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Spain when it sizzles

Barcelona, long a leader in home furnishings on the design edge, sadly seems to have slipped somewhat into the design ennui that is so apparent in the United States.

For years, there has been a bevy of specialty retailers showcasing the newest — and the best — that home furnishings designers around the world have to offer. A store-to-store walk along the avenues would be a true fiesta of exciting home furnishings.

Home textiles, among all of the home furnishings products, typically has not been in the vanguard of design. Furniture, tabletop and housewares have been the flagbearers for design leadership.

What a surprise then to find home textiles excitement at El Cortes Ingles — the major department store chain in Spain. Yes; a department store providing home textiles leadership in design and especially assortment.

There was Calvin looking great in its signature minimalism sitting side by side with the bold and beautiful Yves Delorme, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Lencera and Bassols and a half dozen other fashion bedding programs. There was nothing bashful at all about these designs with all their coordinates. And the packaging stepped out, showing consumers how all the pieces worked together, since on-floor presentation is understated at best.

In bath, embellished towels were front and center in the presentation forming the core of the assortment.

And in contrast to what we see in the United States, there was an abundant selection of window coverings — mostly sheers and lightweight fabrics — a situation that was evident in most of the specialty stores in the area as well. Quilts and decorative pillows also were featured more as fashion items rather than as basics or price point focus.

Vincon, the noted home furnishings contemporary design retailer — not just in Spain, but similarly regarded among its peers around the world — stands out as continuing its leadership. And while management some years ago decided that home textiles would be more of an accessory to its other product, it has not abandoned its attitude of fun and whimsy in presentation and merchandise selection.

Throughout the store, color prevailed whether in tabletop, table linens, rugs or furniture. There were the basics, of course, but the mix was clearly skewed to color.

But even more important, the presentations were like magnets, almost defying customers to walk away empty handed.

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