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The Cozy Cocoon of Neutrals

April 8, 2011

High Point, N.C. - I think it was last season or even a bit longer that I said I saw the brown family come back into prominence in home textiles.
That was indeed the case in many a showroom this week - starting with predominantly mid-brown furniture finishes to upholstery textiles featured in the full range of this neutral family.
However, since grays are also still very much with us, a distinct mixing of the two is underway with either warmer gray tones or grayer browns. Typically, the results would be a rich cafe au lait taupe or a lighter tone best described as mushroom. Add a touch of green, and you get to khaki or loden.
All of these, of course, lend themselves superbly as the base for men's wear inspired herringbones, glen checks, Prince of Wales plaids and coordinated paisleys. Wool flannels and pinstripes are part of this direction.
Lest you think that High Point was a sea of neutrals without relief - not so. Color accents were assertive, with ruby reds, deep corals, rich golds, emerald greens, saturated Indigo blues and bright yellows all serving to create an exciting and very inviting mix.
Special sumptuousness comes with many new velvets, some of them spiked with silk or linen or both, thereby creating strie effects of deepening dimension, or, when closely napped, a suede-like hand. Some are turned into mini whale corduroys.
Texture is explored in many ways but not as "in your face" as seen in previous markets. The results are not as obvious, subtler, fresher looking, and modernized by stylization of motifs, such as damasks which look newly graphic.
At the very high end, i.e. Baker and Hickory Chair, among others, a new emphasis is on craftsmanship, sometimes expressed with fine interior detailing of furniture pieces, such as by Barbara Barry, who meticulously finished lacquered interiors and used finely crafted hardware inside just as carefully selected as such elements used on exterior surfaces.
Another, distinct trend leaning toward craft has emerged in other lines, such as Bill Sofield's, which makes inventive use of Danish cord and leather lacings.
At Hickory Chair, the handling of ash grain on new pieces stands out. Depending on the way the wood is cut, you get either a full grain representation as with the cathedral cut, or, socalled cortison (cross) cutting of the grain creates a striped effect which can further be creatively used in a reverse grain pattern.
When wire brushed and rubbed with dust which settles into the wood pores, you get some wonderfully exciting wood textures. Here, at Hickory Chair, ash is offered in two finishes, Mineral, a light gray and ebony, a dark grayed
tone. When mixed on one of the same piece, the effect is dramatically beautiful.