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Cindy Hodnett

Eclectic is electric in upholstery

LAS VEGAS - In searching for a dominant look in upholstery here, eclectic is electric...and it's everywhere. And in terms of scale, less is more.
There has never been a shortage of eccentricity in Las Vegas, but at market this week, "eclectic" is giving it a run for the money.
Inspired by consumers who are turning away from matched sets, suppliers are rolling the dice with a cornucopia of colors and frames, but hardly any see the move as a gamble.
"Ten years ago, when you were talking about eclectic furniture decor, you were talking about the high-end consumer," said Thomasville vice president Rick Stroud. "Now, it has transcended all price points."
In the Thomasville showroom, the Sorrento sofa, a distinctive interpretation of a deep blue and black fabric married to an updated frame, nods to a strong trend towards dramatic at market. The shared Drexel Heritage showroom lobby introduces the drama trend for each supplier and showcases style drama via lush red velvet Morrison chairs juxtaposed against a deep teal backdrop. Across the courtyard on the first floor of the C building, a dramatic Christopher Guy vignette with a pair of deep red velvet sofas against a black-and-white backdrop is stopping buyers in their tracks.
Modern influence remains strong for many upholstery suppliers. Broyhill's product offerings include modern-inspired sofas, an expanded line of sectionals-many with sleek profiles- and a comprehensive assortment of accent chairs with modern lines. Company representatives say that accent chairs offer a commonsense approach for reaching consumers who want to add updated modern pieces to their décor.
"Dealers want the accents," said Stephen Feinberg, eastern sales manager for Broyhill. "We're mainstream America furniture, but you still have to have the ‘wow' factor on the retail floor."
Lane's Dax chair, shown in olive leather as well as in an animal print in the showroom, highlights one of the non-color design trends that is exploding in all product categories - an increased demand for smaller-scaled furniture.
In a market seminar, Christopher J. Grubb, a designer with Arch Interiors Design Group, talked about the market factors influencing the popularity of small-scale.
"As baby boomers downsize, most find that their furniture is usually too big for the new place," Grubb said. "So multifunctionality becomes very important. The den might have a sleeper sofa where before the consumer had a guest bedroom. A dining room table might double as a game table. The salesperson must be able to address multifunctionality because customers often can't envision the potential."
United Furniture Industries is presenting multifunctionality and convenience in a distinctive package at the company's Las Vegas showroom. A combination sofa/chaise is shown in a smaller scale, offering design flexibility as well as several seating options.
"This model has a reversible chaise cushion, and the ‘bump' can be moved from one side to the other," said Greg Morgan, director of merchandising.
The new smaller scale of many collections points to one of the major style focuses for manufacturers. In showroom after showroom, the urban consumer is at the forefront of many product decisions.
Designer Bobby Berk introduced his Scandinavian-inspired upholstery collection in a loft setting. Berk said that his goal with the collection was to present something "new and fresh" in a design aesthetic that is crisp, clean, modern and domestic.
He added that he is committed to providing a quality product for the consumer who has moved past the first-time furniture buyer stage.
"This is not about flashy," Berk said. "The beauty is in the simplicity and the quality."
Flexsteel is paying homage to craftsmanship with several introductions. Large nail head trim has been replaced with randomly spaced spit-tack accents, and individual pieces from several collections are combined, replacing matched sets of single collections.
"Our introductions offer an amalgam of transitional and traditional styling," said Lee Fautsch, senior vice president at Flexsteel. "We're also offering smaller scales. The type of homes being built in the U.S. is smaller in many markets, and that's a game changer. People are more conscious today of making sure that they aren't exaggerating their lifestyle, even in the furniture they buy."
Salmon with gray, indigo with gold, Ikats and Suzani fabrics adorn an assortment of frames at Best Home Furnishings. As in several showrooms, channel back upholstery is featured in an updated and fresh statement on classic. Best is also showing the "Beast" recliner in camouflage fabric, an unexpected addition to the fashion-forward line-up.
"Duck Dynasty is the number one cable-rated show, and Phil, one of the key people on the show, has this same recliner in his living room," said Best's Eric Vollmer. "The Beast is a big man's recliner and will easily support a 6'8" guy."
Vollmer adds that Best's YOLO line has been very strong with buyers.
"We've had more than 300 dealers sign up already, and we have only scratched the surface," he said. "I think chair galleries are going to continue to be incorporated as a destination within a store."

Mr. Brown London SetteeThis settee at Mr. Brown London features lush velvet upholstery and a simple frame.

Trends at the summer market include a fruit salad of colors in both leather and upholstery, from cherry red to eggplant to royal blue. Modern influence remains strong, as does transitional, and many showrooms are presenting drama, both with strong colors contrasted with brushed gold finishes and with muted pales and neutrals accented by shimmery silver.
But arguably one of the biggest trend stories is not specific to one color or finish. Instead, it is the increasing number of suppliers presenting all style categories - from transitional to soft contemporary to updated classic - in smaller scales. With demand for this revisited product size expected to grow as major changes in housing and lifestyles continue to shift, the new "big thing" for many manufacturers might be a smaller version of an old favorite.

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