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Casual trends report
Trend watch 2006


Casual Trends Report

While woven products surged ahead in 2005, other categories following closely behind are expected to make a splash at this month's Casual Show and beyond.

This year is expected to be another big one for wicker and woven designs, due mostly to better product recognition on behalf of consumers. Deep seating and action pieces are still going strong, as traditional pieces make way for transitional and contemporary looks, mostly in darker finishes. Generally speaking, urban, contemporary looks will be the jackpot across furniture designs in 2006, as will recycled, reclaimed and vintage looks, especially in the garden category.

Mixed-media pieces helped lagging wood and iron sales. While cast aluminum still eats into iron sales, many retailers have said deep seating, bar height groups and alternative tabletop have helped keep wrought iron sales alive. Wood proved to be a mixed bag for retailers due to poor sales, distribution disagreements and shipment problems, but like the iron category, mixed-media products, especially a marriage of wood and wicker, have helped keep the category selling. Category trends include larger tables, storage pieces, deep seating and Adirondacks. Many manufacturers plan to expand their wood collections in 2006, rather than introduce brand new lines.

Offerings beyond traditional dining sets were highlighted in 2005. Modular and sectional seating arrangements were touched upon by a couple of manufacturers last year, and are expected to be a mainstay. Accent pieces like those found in Laneventure's At Home in Tuscany Collection and Rock Wood Casual's and Lloyd/Flanders' lines added chutzpah to the outdoor living trend, and will continue to do so moving forward.

Industry leaders have spoken about the lines being blurred between the indoors and outdoors over the last few years, but it has never been more evident. Furniture, rugs, and especially fabrics designed for the outdoors, are actually appealing to homeowners for use not on their decks, patios and sunrooms, but their high-traffic living areas inside the home.

Wall decor from companies like WeatherPrint and RainSafe Images have made an impression, but nothing beats the outdoor rug category as of late. Outdoor rugs are emerging this year like outdoor lighting did a couple of years ago, as many manufacturers expand or add the line to their offering. Tyndall Creek Furniture is just one example, as the company expands its rugs to more than 80 SKUs in Chicago this month. The HammockSource smartly transferred its DuraCord fabric to a line of outdoor rugs as well.

Fabrics this year will continue to wow with ocean hues and red shades in the forefront, but with a softer edge. Black and white is on the horizon as well. Geometric designs may overplay stripes, while tropical themes remain popular. Polka dots are expected to make a comeback, while interior-like fabrics such as chenille and weatherproof leather are introduced.

Pet products have been a success for many home accents stores, and Veneman Collections was right to introduce its Coral Oasis Pet Bed to its 2006 lineup. Though the category may not seem like a sure bet for the casual industry, it doesn't hurt to add pet-friendly product to retail stores for add-on sales.

Brown Jordan International's Harmony turned heads at last year's Casual Show, and the continuation of day bed-styled lounges will be evident. TUUCI will introduce its Bali Lounge at the Casual Show and Terra Furniture will bring its new Chelsea Double Chaise to market.

Trend watch 2006

At the show, buyers were able to see what's around the corner for trends in 2006. Perhaps the most identifiable trend seen in Chicago, across all casual categories, was transitional style. From modular seating arrangements to fabric choices and tabletop designs, attendees were wowed with pieces that could easily move inside the home.

One of the most talked about items this market was Brista Soleil, a faux leather from Ultrafabrics that appeared on furniture in several Chicago showrooms, including Gloster, Laneventure, Woodard and Laurie Bell. The breathable polyuerethane fabric mimics the looks of leather with a distinctive texture.

Also in fabrics, the bold, splashy colors seen over the past two years were more subdued. The jockey red seen in showrooms last year is now shown as brick and pecan. Earth tones still rule across the nation; according to umbrella manufacturer Treasure Garden, top selling colors remain forest green, heather beige, sesame linen and antique beige acrylic. Several manufacturers said stripes are making a comeback.

To make more of an elegant and transitional statement, cords, fringe and tassels were added to pillows, cushions and umbrellas, adding a flirty and feminine touch.

Product categories like outdoor lighting and outdoor rugs, which have come to the surface in the casual industry during the past two years, continue to generate interest on showroom floors.

And forget glass tabletops every vendor was showcasing alternative tops last month. From faux stone and travertine to tile, stained glass, granite, copper and even marble, buyers certainly have a choice.

Outdoor lighting manufacturer Olympia Lighting won a Design Excellence Award for its Shade-A'Lier design, and Fanimation came to the show not only with its ceiling fans, but also to test the waters with a brand new outdoor lighting line. Interior lighting and furniture manufacturer Currey & Company partnered with designer Richard Frinier to bring a high-end outdoor lighting line to the Casual Show. Its Asian-influenced collection will officially launch this month in High Point, N.C., at the International Home Furnishings Market.

Bigger is better this year for casual furnishings. Deep seating, double chaise lounges, daybeds, roomier chairs and extension tables are gaining popularity. Other trends to watch include wicker and woven products; stackable chairs and loungers; action pieces; contemporary design; firepits, and garden accessories.