A multi color market
Color stories rather than shades are key with hints of worldly influence
By Courtney M. Paschal -- Casual Living, 9/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
In the last year, the casual industry has attracted a lot of media attention, and for good reason. Many designers and manufacturers have been concentrating on the high-end, luxury market as a way to not only separate themselves from mass merchants biting into the pie, but also to define the category in such a way that will, in fact, change its course in the future.
Specialty retailers have traded in plastic lawn chairs and picnic tables for deep seating chat groups, extension tables with stone or copper tops, double chaise lounges and so on. Fabric suppliers have become an even more important player in the industry, as technological advances allow for faux leather, chenille and velvet coverings, including drapery, throws and pillows.
As a result, color has become a key ingredient. Coordinating fabrics with frame finishes and even mixing and matching solids with patterned designs and textures has become the norm, with many manufacturers hiring fabric consultants and designers.
"Color has always taken us to new worlds and is always evolving," said Becky Spak, senior designer for Sherwin-Williams. "Color knows no bounds — it is fluid, not static; it intermingles in unexpected combinations, and it explores many paths to achieve its goal."
According to several color forecasters, the coming year will prove to be a multicolored one for the outdoor category. They say the future of color in the industry does not focus on one particular shade, but rather color stories, taking into account the eco-chic trend and other worldly influences.
"There are so many different moods of color that consumers really try to decorate around themes," said Leatrice Eiseman, creative director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of Color Messages and Meanings: A Pantone Color Resource. "Outdoor is somewhat more limited, but at the same time, has the opportunity for more opulence."
Beginning this month at the Casual Market, attendees will notice a continuation of color seen at last year's show with some hints of what's to come.
"The September Casual Furniture Show will certainly inspire the buyers who are seeking emotional connections with color," said Marcia Blake, president of Outdoor Interiors. "More than ever, consumers are becoming more sophisticated while exploring color. The color palettes that will be showcased will appeal to the senses.
"Blood Orange representing the Tuscan Countryside is becoming warmer as it complements brown, which is becoming a universal color," Blake said.
"Contrasting colors, black and white, will be prominent while earth tones will appeal to buyers wanting to maintain environmental awareness and will be available in animal prints. Fresh and tranquil emotions will be felt in the clean tropical hue between blue and green, a hint of turquoise gives a sense of relaxation which will attract many wanting a serene ambiance."
Laurie Jenkins, designer and founder of Laurie Bell Outdoor Occasions, said, "Expect to see a continuation of the terra cotta and chili shades because they pair so well with brown frames that continue to dominate sales."
Also seen will be an orange shade — Jenkins referred to as pottery — paired with chili, cream and bisque. "I think most people would think, by itself, it would be too much," she said.
Left: Sherwin-Williams' Around the World color story includes a palette of bold colors influenced by the opulence of Russian and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Latin American architecture, culture and decor.
The aquatic color story is still evident, with oceanic blues and softer greens like moss or acid green in the mix. Eiseman said warm, citrus colors with hints of blue also will be evident. "One of the most interesting areas, and for outdoors this is having a bigger impact, is a strong yellow-green and citrusy shade and that is not really going away," she said.
Purple and yellow are two colors on the horizon that may surprise some, though the two have been gracing fashion runways. Purple with red casts, pale and midtone purples, and fuschia-inspired purples all will influence the color forecast, as will a green-cast yellow or shades like mango and wheat, great to pair with silver or gray.
"It isn't horribly edgy, just enough green to make a difference," said Michelle Lamb, senior editor of The Trend Curve. "We will also see neon-flavored yellows in 2009."
Black and white remains in the vernacular, but not just to complement more contemporary furniture pieces. "We took it one direction, and now it's more classical because the furniture is more classical," Jenkins said.
"(Black and white) is a must story for next year," Eiseman said. "The way you make black and white appear new is to accent it with the new purple/fuchsia family or the yellow-greens."
A huge trend to take notice of is metallics. The casual industry started playing around with metallics in finishes a few years ago, and the trend is only heating up elsewhere.
For outdoors, it may be difficult to mimic this trend due to technological restraints, but Jenkins said it is possible for the weave effect to get close, mixing in creams and golds.
"It's a very interesting look and it always adds the look of luxe at the high-end," Eiseman said.
In addition to metallics, neutrals are edging their way back in, especially for natural, woven or powder-coated frames. Primary colors are seen with high-end woven designs, in particular, Spak said.
"There are a lot more brights, a lot more contrast and juxtaposition of color," she added. "No more muted tones."
On the flip side, finishes are expected to go lighter, as reclaimed wood inches toward being a leader in materials due to the eco-chic trend. "Dark is not done, but we're evolving," Lamb said.
Asian influence will continue with a slight twist and African themes are expected to emerge in 2008. According to Lamb, Asian style will look more fresh in the coming year, moving beyond black and red and embracing white, plum, aqua, hot coral (a color to watch) and lemon.
Christine Chow, director of membership for The Color Association, said the Asian-influenced aesthetic also will focus on blackened hues instead of straight black and white, in indigos and deep plums paired with white, off-white and brown.
"There is a youthful rhythm to Asian style that is contagious," Lamb said.
Left: Atlanta-based retailer The Kolo Collection doesn't shy away from utilizing the new orange forecasters are speaking of, such as shades of mango and wheat.
Rocks, fossils, horns, leopard and tiger skin patterns will come to the forefront with a nod to African influence. Sherwin-Williams' 2008 forecast includes an Around the World destination theme with a focus on carved furniture, ethic and animal prints, decorative embellishments and luxe textured fabrics.
Moving forward, Lamb said the trend from skin tones to earth tones will continue, with movement from shades of pink and peach to desert neutrals like khaki browns and gold grays, accented with black and white.
"Earthy/natural tones are the perfect backdrop for accent colors with increased depth and individuality, through texture and pattern," Blake said. "The outdoor furnishings will be merchandised with accessories that add pop to the earthy colors. Buyers should focus on creating an environment that reflects the consumer's indoor rooms so a smooth transition can be felt while moving from the inside out."
In addition, water-based and saturated midvalues of blue have the potential to be best-sellers, as do navy blues and denim-inspired blues. "Through 2010, we expect many more blues in an up-cycle than we have had in years, all of them exciting and immensely sellable," Lamb said.
Spak said color will move in two distinct directions. "Looking ahead we'll continue to embrace color with a lot of neutral shades, very classic and timeless," she said. "Very light, cool shades will emerge, like silvery gray tones, very different from the gray of the '80s, which were more dark and muddy. It'll be more clean and fresh. Second, mid-tone hues will come forward, getting back to antique white, caramels, lattes, mochas — very rich colors and very sophisticated."
Sophistication was also on Blake's mind as she shared her color forecast. "Trends for next year will affect the color palettes by infusing basic, native, ethereal and endurable emotions that will move the colors in very subtle degrees to create calmer, softer and sophisticated hues that will revive optimism and our sense of well-being," she said.
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