“The details are not the details, they make the design.” – Charles Eames
Last month I attended the interior designers pilgrimage to Mecca, the High Point Furniture Market in North Carolina. For over nine decades this trade show, which happens every April and October, has dedicated itself to all things home. The largest home furnishings show in the world, it boasts over 2000 vendors. Their wares are offered in over 10 million square feet of showspace encompassed in approximately 180 buildings throughout the area. While it can be overwhelming to view (and a misery for the feet) it is inspiring to see what’s new and what’s tried and true. Buyers and designers come from all over the world to attend and it’s exciting to hear so many different languages being spoken. It reminds me that home is a universal concept and there is some version of beauty being created for everyone.
I enjoy Market because it allows me to be immersed in a world centered around the home. No one is advertising energy drinks or timeshares or bugging me to switch my cell phone plan and there are no flashing signs or honking horns. There are just acres and acres of things dedicated to enhancing the experience of life at home, to helping people feel connected to space, and ultimately, to marking our existence.
While I made a lot of new contacts and was inspired by the beautiful offerings, the biggest thing I took away from this show was a renewed awe for an industry that impacts all of us, yet most of us take for granted.
Seeing the efforts of the furnishings industry rolled out like a festive Thanksgiving Day parade reminds me how many people devote their lives to the relationship we have with our home environments. Someone has thought about everything you will eat on, walk on, sit in or sleep in from the minute your feet hit the floor in the morning until they hop back into bed at night. They’ve thought about what you might find comfortable or pleasing to look at, the best lighting for reading or the best seat height for dining. They’ve thought about how to ship it safely or economically. Someone thought about what items to bunch together and offer in a catalog, on line site or brick and mortar store so that you can have access to fashionable or practical home goods.
Everything that we have in our homes started as a new idea or a rework of an old one. From that idea sprung a team of people to figure out how to manufacture it and get it to the marketplace. Some ideas start with function in mind, like a dining table, and translate to many different design aesthetics. Others have current lifestyle in mind, like furniture with built in USB ports for our gadgets and electronics to recharge. Others are born of special needs, like reduced height vanities, to help the handicapped maneuver with independence inside the home. And there are always those home furnishings whose purpose or style bewilders us. But rest assured, they will wind up in someone’s home.
Since our lives and our society are ever evolving the home industry must work to keep pace and stay relevant. As one walks the different showrooms you get a real snapshot of what is happening in the modern home and culture. For instance, we can see the change in the way we gather and entertain. Not all that long ago, formal dining room furniture was a must have, prized purchase and every manufacture had several in their lines. But now we entertain much less formally and some homes are opting to skip a formal dining room altogether. The trend is toward large, informal gathering tables that could reside in a large kitchen or multi purpose room. I could count on one hand the showrooms that still offered formal sets. Another intersection of modern life and the furnishing industry was evident with the amount of furniture that incorporated charging stations, ledges or pull-outs for tablets and lap tops. And, 10 years ago you’d be hard pressed to find stylish furniture that was tailored for working at home, but now it’s commonplace.
One thing that you can’t help but notice at Market is the repetition from showroom to showroom. Furniture designers seem to have collectively gotten their inspirations from the same handful of sources. Sometimes it’s nature, an ethnic influence or a cultural swing. But one constant source of inspiration is the fashion industry which also relies on color predictors and stylists who’s proclamations tailor trends and shape what manufacturers offer us. For instance, have you noticed that yellow has not been in the fashion cycle for quite some time? I am in search of a yellow lamp and it does not exist in the universe because yellow – not citrine, not marigold – but good old yellow, is not currently trending. This year wood was grey washed, fabrics were natural linen and accessories seem to scream red. And just as we settle into those textures and color palettes the next design cycles will come and offer us something totally new.
As an interior designer, I rely heavily on the people in this industry to help me find or make just the right selection for my projects. Many times I have an idea for something that does not exist in the marketplace and must be custom made. I rely on my collaboration with experienced artists, engineers, fabricators and installers to find ways to bring those ideas to life. One of those invaluable sources is the owner of an upholstery company that makes most of my custom furniture. When he and I collaborate on a piece of furniture he’s concerned about the way a sofa feels or having the right pitch for a chair’s intended use. He advises the best fill for the duty the piece will perform or the body shape and size that will sit on it. I rely heavily on his experience and advice and he is integral to the job that I perform. All a client sees when the furniture is delivered is that is it well made and feels great, but I am silently grateful for all the people that helped in getting it there.
So as you look around your home and see the furnishings you’ve selected think of all the unsung people that helped them get to your door. The designer who envisioned it, the craftsman that constructed it and the engineer that packaged it. Salute them for their ideas, their prototypes and the countless rejects that had to happen before deciding that something would be just right. Thank them for sending the functional, the beautiful and even the life changing offerings out into the world so we could re-gather them around us and create a place called home.
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