be found in the fair’s flotsam. Among the technical coups were Vegetal, an intricately molded plastic chair by the brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra, and Konstantin Grcic’s 360° collection of office furniture for Magis, another innovation in advanced plastics. Equally ingenious were Paul Cocksedge’s lights for Flos, one of which is switched on by placing a flower into a vase and switched off when the flower is removed, and the eco-savvy 10-Unit series of furniture designed by Shigeru Ban for Artek, made from identical L-shaped pieces of a recycled composite material.

Several manufacturers responded to the crisis with things that they hope people will care about and use for longer, because they were so thoughtfully designed and made.

This was the theme of a quietly elegant exhibition by the Dutch school Design Academy Eindhoven, which showed products intended to encourage the enjoyment of the rituals of daily life, like a series of liquid and solid soaps meant to make washing more engaging. (The exhibition was the debut of Alexander van Slobbe, the Dutch fashion designer, as Eindhoven’s artistic director; he has the unenviable task of succeeding the formidable Li Edelkoort, who established it as the world’s most dynamic and influential design school.)

Some companies put the theory of “thoughtfulness” into practice. The 400-year-old Dutch ceramic manufacturer Royal Tichelaar Makkum showed off its workers’ skills in Dick van Hoff’s tiled stoves, as did the Venetian glassmaker Venini, in BarberOsgerby’s gorgeous Lanterne Marine vases.

Other examples were Amsterdam Armoire, Scholten & Baijings’s digital take on an antique Dutch cabinet with screen-printed decoration, and the beautifully restrained, improbably slender Iri chair by the young Italian designer Paolo Cappello, the rising star of the fair this year. Only a few years out of design school, he also showed a desk, as purist in style as the chair, for which he won a prize from Abitare, the Italian design magazine.

Another theme was functionalism, a rugged variation on the dystopian survivalist style that surfaced in Milan last year. This took the form of sparse compositions of angular shapes made from rough materials in boldly contrasting colors and reflected the influence of Mr. Grcic and the Dutch conceptualist Jurgen Bey.

Those qualities were visible in the work of Nacho Carbonell, Peter Marigold and Raw Edges in Design Miami’s “Craft Punk” installation, as well as in Maarten Baas’s roughly hewn wooden Standard Unique chairs for Established & Sons and the circular tables that Martino Gamper made from salvaged chunks of laminated hotel cabinets, originally designed by Gio Ponti in 1960, for the gallery Nilufar.

Whatever happens to the economy, the future of design arguably lies not in reinventing old styles or dreaming up new ones, but in harnessing technology to develop solutions to the world’s problems. A group of Japanese manufacturers rose to the challenge by inviting designers to invent practical applications for their newly developed nanofibers — some of which are 1/7500 the width of human hair — and displaying the results at an exhibition at La Triennale di Milano, a design museum.

From “wiping robots” that sweep across the floor like tiny clouds and clean it after detecting dirt with their sensors to a sofa that changes shape at the touch of a remote control pad, the results were pragmatic and optimistic, offering an enticing glimpse of a future in which design will help to improve our lives — hopefully without a note of twee New Age music.

mardi 21 avril 2009

ID déco’ : Un nouveau magazine de décoration est né

La scène journalistique s’est enrichie dernièrement d’un nouveau-né, un magazine, le premier du genre en matière de décoration. Intitulé 'ID déco', il se veut 'le magazine de référence de la maison et de l’art de vivre en Tunisie'.

Il vient en fait répondre à une demande grandissante dans notre pays d’en savoir plus sur le secteur de la décoration, du design et de l’artisanat qui est en pleine expansion actuellement.
Publié par la société ABC, qui édite aussi la revue «Archibat», le trimestriel «ID déco» est donc une tentative de «révéler la richesse de la décoration intérieure mais également de s’interroger et d’accompagner l’émergence d’une nouvelle vague d’artisans et de designers tunisiens».
La magazine est organisé selon des rubriques comme «Air du Temps», «Tentations», «Art de vivre», «Invitations» et «Idées». On y retrouve les dernières tendances en matière d’ameublement, de décoration d’intérieur, des objets d’art et de l’artisanat revisité. Nous sont présentés également des portraits de designers et d’artisans afin d’accompagner cette nouvelle vague d’artistes qui sont en train de révolutionner notre intérieur et notre artisanat. Des idées de shopping intéressantes nous sont aussi proposées ainsi que des combinaisons de table ou de décoration pour rendre notre habitat plus agréable et plus accueillant.

La rubrique «Art de vivre» nous fait voyager dans le monde des spas et du bien-être. Quant à la rubrique «Idées», elle nous amène tantôt à la découverte de nouvelles recettes de cuisine, tantôt à l’exploration de l’art floral ou des bijoux traditionnels modernisés. Une couverture du Salon du Meuble de Tunis ainsi que de la participation tunisienne au salon «Maisons et Objet» nous est également présentée.

Le magazine n’oublie pas de faire un petit clin d’œil à Kairouan, choisie cette année comme Capitale de la Culture Islamique. A ce contenu riche et diversifiée s’ajoute une très belle mise en page, avec des photos de haute qualité qui rendent la lecture si agréable et si légère.
«Id Déco» est vraiment le magazine à tenir par excellence dans son salon ou dans sa salle de séjour pour passer en sa compagnie un pur moment de plaisir et de détente.