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Color Goes Retro

Furniture World Magazine


While it's not a return to burnt orange and avocado shag carpet, the '70s are back... with a '90s twist!

While it's not a return to burnt orange and avocado shag carpet, the '70s are back as consumer home color trends for 1998 go retro with a softer, more elegant '90s twist. According to members of Color Marketing Group (CMG), a 35-year-old, international not-for-profit association of 1,400 color designers that forecast Color Directions® for all industries, earth tones are big again -- especially in the home furnishings market. At the same time, however, even though consumers say they want colors that are soothing and comfortable, they're becoming more playful and daring with color. The goal, it seems, is to achieve color that not only looks good -- it must make the consumer feel good , too.

A CLEANSING PALETTE: Janet Carter, ASID, CMG* an interior designer in Kohler, Wis., and Nathalie Spooner, CMG, research and development manager for South Shore Industries, a Canadian furniture manufacturer, are color specialists in the areas of interior design and product color.

"CMG's 1998 Consumer Color Directions indicate that, in addition to the return of earth-inspired tones, an interest in whiter and brighter hues is evident along with the establishment of deeper, more saturated colors," said Ms. Spooner. "There will also be a continued enhancement of color through special effects. Overall, the color outlook for 1998 is clean and clear with a more pure color approach -- sort of 'pastels with punch.' "

The CMG color experts say furniture retailers should watch for all manner of fresh, natural colors. They also advise dealers to be ready for more demanding customers. "Consumers aren't afraid of color anymore," Carter stated. "People are owning their homes longer, and they're more willing to apply color and design trends. Manufacturers and retailers must, therefore, be willing to respond to consumer attitudes with more innovative, customized approaches."

EASY BEING GREEN: The consumer color palette has actually been yellowing, greening and browning for the past three or four years, according to CMG. Beige and khaki will re-emerge in 1998, while taupe continues to spread up and down the palette, from new and softer earth tones to dark browns. "Beignet," CMG says, is a good example of how a color the shade of a new penny has evolved into a flatter, yellower brown.

Color Marketing Group forecasters also say "Dragonfly," the name given to a bright, medium green with a hint of yellow similar to a dragonfly's iridescent wings, will take off next year and set the tone for how color has evolved over the last 20 years. Other greens that have lived up to CMG's color prophecies -- first forecast back in early 1996 -- include: "Garden Green," a fresh, dark green from nature; "Tarpon Green," a clean, crisp environmental green with a citrus flair; and "Lime Light," created as a lighter and brighter Tarpon Green. These brighter colors, some members advise, are most effective on throw pillows and accessory pieces.

"A comforting combination of familiarity and newness is showing up more and more in furniture throughout the home," added Spooner. "Both light and dark wood finishes -- granddad's dark walnut antique desk next to a new white oak armoire -- may be found in the bedroom or the living room. The den, now more appropriately referred to as the "home office," is likely to take on a more contemporary look utilizing orange and red tints in wood grains."

"We Americans still love dark, deep tones," Carter commented. "The traditional, classic dark green, navy and burgundy are still very popular in urban areas as well as suburbia -- but you'll still find the light, tinted pastels, too."

"Cajun Spice" -- a red that CMG describes as deep and more saturated -- or a cleaner, brighter "Red Zen" are being touted as popular shades for 1998. Even a mid-tone purple labeled "Grape Expectations" is said to have "...a very useable light and clean feel to it."

WE GOT THE BLUES: Americans are becoming more accepting of blue. Once viewed as traditionally European and too conservative for American tastes, blue joins the palette as "Blue Sky" -- a new, lighter blue direction with a Swedish feel that fulfills consumer preferences for a "livable" blue.

Both Carter and Spooner contend that since the economy is strong, consumers are more willing to experiment and embrace new color directions. The two further acknowledge that the telecommunications explosion is directly responsible for consumers being exposed to, and accepting of, new color trends. "A computerized furniture showroom, which can apply virtual color and design to any piece of furniture in a dealer's inventory, has become an essential part of retail furniture sales," said Carter.

KNOWING NOW WHAT WE KNEW THEN: The process by which CMG identifies future color trends involves more than 600 CMG members who convene at semi-annual Conferences. Hundreds of individual color forecasts ultimately become a collective, collaborative consensus of the color directions that products will take two years into the future. Factors that influence color directions can be anything and everything from the economy to the environment to politics and social issues. Even sports and cultural events can have an impact.

The new colors are then introduced as Color Marketing Group's Color Directions Forecast palette. This collaborative effort, which determines how both Consumer and Contract Color Directions are identified, has become an industry standard, due to the palettes' validity, which comes from the broad array of industries and sheer numbers of members' input represented in each forecast.

For those of you who continue to look at the furniture world only through rose-colored glasses, it might be time to change your prescription before you miss what an exciting and colorful year is ahead.

*The "CMG" appellation indicates that the member has earned "Chairholder" status in Color Marketing Group, recognizing their achievement and leadership in the profession of Color Design.

Color Marketing Group, based in Alexandria, VA is an international, not-for-profit association of 1,500 Color Designers. CMG members forecast Color Directions one to three years in advance for all industries, manufactured products and services. Color questions can be directed to CMB care of FURNITURE WORLD at editor@furninfo.com.