Floor Covering Weekly, Style & Design: “Wood is Good” http://www.floorcoveringweekly.com/main/style-design/wood-is-good-15876.aspx
A few years ago, I was invited to serve on a panel to judge final projects of senior interior design students, many of whom were directed to use sustainable materials.
While evaluating the projects, one student was reprimanded by the professor for not specifying “reclaimed” wood, bamboo or cork but rather a new North American hardwood floor. While I congratulated the student for choosing wood floors — it was responsibly procured from North American forests and made in the U.S.A. — the professor’s misinformed argument was that wood is not in plentiful supply. Here in the U.S., however, that is not true.
While there seems to be a basic understanding among consumers that hardwood can help increase a home’s value, like the professor, there remains a degree of confusion when it comes to some hardwood basics — such as the difference between engineered hardwood, solid hardwood, laminate or resilient as well as what makes one flooring type more sustainable than another. When responsibly harvested and procured, wood is indeed a sustainable choice. (For more information, visit the National Wood Flooring Association at nwfa.org and the Forestry Stewardship Council at us.fsc.org/en-us.)
While industry terms can often be too technical for consumers, the state-of-the-art technology now being used to create flooring is also causing some confusion — almost any surface can be made, for example, to look like wood, including laminate, vinyl and even tile.
What consumers do know is the look, feel and even the smell of hardwood is appealing and they admire the craftsmanship that has created beautiful interiors for centuries. Pictured below is a look at hardwood floors showcased in some of France’s most renowned buildings, such as Versailles.
If you have a chance to go to the link for Michael Green’s talk about building skyscrapers of wood at TED 2013, you’ll be rewarded. It’s a brief and inspiring talk that will leave you with a renewed love and appreciation for the beauty of wood as a building material.
We’ve talked a lot about the warmth, character and quality that wood brings to interiors, but what we haven’t considered enough is the fact that its’s truly good to use wood..good, as in good for us. In his TED talk, Michael Green says “Wood gives Mother Nature fingerprints in our buildings…and makes our buildings connect with us through nature”…”that it’s the only building material that is grown by the sun…and has an amazing capacity to store carbon.”
I hope many will find gratification in knowing that our North American forests are responsibly forested, are providing jobs and building materials that are not only beautiful but are so “good” in infinite ways. It’s no wonder we see consumers and designers drawn to all things wood or wood-inspired. Wood, it does us all good!
As someone who considers myself “mature”, certainly well beyond believing in mythical creatures, the Easter bunny and magic tricks, I admittedly have become a believer in a kind of “magic”…not the kind that where rabbits come out of hats but a more refined kind of magic, the “magic” that happen when the greatest talents in the design world create something we all see and recognize as something beyond the ordinary. It takes that certain something, je ne sais quoi, to come up with a “winner” and ever more of that certain something to have a successfully selling product.
Over my twenty-something years of meeting and or collaborating with the very best in the design world, there’s one common thread that I have finally deduced that they all share. I’ve met some greats: Kevin Sharkey, as in Senior Vice President and Executive Editorial Director, Decorating, and Executive Creative Director, Merchandising for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.; Alexa Hampton, owner and designer of Mark Hampton Design, LLC and designer of a variety of licensed products under her own name; and those design talents you might not have heard of but certainly know their work in the many items we use daily without even thinking. Each one carry with them an experience and wisdom that comes from working both hard and smart, those who have been born with a natural gift, an ability or an eye, with a passion and a drive to create something beautiful. These are the “magicians” of our world, the artists, interior designers, fashion designers and product designers. They bring beauty out of nothing one can see with the naked eye and make it into something indispensible to us as consumers. Walking through the various expos, furniture and design shows as often as I do, I’ve seen with my own eyes the incredibly brilliant outcomes of the magic from some very talented design minds. Some very great products and designs are licensed under very well known names, assuring the consumers that the credibility and integrity of the designs are at their best ,while others were conceived by unnamed product designers for the licensees, and yet others are the result of companies who mine for design either by outside consultants or their own internal product design teams. Regardless of the method, the outcome is always exciting to see.
During this spring’s High Point Market, I was fortunate enough to meet and talk with Alexander Julian as he spoke about his life’s work and career in designing fashion for menswear, womenswear as well as home furnishings, specifically Universal Furniture. Alex, as he is known by his friends and colleagues, said he always wanted to be an artist but he said his hands could not draw the colors and patterns that were in his head, so he turned to product design to explain it… it is commercial art…”art is my teacher”. The world between fashion and furnishings is interesting from his perspective. He said that he looks at many of the same things for inspiration, nature, art, texture, color, how it feels et cetera, “but the advantages of furniture is that it’s not gender specific, one must appeal to women and men simultaneously… How you feather your nest…fashion is the common denominator, it’s in the simple details, button for example” as he gestures towards the console table with tortoise shell button inspired pulls.
After all the questions and answers were over, I overheard one of the designers say as they were leaving the meeting room, “Wow, he actually didn’t tell us anything tangible about how he does what he does…but he certainly does it well. Do you think he knows, really what it is that he does, what it is that makes him special and sought after?” This question caused me to think about the mystery of the creative process and the genius of great design. It is something that can only be described as “magic”.
What does it take to make magic? It requires years of study, observation, trials as well as failures, and most importantly, it requires successes with the right combinations of people and partners. It also reminded me of the incredibly hardworking and talented design mavens who work for the companies that pay license fees to “celebrity designers”, many of whom I know personally and respect them greatly. Currey and Company as well as Universal Furniture are two that immediately come to mind. Janine Wagers, Creative Director at Universal Furniture, was frequently lauded by Alexander Julian for her amazing design work within their endlessly stunning vignettes and rooms at High Point. Currey and Company’s Brownlee Currey and Curtis Adams, Creative Director also showcased newest looks under the Bunny Williams name. All of their creations, collaboratively with Bunny Williams or solely by their own internal designers, the freshness and inspiration is immediately apparent to anyone who follows design.
Success comes from an idea that has been brought to life by lots of nurturing, endless support that has been reworked, tweaked, financially backed by someone who’s willing to go to bat for it, go the distance for it and most importantly that certain someone who’s willing to buy it, buy enough of it to make sense on a financial level. This seems so simple from afar. If you’ve seen the movie “Joy”, the story of the miracle mop by Joy Mangano, it’s the hollywood version of how someone took their great idea to market. In the floor covering, fashion or furniture industry, one can’t just operate in “onesie-twosie” sized successes, but regularly in bulk, rolls, pallets and truck loads in order to succeed and stay in business. We’re in exciting times with our improving economy, fewer regulations and less red tape for new businesses and entrepreneurs to be able to flourish. It’s hard to believe that the first the first generation of Apple’s iPhone was announced on January 9, 2007. Now we can’t imagine our lives without a smart phone. What new products, new categories will be see come to life in the next few years that we will soon wonder how we could ever live without?
“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”
― John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice.
This is one of my favorite quotes on color…and what a great way to explain how colors impact us, regardless of our age, gender, nationality or ever the era we live in. It’s been so clearly proven that since living creatures first walked the earth, color has always played a critical role in both our existence and survival. Over the years, we have evolved in our sophistication of the endless ways we can apply color in our daily lives, and now have a long view of hindsight to draw upon. Over the centuries, we can see patterns in the shifts and subtleties of color as it pertains to fashion and interiors. With these color patterns mapped out, we can better understand what trends are just around the corner and what is going to drive them.
Back in 2009 Benjamin Moore published some intriguing color research titled “Colors of the Centuries” which compared and contrasted the even and the odd numbered decades and the color patterns that developed over those decades. bm-colors-of-the-centuries . Their research begins in 1880 and shows how the colors of the roaring twenties were dramatically different from those of the depression and the decades that followed as well as the reasons why they were so different. For example in the 1940’s the color palette included cooler colors of blue and gray while the 50’s saw warmer colors come into vogue with high contrast black and white accents. The 60’s are so easy to imagine with the overly-vibrant tie-dyed psychedelic colors as well as the rebellious culture that drove those colors. From there, the 70’s moved into the earthy browns, golds, oranges and avocado greens. Think “Brady Bunch” colors which conjures up memories of shag carpets and wood paneled walls. While working in the floor covering industry, it has always been fascinating to find swatches of carpet from various decades. Practically everyone shares a fascination with the shifts and changes in both color and style regardless of whether or not they lived through it. Generations that followed like the millennials have only cable tv re-runs to be able to see what those eras looked like but have a genuine affinity for “mid century modern” and other “retro” design styles we are seeing thrive in today’s interiors and furniture markets.
Today’s marketplace is proving to be a very colorful one, although in gradual increments. While color trends generally can be found to begin in the european design shows like Maison et Objet and IMM, we can easily see the progression from there to our markets here in the USA. Look at the images from Missoni’s showroom three years ago and then find those same colors at our very own markets here in the US. Story boards featuring the gray finishes for furniture, fabric and flooring from three or four years ago are “spot on” for today’s US market. Accents of bright yellow, indigo blue or even shades of green and aqua are finding a home here as they’ve worked into the american tastes by way of various inspirational sources, be it social media, design blogs, websites and cable design shows. We don’t have to go far to tap into a rich source of color or design information simply by opening a fashion or shelter magazine. Oftentimes the very magazine cover of any given month can give immediate insights into the colors that are key colors for that particular season or year.
Now that we see we are safely out of the recession and in a healthy thriving market with the stock market surpassing a historical 20,000 mark, consumers are finding they can make their personal statements at home and in their wardrobes. Once safe “gray and navy blue” wardrobes are getting a huge host of companion colors. These accent colors comings and goings are thrilling to watch especially in observing how quickly trend upwards or spiral out of the picture. Those that have staying power you can be assured will look amazing with the still ever-present grays, taupes and mushrooms…as well as the newer desert neutrals of camel, golden sand, cinnamon, mocha and terracotta tan.
DESIGN SPECTATOR: JOURNEY TO THE BIGGEST TRENDS IN 2017 The Surfaces Issue
In order to prepare for a journey, you must first know where you’ve been, where you are currently, as well as where you want to go. I love planning trips and anticipating all the various twists and turns that I might encounter so that I’m sufficiently packed and well-prepared. In thinking about 2017, it is not unlike a journey. The next big product or design idea is probably already in the development process and without doubt will emerge this market season.
Where we’ve been:
It goes without saying, the floor covering and design world have been saturated with grays, taupes, off-whites and visuals that imply “reclaimed”, whether it’s hardwood floors, resilient vinyl, porcelain tile, carpet or rugs. We’ve witnessed a shift of market dominance from soft to hard surface, the softening of soft goods, the pendulum shift back from carpet that’s “too soft”, explosion of anything that is labeled as “waterproof”, and the clear expectations of the consumer for products that “perform” underfoot while looking beautiful.
Where we are:
It’s been eight years since we’ve had a change in the presidential leadership of our country, and no matter what your politics are, the change always leads to movement in things that impact our industry. We are already seeing an upswing in the stock market, optimism in new home construction, increases in existing home sales, and the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates for the first time since 2008. All these factors are going to result into some noticable new ideas coming to life.
Where we are going:
While there are so many trends for 2017 we can cover, the most interesting are ten mega-trends that we’ll readily see in floor covering.
1) If you’ve noticed there’s been an influx of marble, especially cararra and calacatta marbles, then you’ve seen the influence of “understated luxury”. The marbled effects are going to continue to grow in resilient vinyls and even reproduced in porcelain tiles.
2) For the ever-growing love for “uncluttered living”, look for more and more clean lines, little to no visible wood grain or character. This will mean less and less of the hand-scraped, chatter-marked or knotty wood visuals.
3) While it may sound like a contradiction of #2, it’s entirely different and noteworthy. There’s a huge global or “travel inspired design” movement. This flooring influence will mean oversized geometric design motifs in rugs and carpet, more and more antique persian rugs, especially layered over jute, sisal or seagrass broadloom and hardwood flooring.
4) If you’ve seen HGTV, you’ve watched Chip and Joanna Gaines’ “Fixer Upper” show and their “Urban Farmhouse” look which is a blend of rustic, reclaimed, distressed paint treatments and wood everywhere.
5)“Japanese and mid-century modern” influences are creating a hybrid design style where you’ll find traditional and modern details and clean lines. Light and neutral hardwood floors, long and wide wood planks with zero character or gloss, and neutrals will keep things light.
6) The wood has migrated up from the floor to the walls and includes many of the wood trends from 2016 into 2017 like reclaimed gray barnwood and painted white or white washed ship lap boards, *another influence by the “Fixer Upper” designer.
7) The “Danish movement” is working its way through hard and soft surfaces. We’ve seen glimpses of this in one of Shaw’s newest porcelain tile styles, “Glee” that has the look of concrete embossed with wood grain. Plaster, chalky or matte finishes have been working their way into the interiors world gradually. Initially we saw introductions of “plastery white” vases and vessels at the various interior design and home furnishings shows in Europe and the US, matte black automotive paints in luxury sports cars, and then black in virtually every category one can imagine…so when you pair two or more rather significant trends, what do you get? A mega trend that takes flight and has longevity in the marketplace. Check out the following examples of this mega trend…
For more on the “matte” and “plaster” trend…
Check out my friends from HGTV Home Nancy Fire and HGTV Dream Home Designer Bryan Patrick Flynn on YouTube as they talk about Matte Black faucets in Delta’s showroom at KBIS https://youtu.be/4wW3OGoEA0U
Ties directly into the precursor trend of black stainless steel at KitchenAid as well as a little nod to LaCornue’s luxurious black ranges.
Take note of an unfamiliar term, “hygge”, a bulky cabled yarn found in throws. The bulky cabled yarns will be difficult to translate into broadloom carpets due to manufacturing and performance challenges but handmade rugs will be sourced from Denmark. Look for translations of the “knitted visuals” among chunkier tufted and woven loop pile carpets.
8) Vibrant jewel-tones in accessories for the home require a set of “new neutrals” beyond the gray and taupes of the past 10 years. Muted earth-toned shades of terracotta, camel and sand play nicely with the jewel-tones. These neutrals will be needed in backsplash subway tiles, large format porcelain floor tiles as well as resilient vinyls, hardwood planks and even laminates.
9) Blue, all shades of blue, is continuing to make its mark in homes. Painted kitchen cabinets in lacquered navy blue, gray-blue and robin’s egg blue are becoming more and more popular after their color panache has been brought to life at Kitchen and Bath shows as well as in Designer Showhouses.
10) Last but certainly not least, the final mega-trend is “open living spaces” in the home. The ability for families to eat, cook, work and entertain in an open floor plan gives everyone the flexibility to adapt the purpose and use of any given space of the home. With an open floor plan, flooring must cross seamlessly from one area to another harmoniously. Designers, architects as well as design-savvy homeowners need to be able to find floor covering that is long, wide and visually open. Patterned carpets that will be most successful will look “woven” or have patterns that are wide open, large in scale with little to no contrast. Designers of open living spaces allow the homeowners the opportunity to define spaces. For example, conversation areas need to have grouped seating that is clearly defined by rugs layered on gorgeous hardwood or natural stone floors. Traffic within the open layout home flows strategically according to the arrangement of furniture and flooring.
In summary, each of these ten megatrends offer homeowners an important solution and that’s that they give variety, the ability to change or adapt the way they express their personal style in the home.