Behind Closed Doors

BY Jessica Dauray

Just about every industry has its “big event.” The car show for instance is a kind of Mecca for auto executives artists builders and dealers. For interior designers — like me for instance — The High Point Market the bi-annual furniture market extravaganza held in High Point North Carolina is a dream come true; a place to assess new trends stay current on what is happening in the industry and shop ’til you drop. The Market has something for everyone: accessories area rugs bedding and furniture. If a 20-foot bronze head strikes your fancy you can probably find it in High Point.

With roughly 85 000 people converging on the city of approximately 100 000 the population nearly doubles for the 5-day event. There are 188 buildings 12 million square feet of show space and more than 2 000 exhibitors to see. The High Point Market Web site lists 110 countries represented and about 10 percent of attendees are international.

My journey to High Point last October included scoping out the latest products plus the added challenge of locating a teak “square root” chair that I’d been preoccupied with finding. I fell in love with the clean lines and eco-friendly design of the chair when I spotted it in a magazine so it was infinitely satisfying when I entered the Interhall at the International Home Furnishings building and saw the piece. I had just arrived at the show and with my quest for the chair successfully complete I was able to relax enjoy the scene and check the trends.

The Market is a wholesale trade-only event. There are endless choices for every style and budget. Clients or end users are not allowed in and bringing clients to the show is not encouraged. Nevertheless it was hard not to notice a few of the people wandering around looking overwhelmed by the madness.

Folks from the Midwest visiting the South for the first time a furniture craftsman from the Amish Country and others brought an interesting flavor to the event. New Yorkers and Southerners shared experiences with visitors from Portugal Brazil and China. Candice Olson Thomas O’Brien and other famous designers made appearances as well.

Market Trends

I walked away from October’s market with a lot of new ideas for helping clients develop livable spaces where children pets and people can co-exist. Here are the top trends:

Metallic leathers linens with metallic filaments stainless metal table tops and drum-shaped light fixtures with metallic lining were everywhere.

Furniture profiles
Clean lines trim arms nail heads and exposed tapered legs are in. Regency-style furniture is going strong while puffy-back cushions and overstuffed sofa arms are fading away.

Exotic modern
Asian and Moroccan influences have been around for a while but now these looks are more modern. Stylized geometric patterns of latticework Moorish architectural elements and Chinoiserie silhouettes were seen on accessories bedding lamps and fabrics. Paired with spice colors rich browns and crisp white the effect of the shapes was striking adding a perfect accent to any interior.

Modern redux
Antique profiles are being restyled to work with a modern lifestyle. A great example was a ball-and-claw side table with a stainless-steel top. The blending of clean lines with vintage and antique finishes and elements was apparent.

Glitz and glamour
High-gloss lacquered finishes particularly dramatic when paired with antiqued mirrors provided a polished look.

Fun color
Fresh approaches to beach looks were seen with pastels like lime green and blue denim.

Green design
Improved textures were plentiful.

Perhaps foreshadowing the economic downturn attendance numbers were slightly reduced this year. Opening orders were generally lower and lead times shorter. Next year’s shows promise to be interesting: It will be the 100th anniversary of the first market and much is planned to celebrate the occasion.

This year’s market trends were somewhat conservative — again possibly a sign of the current economy. I was happy to see that the bright yellow color that was so prevalent at the last show had no staying power. In its place were shades of green linen taupe gray and silver. Brown and blue a popular combination is still available but waning in popularity.

The eco chic movement is going strong. Sustainable materials are becoming sophisticated and luxurious. Natural materials now have texture and sleek finishes for understated elegance. Upholstery case goods and accessory designs have also embraced a softer side of green design — offering both style and function. Samples that exhibited the qualities of style and usability included throw pillows made of organic linen and embellished with recycled glass beading.

No market is complete for me without a visit to The Hickory Chair Company. The showroom is sophisticated and elegant. It is great fun being escorted through the maze of new styles and old favorites. I particularly enjoyed checking out Suzanne Kasler’s quatrefoil-inspired collection of case goods — furniture designed for storage such as dressers cabinets and bookcases — and upholstery.

Entertainment is a big part of the event offering an escape from the hectic pace. The parties during the fall show were better than ever; some showrooms had Starbucks coffee bars catered lunches brunches dinners and snacks. My favorite treat was a rich caramel apple with a sugar-stamped company logo. It seems that the manufacturers have bought into the notion that food is the trick to curing tired feet … and a part of the perfect recipe for successful selling.

One highlight of this year’s market was a performance by Peter Frampton hosted by the High Point Furniture Market Authority. Hearing thousands of furniture people sing “Baby I Love Your Way” was part of the magic.

There are days when the frustration of searching for that elusive “perfect” accessory or ottoman sets in. Perhaps that’s why they hold The Market twice a year — because pulling into High Point is definitely one of the perks of the job.