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Consumers spend more for stylish entertainment pieces

HIGH POINT - Home entertainment is one of those categories that's looking increasingly more stylish.
     Industry officials say the category is taking hints from accents or the latest design trends and it isn't constrained by price point.
     Online retail giant Wayfair has seen more customers preferring stylish, fashion-forward media pieces as opposed to traditional espresso or black boxes.
     "As more and more customers mount TVs on the wall, the style and decorative aspect of the piece underneath the TV is more exposed," said Jessica Arnold, a senior director at Wayfair with oversight of furniture and décor. "So we feel customers are spending more time choosing pieces that reflect their style and fit into their home's décor."
     Furniture source Habersham intends nearly all of its entertainment pieces to serve as accent or statement pieces with a designer orientation.
     "Bold colors are still strong in interior design and work for home entertainment areas of the home. But if the primary use of the home entertainment area is for relaxation, soft neutrals or warm wood colors are favored," said Robert Williams, vice president of design for Habersham.

Among Jaipur
Among Jaipur Home’s popular entertainment pieces is this Gugu chalk-blasted console with a washed natural wood look.
Hooker’s South Park media wall comes in a stylish charcoal gray that allows wood grains to show through and has water spotting — plus a maple veneer back panel for a two-tone effect.
Hooker’s South
Matsuoka’s Origami chest was inspired by sharp angular juts and projections in folded paper artwork.

     The pieces also demand high style in their hardware, he added.
     "It's like a beautiful black dress needs beautiful white pearls to go with it. You are seeing more hardware that looks like jewelry. Hardware is becoming less of an afterthought to furniture design and becoming more of a design statement," Williams said.
     Bassett and its HGTV Home line are having success with designer looks in entertainment consoles, a growing trend since last year when it began marrying more interesting media looks in their collections.
     "We have been very eclectic with our approach, with a minimal tie back to the collection. Price points are higher, but the looks are more interesting and perceived value is greater," said Matt Johnson, vice president of product development wood for Bassett and HGTV Home.
     It's hard to pinpoint what demographic is driving the trend, Johnson said.
     "I would say better furniture retail stores are on this trend and (it) is not limited to boutique stores but retailers that want more separation from the big box mass merchants who sell entertainment (items) on pure price point," he said.
     Hank Long, senior vice president of marketing at Hooker Furniture, said design is becoming more important as stores aim to differentiate themselves from basic looks offered by national retailers in a core $399 or below price point.

Jofran has had success with two-tone looks like this No.050-9 console in antique gray and wirebrushed oak. At 60 inches wide, it hits a $499 retail price.
Furnitech’s No. FT82WS contemporary rustic television media stand features an American white oak case with a warm honey finish, slatted sliding doors and a recessed plinth base.
Habersham’s American Treasures Nassau home theater blends classic lines with modern influences and has customizable size and finish options.
Habersham’s American
This HGTV Textured Graphite media cabinet comes with satin platinum accents, a stylish gray-on-gray effect and a square blocking motif on the doors.

     Some entertainment looks at Hooker have gravitated toward its Mélange accent line, which features a fashion-forward eclectic blending of colors, textures and materials.
     "What the better dealer today has to do is create some unusual looks that look like more money to get that business. Part of that is the colors," Long said. "I think people want more than just a brown box in entertainment today."
     Decreased space needs for components have also changed the way entertainment pieces are designed, Long said. The thinking used to be that a big deep box was needed to hold all the components that went into media units.
     "If you've got a Direct TV box with On-Demand or Comcast, sometimes that's all you need. If you've got a smart TV that's Internet ready or a DVR, you can basically go to Netflix or Hulu and get what you need," Long said.
     Furnitech CEO Eric Shupack said there's a broad swath of customers for televisions, and in turn, for media furnishings. The consumer spending more on televisions and media units is helping drive more stylish looks, he said.
     "The market has really become extremely polarized. So it's either going to be low-end Vizio-type products being sold or very high-end Samsung LG products being sold," Shupack said.
     While Furnitech has simple clean looks with functionality that sell well, it also focuses on more interesting profiles and base elements that can help retailers sell into higher price points, he said.
     "Sometimes we color a little outside of the box. That's what contemporary and modern allow you to do. It gives you a little more freedom to be a little more expressive," Shupack said.
     Matsuoka President Kevin Reilly said designer looks give a feel of luxury to home entertainment experiences and reflect a refined sense of style and good taste.
     Today's entertainment pieces draw from an eclectic color palette, from dark autumnal hues to lighter shades, based on the design scheme of the environments in which they'll be used, Reilly said.
     Jaipur President and CEO Subodh Johari said he has been successful with media consoles in part because of his success with accent pieces, namely sideboards. The transition from a sideboard to a media console in manufacturing often just means changing dimensions and leaving a center open, he said.
     Joff Roy, president of Jofran, said the company's goal across its product lines is to create a casual lifestyle feel.
     Since the end of last year, the company's focus in entertainment has been creating more "stepped up" looks, he said. That means more scale, function and design flexibility that allow the pieces to work not only as a home for electronics but also as servers, credenzas and more general accent-oriented storage pieces, Roy said.
     He added that the company has more than a half dozen entertainment pieces with an accent feel that remain in Jofran's $399 to $499 sweet spot.

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