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Hearth & Home July 2015

Today 2015

By Richard Wright

For the fifth year, Maxine Lauer, CEO of Sphere Trending, shares her (painstakingly acquired) knowledge of trends that are affecting your business.
Maxine Lauer.

Whether you’re a retailer, distributor, rep or manufacturer, trends are constantly affecting your life and business. As members of the hearth, patio and barbecue community, housing, in general, may have the greatest impact on your life and business, and thus is an area that bears watching.

Where is the activity right now? Is it in new construction or previously-owned homes? Is the square footage increasing or decreasing? What styles are in demand? Is it Craftsman, Colonial, Traditional, Contemporary, or something else?

Which colors are currently in vogue, and in what shades? On which products are they being used? What textures are currently trending, and on what materials? If you’re involved with hearth products, should you stay with a traditional design, or move more toward contemporary?

If you’re in the barbecue/grill field, has stainless steel run its course? If so, what will replace it? If you’re in the patio arena, you already know the importance of decisions you make in choosing fabrics for the coming season.

Those decisions are key.

Chances are that your knowledge of these trends is quite limited. You may rely on information from your manufacturers (whose knowledge of such areas may be next to zero), or on your own understanding of the colors of cars or fashion, or the ages of your customers and their product selections. But, truth be told, you may be just plain guessing at what will sell and what will not.

That’s when and where Maxine Lauer and her very talented crew step in. Their job, you see, is tracking trends, and those trends are constantly evolving (isn’t everything these days?). Lauer and her crew attend about 40 trade shows a year, and visit 10 cities where they drill down into neighborhoods, retail shops, and homes/new construction; those shows and cities, by the way, are in various countries. They also have 400 subscriptions that include services, magazines, research, housing reports, etc.

In the following pages, she will update some of the 2015 trends that are relevant to Hearth & Home readers, as well as forecast what will be relevant in 2016.

While she touches on housing trends, her main focus in this article is on colors and textures, which is precisely what retailers heading to Chicago in July really need.

Housing, Outdoor Rooms, Millennials

Hearth & Home: What can you tell us about housing trends right now? Starts appear to be lagging, and in general housing is functioning below expectations.

Maxine Lauer: “The hope was that housing starts would come in at 912,000 this year, but I think they’re going to come in at about 820,000, with luck. What’s happening is that existing home sales are at 5.25 million. The action is there. That’s up seven percent from last year.

“That’s partially because there’s a whole new entry-level buyer who is 29 years old and they don’t have the money to buy a lot of the new houses, and many of them don’t want a new house. They prefer an older home with character, but they are buying at about 1,500 to 1,600 sq. ft. They’re not buying big homes; that’s the big difference.

“These younger buyers have delayed income (due to the downturn). But they are buying smaller homes. They are remodeling. Remodeling is supposed to be about $300 billion this year, and that’s up from last year, but less than where we were prior to the recession. Actually, we shouldn’t be back to where we were because where we were before the recession is what got us into trouble. Right now, people are trying to save more, spend less and be practical, and they are trying to buy more practical homes.

“There’s also something else happening with housing demand. Four out of 10 marriages are remarriages, and the age of that homebuyer is a little bit older, plus they have different needs now. They need more bathrooms. They need more bedrooms. It’s his kids, her kids. So they need a lot more stuff, and they have different space needs than typical first-time buyers.

“Another factor is that singles rule the roost in America today; fifty-one percent of our population is single. The single female and the single male may be buying a home, but not buying a big home. It may be in the 1,500 to 1,600 sq. ft. range. There are many new dynamics in the housing market that are changing the thought behind owning, purchasing and living in a home.”

We’ve noticed that major national builders are offering Outdoor Rooms for the first time, either as an actual part of the package they put together, or as an option at a certain level. Have you picked up on that too? Is that a major trend?

Lauer: “Yeah. That’s really critical. The demand for front porches is also up, and they are leading the way as an Outdoor Room. People don’t think of it as an Outdoor Room, but they are decorating it like an Outdoor Room. That’s the difference. It’s not two chairs and a table anymore.

A small, yet comfortable, Outdoor Room.

“So there are a couple of dynamics. Yes, builders are specking in Outdoor Rooms, but they are changing based on space and land costs. It’s not the typical Outdoor Room that we had five years ago. It’s becoming a little bit smaller, which is not always a good thing.

“People just can’t afford these big spaces. We are in a very practical phase for homes right now, and people are saying, ‘What do I need to satisfy my needs?’ They may not even desire that bigger space, for maintenance reasons or for cost reasons, but we’re seeing them come down.

“Of course, in Florida they are huge and always will be, but right now you’ve got a small lanai coming with your home, but if you want it a little bit bigger we’ll build you one if the land is there to do it. It’s just going to cost you more. There are different ways people are going about getting an Outdoor Room.

“A builder outside of Seattle – Main View Homes – has an Outdoor Room inside the house, which is a totally new concept. Walk into the home and the living room is on your right. Go halfway in and the Outdoor Room is just into the home in the middle surrounded by screen and glass. The kitchen is in one corner and the dining room faces the other side of the Outdoor Room that has really been injected into the middle of the house, complete with fireplace, but screened in all the way around because there is no land.

“You can’t tell the difference between the indoor and the Outdoor Room. It’s just glass and beauty and you see that outdoor space from every room in the house. The Outdoor Room is as important as ever. It’s just changing. D. R. Horton is putting their Outdoor Rooms on the roofs in Las Vegas.

“There’s not a lot of room for irrigation, green spaces and yards because of the water shortage. Plus the price of land has gone up so they’re putting them on top of the roof complete with fireplace and open-air view of the city. There is so much new news in outdoor spaces integrated into new environments; that’s where the trend is.

“The luxury market is doing well. It’s the pool; it’s the outdoor kitchen, the fireplace. In the world of the masses, we’re seeing it play practical; in the world of luxury, we’re seeing it play big.”

It used to be that a fireplace cost $7,000 or $8,000 installed, then it jumped to $12,000 or so. Now, manufacturers are selling fireplaces for $70,000 or $80,000; one recently was installed for $150,000.
Are there any other trends you would like to discuss before we move into the main event?

Lauer: “Well, the Millennials, or Gen Y, are starting to buy homes at a little bit higher rates. That’s a good thing. Their income is dictating what kind of home they buy, but it’s nice to see. During the downturn, they delayed everything. They delayed incomes. They delayed buying that first home. They were living at their parents’ home longer.

“When we talked last year, the average age of the home buyer was 31 for that generation. Today it’s 29, so it’s coming down; they are finally starting to enter the housing market. That’s 87 million really new consumers, because they just don’t buy the same way as their predecessors. They are not looking for the same things. They are living in different places.

“They typically live in urban environments until they have kids, then they move out to the suburbs if the schools aren’t great. They’re going from an urban view and then all of a sudden they have a suburban view. So they are very much about adapting and change, but it’s nice that they are finally starting to enter the housing market in a bigger way. That is very encouraging news for next year.

“Once they have kids they may move out of the city, but within easy reach of it. We call it Rings of the City, and it’s made possible by all the light rail systems that are going up, and all the building going up around them, and restorations of older buildings. It’s awesome.”

Colors, Finishes, Textures 2015

“Now, this is going to be a surprise for you, because everybody thinks the younger generation is modern, hip, cool and urban. Well, we’re seeing them move a little to traditional. So how cool is that? It’s traditional with a twist. It’s kind of modern traditional.

“The younger generation loves character and history in a home. Being authentic to the style of the home is really important to them, probably more so than other generations in the past. So Historic District is a traditional take on an historic, modern approach.

“Globally, we have the Neo Nomads, still part of the eclectic mix of the trend and very global in style. There’s lots of mixed inspiration here.

Structure is next, which is the modern look. You see the home on the picture on the lower left. One style of architecture is called Shed Design. I hate the name, but it’s taken from an original old shed. Architects are using this as a very, very important style going forward.

Rumba Rhythm is your fun, cool color – let’s rock the floor with some really vibrant color. Picket Fence is a vintage approach for design.”

Historic District

“Historic District is very classic. It’s traditional, authentic, with lots of black forged-iron finishes. We’re seeing the return to porches, courtyards and entryways. When we talk about what’s happening to the Outdoor Room, those homes in Las Vegas that we mentioned before have patios on the roofs and little hardscaped courtyards as you enter; they’re from D.R. Horton. They are not green spaces, because there is no yard, but they are very much a courtyard entry with a patio on the roof.

“Here we have outdoor fireplaces, and a really wonderful red that we’re using with this category. You’ve got this red/black/gray going on and some blues and neutrals touching it a little bit. Some black finishes have brown underneath, but definitely the black is on top so it gives it a little bit more of a deeper, richer look.

“We are seeing faux wood. We’re seeing light walnut continuing, and mahogany or faux mahogany for outdoors. We’re seeing a new, lighter, modern wood for burl and champagne, and stainless accents in decorative accessories. There are accents of antique silver. The rose copper accents continue.

“There’s a lot of smoky quartz on the tabletops. Marble is still a big, big player this season. Herringbone, and the masculine look is part of this trend. Scrolls are superb and sell well. There’s looped detailing, barley twists for legs and accents, stacked spindles. The big deal is still the wingback chair, and everybody is doing it. They have been doing it, but now it’s a little more notched. It’s a little more curved. It’s got a little bit more of a menswear, tailored, modern approach to it.

“We’re still seeing hexagon tile shapes for tabletops. Lots of tufting going on, arches, iron accents. The color story is really this red. It is really red with a bit of a modern touch to it. The florals are a bit more modern. You can use just simple red/gray/black and stripes, or you can use – even on a large scale – a five-star damask and give it a new approach.

“The new news for this season is the thistle motif being used for design. The cabana stripes are back and they are large in size, medium to large in scale depending on the size of the furniture, but these very classic stripes are back. Damask takes on a bit of a newer look, with modern touches and a striped effect – kind of worn and distressed damask, like the Restoration Hardware look.”

Neo Nomad

“The Neo-Nomad trend is very modern and global, and attractive primarily to the Gen X consumers. It’s really influences from Africa with some other additions. There are wonderful African geometrics and abstracts going on, and wonderful curved, flowing forms. There’s lots of natural stone in this look. Exposed beams are an important part of this trend, and it is happening outdoors and indoors, more beams are being used as architectural elements.

“Earth, fire, water all combine together. The whole fire thing is as hot as ever. Simple geometry is carried throughout the interiors and exteriors. Beautiful hand-forged, hand-crafted metals are strong here, and textured wicker.

‘We’ve got a couple of color stories going on here. One is a beautiful teal with high contrast against black and white with some accent colors. Or there is a beautiful gold and yellow approach. Finishes are very rustic and earthy, with copper accents. Faux teak is still a big player. Bold curves. Rounded angles. Sea grass continues to be in the forefront of woven. Metals that are grooved and concentric circles, that very hand crafted look and very hand carved. This is a beautiful artisan approach to design.

“Black wicker makes a bit of an update with a semi-gloss finish. Cane is seen on a more modern, open scale. Subtle patterns against this kind of bold look is very important. The weaves are geometric. There are lots of African solid angles and curves. Faux bone and resin are being used together. Now we’re bleaching the teak, or charring the teak. Some of the teak that is real is coming in as charred because they were burning down some of the forests in the Amazon. Now they are actually charring it to make it look like that. Tiles are exotic and beautiful. There are tribal geometric patterns on tile.

“Teal is one of the main colors going forward. The key is the combinations made with it. There is a beautiful yellow/gray black story where we are using the grays and the yellows together this season. They will change a bit for next season. There’s texture, texture, texture over stripes. Tribal aspects paint the perfect picture, whether using high contrast earth tones against blacks, and whites and teal give it a great new look.”


“Structure is modern, but also modern craftsmen, modern prairie, very authentic styles. The Shed Design brings together mid-century Modern and Craftsman styles. This is really a city look. There’s lots of clean, geometric, modern lines. It’s very architectural. Outdoor areas have a minimal visual barrier, so you can really see your space from the inside to the outside.

“This is really a blue/neutral story. So you can take denim, dark denim, light denim and put it together as a neutral. There are matte black finishes here, along with oxidized stainless. The slate finish, which combines the brown and the gray, is a great new finish for the season.

“Oxidized acid wash looks in finishes are really important here. There still are darker, earthy browns not going away. Here we see the searing of wood. This blackening of wood being done in different techniques is really important for this hand crafted new approach in wood. Just using the end cuts of wood as a design element is popular. Then there’s the reclaimed approach for wood, and even creating the faux reclaimed look.

“There are very modern approaches in furniture, that clean-cut Craftsman look. Wood and metal together add a bit of the industrial look and is still holding up and is still refined. It’s not a heavy industrial as we had several seasons ago, but it’s still a light industrial mix.

“Concrete gets lighter and has more uses every year, or just replicating the look of concrete. Corrugated surfaces are even on some of the islands in the kitchens, adding that industrial Craftsman look. There’s lots of open lighting spaces. Simple, sleek, easy, crafted framework and design details with light industrial touches are continuing.

“This is a blue story. You can use any of the denims you want, medium, light and dark all together and layer them up. Add a neutral or layer them up with themselves. Patterns tend to be a bit linear, a little more Craftsman, with a masculine approach. We see weathered approaches to florals and leaves so they are very distressed and aged.

“Chevrons really continue, but they should be changing up. Some of them are highly colored, but we are going to very neutrals or they are breaking that chevron so that it is deconstructed. Stripes are a little blurry, a little bit touched by a blurred look.”

Rumba Rhythms

“This is very fun, very colorful, with lots of pops of color and sway and very optimistic that things are better in the country. It’s influenced from South America, and is modern cool, very much a Latin American approach for this season. There are very bold pattern marks, very bright tiles, tropical foliage with modern interpretations. We see small spaces, very relaxing and intimate, but colorful.

“There’s a lot of rhythmic motion going on outdoors, whether it’s in tile or landscaping. It’s very textural, dimensional, with fun color weaves, and used for contrast against nature to really make a statement. Once again, the blue story keeps coming on stronger and stronger each season, and it is happening in a lot of the different trends. It’s going to remain for a few years more.

“Surface texture is exaggerated. A lot of bold contrast patterns, color splashes. That very bright green leads the way, but is combined with blue, so it’s a blue/green kind of neutral story. Cappuccino cream is seen for finishes, with the finishes continuing to lighten, and we still have a sangria brown, but it’s a newer brown.

“There are accents with textural gold. Gold and silver are being used for accenting. The brass is not going to go away anytime soon. It’s going to last quite a while in accent pieces. We also see exaggerated, exotic wood grains, with very beautiful, deep lines.

“There’s a lot of texture and fun, fun color playing here for accent products, also dimensional basket weaves and exaggerated shapes and forms, open, airy kind of woven loom weaves or woven applications. There’s still a lot of textural fabrics for the base cloth, and exaggerated tufting.

“We see wrapped detailing, wrapped arms and backs. Little pops of color in unexpected places. Shell and pearl, or faux shell and pearl, are being used together, really making beautiful tables. Circular elements continue, giving everything a sense of movement. We see reinvented rockers that bring back rockers of old, but with a new, modern twist of color.

“Mojito lime is one of the key greens, but this is a green/blue story in particular. This season you’re going to see more layered greens than next season. It’s tropical, it’s modern, it’s a fun kind of movement in even the stripes. Tropical birds are still there this season, really bright tropical approaches to florals.”

Picket Fence

“This is really a vintage cottage approach, but it has a very feminine touch to it. Look at simple American cottage style and you’ll find it’s very simple. It’s a very practical design. Regarding outdoor living spaces, we are seeing double-ups. This is happening in new home construction, or in two-level housing. But it’s where they are putting the Outdoor Room off the master suite and then, right below it, the patio room for the rest of the house.

“Even though the space for the Outdoor Room may be getting a little smaller due to being more practical, now you’ve got two spaces. That’s another big trend for Outdoor Rooms.

“Gingham is part of the Picket Fence trend. You’ll notice Ikea outdoor this year used gingham in a big way, in black and white. Colors pop up adding femininity to this trend. An open plan is still the desire for everybody. Even in remodels they are tearing down walls, putting in support and I-beams, just to get an open plan. We’re still seeing outdoor sling settees. It’s a very kitchy feminine approach to design.

“We’ve got a couple of stories going on here. There’s another beautiful red story, but it’s with green and aqua that is so beautiful, and then there’s a yellow story. White provides a lot of contrast, and there’s a faux weathered oak finish. This is a really important finish for furniture. It’s the key finish as browns continue to lighten up.

“There’s a washed zinc with a lighter approach than the darker zinc from last season. Pearl white onyx is being used for accenting. Filigree continues here, very feminine. There’s a pastel boucle for texture and weaves. Lighting is an important part of this trend – embossing florals and leaves and nature’s textures. Birdcage affects are used for lighting.

“Grasses and sea grass are important here as well. There are new weaves for wicker that give you a striped effect. It’s a really kitchy kind of red story, but it’s this red/aqua/green for the season, which has really been a new story.

“Yellow continues for this season as well, but it’s yellow/green/aqua instead of the red, so it’s using the yellow with the aqua/green or using the yellow toned down by itself with simple white and gray. A lot of delicate pattern work is going on in this trend. Some feminine nature approaches of vines that look like they’re growing. That’s a glimpse of 2015.”

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Moving Forward!

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Pioneers in Design

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Tomorrow 2016

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Niche Player

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By Charles Vernon

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2015 May Business Climate

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