Always a staple in the home fashion market, contemporary design has begun its move to the forefront. In fact, contemporary has become the fastest-growing style category, with its influence spreading across several other style categories. For example, traditional is becoming cleaner, morphing into transitional or modern, while rustic is gravitating toward a constructivist influence (the Dwell magazine look).
While in the past 20 years or so, contemporary has accounted for a minimal 10 percent of market share, today its influence is affecting all products and merchandising. It is estimated that contemporary currently represents as much as 38 percent of total market and display. Even if you are not yet seeing this much contemporary in your region, it is no doubt emerging.
Knowing that contemporary is on the rise, now is a good time to re-examine your display and merchandising mix. Go into your display area and count how many looks you are showing. No matter what the mix, it’s important to realize that contemporary influence is a national trend, affecting products and design from North to South and East to West. Consumers will be seeing more and more of it in advertising, merchandising, magazines and furnishings. For that reason, you will need more in your showroom to inspire them.
If you’re unsure, read on. You might come to discover that contemporary goes beyond its typical “space age” definition. There are a number of ways it can be interpreted and fit into an existing showroom lineup.
Where and Why
The days of cold, sterile contemporary are gone. Today’s contemporary encompasses a broad range of looks, from cool and sleek to warm and inviting.
Casual, which once focused only on cottage or mountain retreat looks, has expanded thanks to contemporary style. While these looks are still relevant and important, especially regionally, the latest casual looks include simple line, bold shape, form motifs and brighter colors. An example is Ty Pennington’s new bedding collection at Sears.
Contemporary is regularly seen in a number of different product categories, merchandising and product packaging. One example is the spa influence – clean and crisp, but soft. By now everyone recognizes Target’s clean bullseye logo and uncluttered, dotty advertising. You guessed it: Contemporary.
Kitchen and bath products, such as KraftMaid’s new clean-lined, Euro-styled Venicia cabinetry and Kohler’s new Purist products, reflect a contemporary influence. Both are investments in cleaner, simpler lines.
It is important to remember that while manufacturers are the ones that make the products, they alone cannot drive the growth of any given trend. This essential role is left to the consumer. In today’s era of multimedia resources and education, there are more outlets than ever from which consumers can glean ideas – specialty television programs, commercials, lifestyle magazines and the Internet. The result is a cross-pollination of ideas and personal tastes. In other words, we may live in a bubble of regional uniqueness, but new ideas, materials and options from the outside have burst this bubble. And, best of all, ideas previously available only in higher-end venues are now available to all at the click of a mouse.
Another completely different reason contributing to the increased interest in contemporary is the recent trend toward over-saturation of detail. Consumers are starting to tire of the laborious, busy looks that have been so popular for the past 10 to 15 years. They are beginning to crave the exact opposite: Clean, simple, modern looks and details.
Finally, demographics come into play. Generation Y and Boomer buyers are searching for cleaner looks, smaller-scale products and new-home solutions. Typically, second homes permit Boomer buyers to explore a completely different style than they have in their primary homes (see related story, Page 66). With simpler, cleaner lines and less detail, contemporary design leaves less to keep in order, also a bonus for second homes.