High on green and bling

Just when you thought that highly-polished oppulent look was so 2007, peices like this chair from Camilla House prove that bling is back.
Just when you thought that highly-polished oppulent look was so 2007, peices like this chair from Camilla House prove that bling is back. (Camilla House, Baltimore Sun)

Home furnishings and interior design industry pros and savvy consumers alike know High Point because of the many furniture manufacturing companies concentrated in and around the North Carolina town and the semi-annual High Point Market that attracts on average 80,000 exhibitors and buyers from more than 100 countries around the globe.

The High Point Market is the largest furnishings industry trade show in the world, and a really great place to spot emerging trends. Hot new colors, patterns, shapes, and materials are introduced each market by some 2,000 exhibitors spread out in nearly 200 buildings and 10 million square feet of show space.

Interior designers spend several long days at High Point, moving from vendor to vendor hoping to spot the new and interesting pieces they will ultimately recommend to clients.

High Point is, in a word, exhausting, which is why I don't go every year, and instead rely on my friends in the design community to bring back word of what's new. This year, I asked Steve Appel and Lee Whitehead, local interior design pros and owners of Belvedere Square's Nouveau Contemporary, to give me a trend report and they were happy to oblige.

Appel and Whitehead, who have been friends since grade school and went into business with each other in 1986, tend to like more contemporary furnishings themselves, as their store name would suggest, but go to High Point with an open mind, always hoping to spot a new trend.

This year, reports Appel and Whitehead, anything with a British motif is hot, bling is back, gray and purple tones are popular, the eco-friendly trend continues to emerge, and more and more manufacturers are adding unique, differentiating touches to their designs.

British invasion

"The royal wedding has had a real effect on design," says Appel. " We saw a lot of Union Jack pillows, rugs, and hand painted furniture, as well as things with double-decker bus, phone booth, and Underground motifs."

"Anything in the red-white-and-blue color scheme is going to be 'in' this summer," says Whitehead.

Green is queen

The green furniture trend has been building for years, but what's interesting today is that it has developed a style all its own. Eco-friendly furniture, of course, is available in a variety of styles, but anything that looks reclaimed or repurposed, according to Appel and Lee, is popular this year.

"The reclaimed industrial look and reclaimed wood are big," says Appel. "People want furniture that looks like it was made in America."

To accommodate, Four Hands has a piece that looks like an old hotel bellmans's desk, Uttermost designed a whimsical and rustic Tic Tac Toe table, Guildmaster has some fun painted printer's chest cabinets, and, and Design Legacy upholstered a sofa in recycled blue jeans.

Bling is back

Highly polished surfaces that create a sophisticated urban atmosphere are making a comeback this year as an antidote, perhaps, to the styling of much eco-friendly furniture, which sports a less finished, more rustic look.

"For years we were seeing mirrored cabinetry, chests, and side tables, but then the trend started to wear off. But this market we started seeing a lot more bling, and just when you thought the mirrored consoles were gone, they're back. People are still really looking for glamour," says Appel.

A departure from the common flat surface mirrored pieces we've grown accustomed to seeing, new mirrored furniture is sporting unique, curved surfaces, mosaics and patchworks.

Purple and gray

Purple hues have been trending for some time now, and the color hasn't lost any momentum, according to what Appel and Whitehead observed at Market.

Gray is also in vogue — perhaps fueled by the trend toward eco-friendly designs, the more naturalized look of gray is popping up in everything from wood and leather finishes to fabric.

"For so long wood furniture has been brown with dark walnut finishes being the most popular," says Appel. "Today we are seeing the more natural gray tones of wood in the spotlight."

Unique is chic

For furniture manufacturers, differentiating their products from the competition has become critical, and Appel and Whitehead are seeing unique materials being used to create a signature look.

"In the last two markets, we've seen more types of materials being used than ever before—silver leather, acrylic, vintage license plates, bottle caps, and other unique materials are being used to create really over-the-top accent pieces," says Whitehead.

"Uttermost has some killer stuff," says Appel, "they are really pushing the boundaries with pieces like their Dice and Tic Tac Toe tables."

"Guildmaster is also bringing out some really nice fine art craft type furniture that incorporates found objects and hand painted designs and motifs," says Whitehead. "My favorite is their 'dart target' chest, which features a dart board motif made of bottle caps and replica darts for drawer handles."

A sign that either the economy is rebounding or people are just getting tired of the waiting game, after a few years of lackluster designs being introduced at High Point, this year Appel and Whitehead were encouraged by the showing.

"Market was pretty inspiring this year," says Appel. "A couple years ago there wasn't anything new. Some booths weren't even open first thing in the morning, but this year we saw a lot of new things, and [it] was really bustling."

Dennis Hockman is editor of Chesapeake Home + Living magazine. He can be reached at dhockman@tribune.com.

Steve and Lee's Highpoint favorites

Convinced that these trends will catch on, Appel and Whitehead are incorporating many new pieces in their store. Here are a few of their favorites:

Lee's favorites:

•Beach scenes from Thom Filicia's new Art line

•Union Jack area rug from The Rug Market

•Painted pieces from Guildmaster, especially the dart target chest

•Reclaimed barn door wall art from Moe's Home Collection

Steve's favorites

•Tall, over-the-top high-back chairs

•Whimsical craft-style pieces like the Tic Tac Toe and Dice tables from Uttermost

•Interesting curved mirror pieces from Stein World

•A white hand-painted cabinet with mirror mosaics from Guildmaster