DESIGN SPECTATOR for Floor Covering Weekly “Living With Color” by Emily Morrow Finkell


What is it about color that’s so important? Everything! In a world of color, we are all impacted in ways we sometimes can’t possibly imagine. It’s no secret that gray has been a major player in the fashion and interiors world, and that is not changing anytime soon. I have seen however a shift towards more and more vivid colors, practicallly technicolor colors at international furniture and design shows, New York Fashion Week, and even at the retail points of purchase. Architectural Digest’s annual “Living With Color” August issue quotes “The pureset and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most” by John Ruskin in The Stones of Venice. From the fashion-forward color discussions to the more practical online consumer surveys, color matters and can impact the overall resale value of our homes.

“According to the analysis of over 50,000 sold homes from around the country, the online real estate company found that homes with kitchens painted in warm yellow hues yielded the highest sale premium. They went for $1,360 above expected values.The belief is that potential buyers look at the blank white walls and are concerned about being able to keep it clean.”

white kitchenfeaturePics

“Not a fan of yellow? No worries. Top-performing listings also had wall colors painted in other earthy tones, like sage green or dove gray.To get the biggest bang for your buck, stick with colors that have mass appeal so you attract as many potential buyers to your listing as possible,” explained Svenja Gudell, Zillow chief economist, in a statement. “Warm neutrals like yellow or light gray are stylish and clean, signaling that the home is well cared for, or that previous owners had an eye for design that may translate to other areas within the house.”

In terms of colors you may want to avoid, the report found that homes with white kitchens actually sold for $1,400 less than expected. While the stark hue gives off a crisp look, it apparently also deters buyers, many of whom think they won’t be able to keep the space clean.

While this sounds overly simple, it’s incredibly important to all of us, especially those of us in the floor covering and design industry. Consider this, we’ve seen a huge portion of homes shift from carpet to hard surface, and the carpet that is selling best oftentimes is a neutral tufted pattern, tonal or flecked product which definitely offers soil and dirt-hiding characteristics to the consumer.

Overall the neutral color palette is shifting annually in very subtle shades. The most essential neutrals are gray, taupe, sand, white, off white and camel. One great way to identify the catalyst behind the neutral color foundation is to examine the “commitment decisions” in homes, for example hard surface flooring, natural stone or solid surface countertops as well as case good furnishings, all of which have a life span of ten to twelve years before replacement. Neutral colors have always been cyclical and the pace of their cycle was slightly thrown off by the recession and rebounding market. The best selling neutrals of the pre-recession were golden neutrals, matching and coordinating with the vast hard surface materials like travertines and granites. Today we see a lighter cleaner palette strongly influenced more by calacatta marble and cerused or flaxen white oak hardwoods.


Thanks to color-loving fashion icons like Tory Burch who stated “I am drawn to the way colors interact with and complement one another” in her book Tory Burch In Color. She has famously featured “TORY ORANGE” in her packaging and stylishly demonstrates how beautifully colorful interiors can be tasteful (see The Blue Room below).


We will continue to see more and more vivid colors as well as fleshy-pink neutrals as a warm counterpart to the cool neutrals that have blanketed the market place. Color Marketing Group releases a monthly color alert, many of which are already applied in accessories for the home like rugs, pillows and draperies. What’s important to note about the neutral and color-colors of the current near future is how it makes a consumer feel. CMG’s ZEN is, “tranquil, relaxing, mindful and calm…relaxed and unworried, that is the state of the color of “Zen. This calming hue is a comforting neutral, with little chroma, and just a bit of black. Its simple nature allows effortless coordination with everything from soft pink to fresh green, and practically anything else.” Who doesn’t want a little more “comfort” in their lives?



The luxury ranges at La Cornue flaunt their color flair. For colorful options that are major investment items, check out these over the top La Cornue ranges at KBIS2016 in colors from light aqua to a saturated bubblegum pink.



2016 April CMG ZEN
“Watch for it to appear modern in high gloss finishes, elegant and refined in matte, and ethereal when enhanced with metallic and special effects. Whether a fashion accessory color or the color of the garment itself, a car color or enhancing a set of luggage, “Zen” moves quietly, with purpose, and in kindness with other colors.”


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CMG 2015 November EQUESTRIAN

Classically inspired, “Equestrian” embodies attributes desired by sporting enthusiasts and those that simply enjoy watching the game.
A golden brown, reminiscent of tooled leather, it is at once rugged and luxurious, familiar and aspirational. Beyond the world of equine sports, the color will grace everything from fashion to accessories. It adds a touch of “Country Life,” even in the city, suggesting a moment of peace and quiet that is always in touch with nature. Regal, elegant, earthy and reliable, “Equestrian” is a color that crosses borders, genders and bank accounts. It is a color of steadiness in 2015.

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.


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“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

The Design Spectator: “High Fashion in High Point” — Design Spectator

Emily Morrow Finkell, “The Design Spectator” Find this article in Floor Covering Weekly’s completely newly designed issue of May 6th, 2016 Part I of High Point Spring 2016: High Point Spring 2016 Market Trends If you’re not acquainted with the High Point International Home Furnishings Show, it’s time you got acquainted. Not only is it is […]

via The Design Spectator: “High Fashion in High Point” — Design Spectator

Far Eastern Inspiration Part II

"Mai Li" learning how to write her name with a great architect's and a fen shui master designer's guidance. What an experience!
“Mai Li” learning how to write her name with a great architect’s and a fen shui master designer’s guidance. What an experience!


Art made from paint brushes, the kind used for Chinese script.
Art made from paint brushes, the kind used for Chinese script.

Far Eastern Inspiration Part II

There is no end to the grace and beauty you find in China, especially after creating friendships there. Happily I shared this experience with my daughter twice, once on her 13th birthday and again on her 16th. Fortunately for her my travels hit around both her spring break and birthday. Guilt-free work for me ~ yayy ~ plus a fun traveling companion – design assistant built right in for me! The series of photos feature not only a few locations we visited, but also the behind-the-scenes private furniture studios where we were fortunate enough to tour with the actual internationally acclaimed furniture designer, Mr. Lu. We gained Chinese names “Mai Li” for Mary (beautiful flower) and “I Mai” for me (lover of beautiful things)…and also learned how to write these names in Chinese script. Every time I leave my friends there, I leave with a promise to return.

Emily Kiker Morrow: an interview with Residence Magazine Shanghai, China on Color & Design Research

Here’s a direct link to the magazine article.

Residence Magazine Color Article May 2013

Check out Anderson’s website at:

A history rich in beautiful things is being rediscovered in China.
A history rich in beautiful things is being rediscovered in China.



Residence Magazine, Shanghai, China is a well-respected China-based shelter and design magazine. During my last trip to China, Residence Magazine and Anderson Floors of Asia co-hosted a design summit and following the event, we had a great interview. Hope you enjoy the results, in English and also in Chinese.

Q: You`ve said that you are an interior designer first and you are tuned in to what is necessary and what is special. So, Which point do you think is the most necessary or special in the design?

A: As an interior designer, my first responsibility is to my client and their primary needs. Generally someone hires a professional interior designer with the expectation that that they have expert knowledge of the best materials, the very latest design trends, ability to carefully combine cutting-edge color combinations without going beyond the limits of what is “tasteful”, and knowledge of the newest products available, possibly wanting the most exclusive products as well (ex. flooring, furniture, fabric, paint, appliances etc) to help them avoid making costly mistakes in their design project.

With that in mind, as a product designer, my mission, as an interior designer first, is to make certain our new products are designed with the latest and most stylish visuals, either through texture, patterns, colors and quality. In the event that the products are hardwood floors, then it’s my responsibility to already know what wood species are pairing best with the newest furnishings, what types of wood are responsibly sourced and most-desired by consumers, and of course understanding what type of homes or rooms these products will be installed in. To answer your question “which point is most necessary in the design?” I’d have to say “all of them” but if we get the basics right, then everything does tend to work much better and easily.

Q: When were you interested in color research?

A: As a “color expert” looking back in my professional years as an interior designer, I believe I became fascinated with “color theory” in college. I’d experienced firsthand what colors can do to me as a consumer, choosing not to buy a car solely because of its color.

Q: In your opinion, what is the relationship between color and interior design?

A. Once I began to study color theory and the psychology of color, I began to understand that color can be a very effective tool in my career as an interior designer. Color alone can cause a person’s blood pressure to become lower or can actually cause the heart rate to beat more slowly. If a home or a healthcare facility is to be an area where the people should feel calm and cared for, then knowledge of color would be essential.

Q: As we all know, color trends impact all consumer goods. But what creates a trend?

A: Before we talk about what causes a trend, I must emphasize that the reader understand the difference between a “trend” and what is “trendy”. Trendy is something that’s popular and doesn’t necessarily stay popular for a long time. Trends are something that can be observed in the stock market, in people’s preferences for designer brands, and colors as well. Color trends are caused by many things: economic and political unrest or stability, social causes can start and sustain a trend and a famous public figure can start a trend. The gray color trend began initially in 2007 when Christian Dior’s Fall Runway collection was entirely gray. The following spring, The Kips Bay Designer Showhouse in NY featured several very stylish interiors in all gray and silvered metallics. The trend was further augmented by the fact that gray interiors were being used in popular movies and television shows. Once a color such as gray is used in “commitment” products like hardwood floors, cabinets, or even gray-veined marble floor tiles, then the color expert knows this color will be around for many years.

Q: What do you think about the color trends this year? Why the bright color will be popular in the future?

A: The color trends for the next few years can be categorized in three ways, “brights”, “tinted off-whites” and “jewels”. The “back drop” for color trends is also very important. The walls, the floors and large case-good pieces or cabinetry are what I refer to as the “back drop”. Whites, off-whites and pastels are entering the interiors marketplace and can be found in tri-color combinations. An ideal example could be this: buttery off-white, robin’s egg blue, and pistachio green. These are very creamy colors and do not compete against one another in an interior. Jewel tone colors such as sapphire blue, emerald green and ruby red are the best-known jewel tones but there are others. Teal, although not directly associated with actual precious jewels, is a very important interior color in interiors all over the world. Teal works easily with several different colors such as gray, but also can bring “brightness” into a space without being too strong or overpowering.

We just discussed the fact that gray has made its way into new hardwood floor colors and paint colors for the walls, serving as the perfect “neutral” backdrop for a bright accent color such as a vivid yellow to be used in areas like rugs, throw pillows, wall art, and small accent pieces. The “bright colors” like chartreuse, hot pink, and neon yellow always look best in small increments against a large neutral back-drop.

Q: Are the trends the same or different between western and eastern? Do you like the color in traditional Chinese interior design works?

A: There are few similarities between Eastern and Western interiors. I have been invited into many homes during my travels to China. Many Eastern homes have white walls with very little color unless there’s some hard wood flooring. Typically Western homes use color, but it’s very specific. A lot of Western homes once had mostly “beige walls and beige carpet” especially during the time period in the 1990’s to early 2000’s. New homes were bought and sold quickly, “flipped”, for a nice profit and were generally not considered to be a personal statement. There’s been a recent shift in Western homes since the economy has enjoyed steady improvement. Westerners are feeling more optimistic about their futures and want to brighten their interiors. They do not want to “flip” their homes as so many did in the 90’s and today making a personal statement through the use of colors and design styles.

Q: Are there any rules about the use of color in the interior design?

A: I really hesitate to say there are “rules” about the use of color in interior design but it’s something very important question to ask. There’s that quote “rules are made to be broken”…so there are going to be rules about using color and also exceptions to consider. My advice on using colors effectively is to consider the human eye and remember that it automatically goes to the brightest colors first, bright yellows or reds. Color Theory teaches that colors are either “advancing or receding” colors. Yellows and Reds are advancing colors so a “little goes a long way”. Look at a color wheel and see what the primary, secondary and even the tertiary colors are. Colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, analogous colors, can be very pleasing. Complementary colors are those directly across the wheel and are combinations like Blue and orange, red and green, yellow and purple. If these colors are adjusted in lightness, they also make beautiful color combinations, for example preppy pink and green.

Q: Which color do you like the best? What colors did you choose in your own house?

A: My personal favorite color is “green”, almost any value. Green is the color of nature and calms the senses as well as represents “sustainability” which is important in my line of work. My home has many colors, but they’re very subtle. My walls in the family room and kitchen areas are “pewter gray” and my furnishings are dark chocolate, pewter gray and a pair of “apple green ikat pillows.

Q: What kind of lifestyle do you like? Natural? Colorful? Casual? Or a special lifestyle that you create by yourself?

A: Today, most people enjoy a very casual and natural lifestyle. Most families are busy with both parents working away from the home so when they are home, they don’t want to be bothered with “high maintenance” floors. Colors are generally muted in the casual home with taupe, gray-greens, and various shades of blue. These taupe and gray-based colors are known for their ease in keeping clean and the blues are psychologically soothing and calming after a busy day at work.

Q: Please say something you want or something about your studies which lets readers know more about the colors and color trends. Thank you very much.

A: Interior design and color trends are integrally connected. You simply cannot have one without the other. Today’s best “designs” include so many things mixed together. What separates a design professional from the others is the pro’s ability to bring the different design styles together, traditional or contemporary, together while clearly reflecting the client’s taste and personal interests.

Thank you very much!

Emily Kiker Morrow, Interior Designer Allied Member ASID



How do I live “the beautiful life”?

Ever ask yourself “How do I live the beautiful life?”? The answer to this is both easy and difficult. If you’re optimistic, you most likely already see and experience the beautiful life. If, on the other hand, you’re a little on the pessimistic side, it may be a challenge but one that will change your life for the better and maybe even resolve other hurdles you experience daily.

When you wake up, what’s the first thought of your conscious mind?? Mine?? I wake to the joyous aroma of my freshly brewed coffee. Oh joy!!! But before I allow myself the luxury of this ridiculously wonderfully addicitive brew, I roll over once more to say a word of thanks to God for waking up in a safe place in a healthy body. Seriously!!! Giving thanks is the first step in experiencing the beauty and joy of life. I am a breast cancer survivor and mother of two so waking up is a blessing in itself. Anyway, this is where it all starts…with a little “thank you” to God…and besides being thankful for good health I’m most certainly thankful for the coffee beans and the many good folks around the world who bring it to my local grocery store so I can set my coffee maker’s timer to go off at just the right hour. (p.s. here’s a real big thank you to the Starbucks folks!!! I love having the priviledge of driving in my PJs to Starbucks with my VIP golf card for a cup of Pike’s Place blend.

Consider looking at it like this…if you love flowers, keep a vase of flowers on your kitchen counter as your treat to yourself. If you are like me and watching your frivolous spending, then feel free to copy my very practical idea. I’m going out today to buy my annuals and the plan is to pot them for my front porch and steps…being that it’s the most beautiful time of the year and as long as you have your Zyrtec D…Just do it! Get some pots and potting soil and arrange the flowers near your entry ways, and make sure you get a good variety of annuals that will bloom sequentially throughout your spring and summer…then you can snip pretty little blooms any time you wish. Most people think the little crystal toothpick holders are for toothpicks…baloney! they’re for your little blooms – place them wherever you’ll see them most…smile!!!

Stay tuned!!! this afternoon is my cooking time. Loving from the oven…my kids know the secret ingredient to the meals I stir up for them. L-O-V-E. Cooking…potting flowers…listening to great music while you are doing what you love most…and we’ll get to the “interior design fun” later but this is what I’d call the ultimate guide to finding and discovering the beauty around you!!

You have successfully completed the first chapter of “Living a Beautiful Life” which I firmly believe will prolong your life, reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure and have your brain firing off those high quality endorphins. Who wants to spoil all this fun time being depressed??? We;ll talk more about that next time.

Big hugs from Living a Beautiful Life

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