As the year draws to a close, we asked a host of industry insiders what furniture trends we can look forward to.
If one theme unites the furniture trends we will be seeing in the year ahead, it is shifts in the way we live and work. Our desire for an increasingly sustainable way of life, for example, is leading a renewed interest in vintage and antique furniture. Other trends, like furnishings with a playful sensibility and seating that fosters collaboration, seemingly point to a collective desire to make more meaningful connections with our friends and colleagues—and our furniture.
Antique and Traditional Furnishings
Older pieces not only look great but are also an easy way to integrate sustainable products into the home. Experts say consumers will take note in the year ahead. In fact, Sotheby's Home has seen its vintage and antique sales increase by 35% in the last year. Tamara Rosenthal, the company's VP of Marketing, says such an uptick reflects changing attitudes toward the environment and consumption. “People are becoming increasingly mindful of how their shopping habits and daily lives are impacting the environment," she says. "Because of that they are finding ways to curb this impact and be more Eco-friendly.”
The rising popularity indicates a broader return to traditional decor in interiors, adds Anna Brockway, cofounder and president of Chairish. “This trend includes classic shapes; beloved prints from established design houses; landscapes and portraits in substantial frames; wallpaper, tapes, and trims to create rooms that feel exuberant, layered, and full. And yes—traditional brown furniture is part of this too!” she says. Chairish fan favorites include Maison Jansen, Maitland Smith, Piero Fornasetti, Fortuny, and furnishings upholstered in textiles from legacy fabric companies including Scalamandre and Brunschwig.
An added benefit of this trend? These items will likely accrue more value over time.
Playful, Postmodern, and Italian Design
According to Cristina Miller, chief commercial officer of 1stdibs, designers are increasingly incorporating playful, imaginative furniture into their projects, many of them by Postmodern and Italian Radical designers. “We’ve seen increasing engagement on 1stdibs with these pieces, both from browsing and favoriting behavior as well as from our interior design community,” says Miller. “Among the nearly one million items on 1stdibs, we see this trend best not only the New and Custom category from brands like Gufram and Studio Superego, but also in the increasing popularity of vintage designers like Gaetano Pesce and Ettore Sottsass.”
These nostalgic, childlike objects, she believes, offer escapism to a time before the anxieties of contemporary society and politics—and we’ll see a lot more of this trend in the coming year. “Italian designers seem to be doing this best. Both old and new pieces appear conceptual but are actually quite functional,” she adds. “They reference everyday forms—a pair of lips, grass, a foot—and represent them in a new way, making them larger than life. They are future classics and have a strong collectible market.”
According to experts, barstools will no longer be relegated to just kitchens and watering holes; increasingly, we’ll be seeing them on the job. According to Benjamin Pardo, design director of Knoll, higher tabletops are often our visual cue of a transient place—where a person can pull up a stool, get some work done, or have a coffee and move on. “As people spend more time collaborating, moving from seated to standing, working at higher tables and counters, the barstool is increasingly popular because of its inherent versatility,” he says.
As a result, the company has been updating classics to accommodate this trend. In the last two years, Knoll has introduced bar-height versions of icons such as the Bertoia Molded shell chair and the Saarinen Executive and Cesca chairs.
In the last year, the market for collectible design has been growing white-hot. In October, an auction of the personal collection of Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, including Grand Choupette, a zany sculpture of a cabbage with chicken legs, as well as a bronze rabbit, pulled in a whopping $101.5 million.
In the coming year, industry insiders only expect this sector to grow. “I think the market for true collectible contemporary furniture is at its infancy,” insists AD100 designer Ken Fulk. “Currently the secondary market is modest, especially when you compare it with the art market…[but] personally I'd much rather have a Maarten Baas clock or a Studio Drift chandelier than a Picasso.”
Evan Snyderman, cofounder of New York–based R & Company, believes the worlds of fine art, craft, and design are on a collision course. “Over the past century, these have been pulled apart, and I feel that they’re coming back together,” he observes. “Contemporary artists are using traditional mediums like ceramics and fibers, and designers are going into fine art practices, making sculptural furniture objects. It’s very exciting."
Younger generations are particularly taken by collectible design over artwork, especially from emerging designers. “The idea that they can be connected to an artist and an object in a physical way and actually live with it and use it is powerful, and resonates with them,” says Fulk.
Bold Colors, Prints, and Patterns
Katy Polsby, owner and CEO of heritage wallpaper and textile company CW Stockwell, predicts an embrace of patterned and brightly-colored furnishings as we head into 2020. Since the company’s relaunch this past spring, CW Stockwell’s most popular fabric styles have been big, bold, and colorful. “Our Remy fabric in shades of vibrant tangerine and leaf green, Million Flowers in coral, and Martinique in navy have been among our most popular offerings,” she says. Suzanne Tucker, cofounder of San Francisco’s Tucker & Marks Designs, also sees a resurgence of bold patterns and colors, as well as rich textures such as velvets. “People are bored with all those gray interiors,” she says.
“I love that the pendulum has swung towards greater individuality, abandoning the rules of right and wrong,” Tucker adds. “I think that is here to stay.”