Design Spectator: Behind the Scenes Made in the USA Emily Morrow Finkell for Floor Covering Weekly



While considering which of the beautiful trends are most likely to succeed in the American homes, it is an ideal time to examine what matters the most in the world of design. Let’s consider the “curator” or design team’s design direction, overall aesthetics, the inspiration, what demographic group that the design is targeting and more.

One intriguing company in particular, Aria, is owned by Hunt Broyhill who opened the High Point showroom doors for a sneak preview of the newest market introductions. His team’s eye for design is laser-focused on what American homeowners are seeking for their homes, comfort, quality, performance and seamless design styles that work with practically everything they already own. Aria is bucking the trend of outsourcing all their manufacturing by making their furniture frames in Conover, North Carolina and is a model that seems to be shifting back stateside industry-wide. As far as why they’re being examined for “Design Spectator”, their design approach is a good correlation to what I see going on in the floor covering industry, the cross merchandising of the various flooring categories and the careful curation of specific looks, making it easy for consumers to find a well-designed look and for designers to put together projects quickly. These are responses to what American homeowners are demanding and it’s far easier to tune into the pulse of the consumers when it’s all done stateside.

Aria, like several floor covering manufacturers, sells to retailers across the United States and internationally and naturally the retailers have a great deal of input. Hunt Broyhill said Aria’s target audience is “the highest end of lowest end and the lowest end of highest end”. When asked about Aria’s design direction, Broyhill said he has the placed the design decisions into the hands of Ms. Robin Hoff. Ms. Hoff cited that they’re aware of the purchasing power of both millenials and baby boomers, each “wanting comfort and price point with the fashion, in furnishings, the pillows and accents are the accessories to the outfit. Colors include minerals, taupes, mushrooms and natural linens. Sofas for example are almost always a basic neutral where the colors and patterns are what adds emotion to the sale.” When asked about customization, their response is that there’s no need for any customization per se since the process of choosing the components is very individualized while still manufacturing friendly.

First the sofa frame, then the arms, thirdly the fabric and finally the pillows. Key trends for Aria are in step with interiors universally, gray is still essential, rock-tumbled linens, casual damasks, clean lines and overall must be lower maintenance. Performance fabrics have come a long way and have taken back a large share of what was once held by leather upholstery. Sounding very much like carpet and hard surface programs like Shaw Floors’ “Life Happens” and “Pet Protect” to name a few. The designs are not compromised by the protection and performance that’s engineered into the product.


Aria (above) makes an impressive statement on their facade drawing in record numbers of buyers this spring market. Their styling for Americans tastes is spot on.
Focusing on the most salable upholstery frames that interchange fabric colors and patterns, featured Greek key motifs, buffalo watch plaids as well as some chic acrylic legs for the smallest hint of an uber trend.


Grays, all shades from lightest dove gray to darkest charcoals, are holding their own strongly at every price point and in every “design style”.

Basic frames can create instant drama depending on the details…mega-sized exposed nail head trim, faux-fur accent pillows, or metallicized fabrics for example.

Textural, nubby solid fabrics pair nicely with many of the accent pillows, flame stitched ikats, chevrons and even other solids we a different texture. Visual interest is key while forgiveness of everyday lifestyles is essential.

Driftwood gray framed chairs mix it up  beautifully with shades of Navy Blues, Wedgewood blues and whites. There’s a sense of implied patriotism when you see the whites and blues in interiors.

Hunt Broyhill (above) of Hickory, NC explains how his team research consumers’ preferences. “It’s all about having the most important design details that are still attainable.”

For the floors, most of the newly purchased furnishings are going to be placed into home interiors with beautiful hardwood floors, softened by rugs. Today consumers who are tuned into social media and the news are asking for Made in the USA products and the dealers are responding. American-owned manufacturers are a necessity, whether it’s for flooring or furniture. Wood is one material that just about any demographic group desires, considering it a safe investment and way to increase their homes value.


Hardwood floors of wider widths and longer lengths were featured in multiple vignettes at this year’s High Point market such as this one (above) in Stanley Furniture.

For “To the trade” bespoke hardwood floors, contact Emily Finkell at EF Floors & Design or via the Design Spectator blogpost. Thank you!

Design Spectator: What Makes American Design American? by Emily Morrow Finkell

Flashing it back to a previous submission to Floor Covering Weekly “What Makes American Design American?”

Design Spectator Americana Inspired Author: Emily Morrow Finkell ……/article.html
Floor Covering Weekly – June 27, 2016. Design Spectator Americana Inspired. Emily Morrow Finkell


Have you ever thought about what makes your favorite things your “favorites”? Is it a worn pair of Levi’s blue jeans, a soft Pendleton wool blanket or maybe the beautiful timeworn hardwood floors in your home? Many of our cherished items are steeped in our history of American design.

Levis BlueJeans MontageChenille Robe

In the spirit of Miranda Priestly of “The Devil Wears Prada”, American consumers are blithely unaware that the fashions, furnishings and flooring they bring into their homes were carefully researched, designed and created to look and feel a specific way, timed perfectly for today’s American homes. There are design professionals who travel year round in search of the most fashion forward colors, the best finishes and the savviest designs to inspire Mr. or Ms. American Consumer for the magical moment they decide to go shopping for new floors?

devil wears prada

BELOW: Cerulean blue sweater by The Gap

devil wears blue prada

BELOW: The blue velvet Louis IV chair by Theodore Alexander below was a favorite at this year’s High Point market due to its classic lines.


I have been invited to countries like China and Dubai to give presentations about “American design” over the past 25 years, offering snippets about iconic design eras in the U.S., shared details about the talents of Alexa Hampton, and HGTV’s Linda Woodrum, the entrepreneurship of Ralph Lauren and Trina Turk as they created lifestyle brands. I showed photos of homes from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and more.

Speaking at The Chinese-American Design Panel discussion in Shanghai
The Great Wall of China

Ralph Lauren is the epitome of American design. From home furnishings products (shown above) to apparel, the brand captures the homegrown style of the U.S.A.

Attendees often asked me how to create American design, how to recreate the interiors they saw on TV shows like “House of Cards”, “The Good Wife” or “Modern Family”. The answer, of course, is that what makes American design American cannot be bottled or explained — it’s in our DNA, it’s who we are.


Enter a caption

“American lifestyle design” is best exemplified by Ralph Lauren who has nearly 300 stores around the world with tens of billions in sales. “What I do is about living,” he writes in Ralph Lauren, a profusely illustrated book celebrating his company’s 40th anniversary. “It’s about living the best life you can.”


American designers pull from all around them, either from modern trends or bygone eras, gathering elements from their travels around the world, and then knitting it together into something entirely new and exciting. The story of a new product’s design inspiration is just as important as the actual product in urging consumers to buy.
BELOW LEFT TO RIGHT – Fall 2010, Shaw Floors hosted Designer Visions Panel at New York D&D Building: Alexa Hampton, CEO Mark Hampton Design; Emily Morrow, Director of Color, Style & Design for Shaw Floors; Victor Ermoli SCAD Dean of Design; and Linda Woodrum, Interior Designer for HGTV’s Smart Home & Dream Home
New York Design Panel Oct 2010 032
Alexa Hampton, Emily Morrow Finkell, Victor Ermoli and Linda Woodrum
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