Two good chairs from Las Vegas

Two chairs were named winners in the third annual “One Good Chair” competition, sponsored by World Market Center Las Vegas and the Sustainable Furnishings Council. An awards ceremony was held Jan. 26 at World Market Center.

Eric Tong and his Zpine chair
Eric Tong’s Zpine chair received the grand prize and Juan Mercado’s RE_Flex chair won in the People’s Choice category.

The grand prize winner, Tong, from London, England, created his chair using a honeycomb core (also known as “cellular structure”). The piece converts seamlessly between a chair and a chaise, collapsing with ease. Tong said he chose honeycomb for its magnificent strength-to-weight ratio and because it’s inexpensive, sustainable and biodegradable. He received a $4,500 cash prize that he says he will apply towards the manufacturing and marketing of the chair.

Juan Mercado and his RE_FLEX chair
Juan Mercado of Jackson, Mich.,  created his chair from a standard 4-by-8-inch wood sheet. The chair can be used as a sleek modern desk chair or a comfortable reading/rocking chair, depending on the owner’s mood. Its design is simple yet sophisticated, and requires minimal packaging and space for shipping.

The goals of the competition revolved around minimizing material, production, shipping and assembly while maximizing comfort, utility, durability and beauty. Sustainable Furnishings Council members, including The Phillips Collection and Handy Living, created prototypes of some of the finalists’ designs. More than 360 participants submitted entries in the competition, representing both professional and amateur designers. Five finalists mastered the seeming paradoxical challenge of celebrating abundance while doing more with less.

The final jury included television host, writer and producer Sarah Backhouse of “Planet 100” on the Discovery Network’s Planet Green, Shashi Caan of Shashi Caan Collective, Kira Gould, director of communications with William McDonough + Partners and Zem Joaquin, founder and CEO of ecofabulous, the online source for the “well-lived eco-life.” The jury selected the grand prize, or “Judges’ Choice” winner, while the public voted for People’s Choice.

Other finalists for the competition include the following:
  • Helena Bueno, Brazil, Broom Chair: This simple yet whimsical chair is made from nine sticks of birch wood that fit easily into a bright plastic seat. It’s playful, yet remarkably efficient to mount and collapse—all of the sticks can be removed and requires no glue, nails, screws or metal components.
  • Tom Fereday, Australia, Allt Chair: This linear-framed chair is reminiscent of classic handcrafted Danish furniture, with a mesh and fastening system that are 100 percent contemporary. Made from recyclable birch plywood and stainless steel components, the chair uses non-permanent fasteners and can easily be disassembled, reducing its environmental footprint on a number of levels, from beginning to end.
  • Klaus Peter Berkemeyer, Germany, ELXE: Elegance meets functionality in the ELXE. The backrest and seat are made of two molded wooden shelves, which merge with two wooden legs that also form the armrests. With two light front legs of stainless steel, ELXE can be dismantled into just four components for easy moving or storage.

Urban Expo buys Smoky Mountain Gift Show

press release

Urban Expositions announces the acquisition of The Smoky Mountain Gift Show ® held annually at the Gatlinburg Convention Center in Tennessee. Assuming all ownership and management duties from founding management company, The Smoky Mountain Gift Show, Inc., the Urban Expositions team plans to build upon the tradition of success that has defined this souvenir/gift show throughout its 45-plus year history .

"It is an honor and a privilege to take over the reins of an event that has been such an important mainstay in the souvenir industry," says Doug Miller, president, Urban Expositions. "Over the years, the Smoky Mountain Gift Show Inc. management has cultivated a show with a solid reputation not just for the amount of business that is done, but for the networking aspect that takes place in this beautiful mountain setting. We look forward to further strengthening the show's position as the premier souvenir and gift resource in the Eastern United States."

"Sharing many of the same long-term relationships with buyers and vendors in the industry, the transition of The Smoky Mountain Gift Show into the professional hands of Urban Expositions is a natural fit," says Eva Havlicek, president, The Smoky Mountain Gift Show Inc. "As owners who have spent over 35 years building what The Wall Street Journal referred to as 'the crown jewel ' of the souvenir industry, JR and I look forward to enjoying retirement, while taking comfort in that The Smoky Mountain Gift Show will continue to build its legacy of quality under very capable hands."

Held at the Gatlinburg Convention Center complex in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg -- the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park -- the show site is surrounded by hotels, gift shops, popular locally owned restaurants, nightspots and boutiques, not to mention stunning mountain vistas. The ambiance of this convenient, cost-effective setting comes together with an unrivaled product selection from the top names and innovative newcomers in the souvenir/resort industry to attract retailers from throughout the country.

"This acquisition also adds a strategic eastern region presence to our growing souvenir/resort gift show portfolio," adds Miller. "Our Las Vegas show now serves a national buying audience; our Myrtle Beach show caters to the east's coastal and shore retailers; and the Smoky Mountain show is designed for the specialized buying needs of lake, lodge, mountain, souvenir/gift, zoo, aquarium and amusement shop retailers. These events, as well as many of our other regional shows and The Gathering, our invitation-only souvenir buying event, have helped us build strong relationships and a keen understanding of the specialized needs of this industry's buyers and exhibitors alike. We plan to meet with industry leaders to assist us in further strengthening The Smoky Mountain Gift Show. "

The first edition under Urban Expositions management will be the November 4-7, 2011 show. Among the highlights will be a series of upgraded buyer and exhibitor services, as well as new marketing initiatives.

Exhibitor booth sales efforts will be led by Donna Guess, vice president, Urban Expositions (800.318.2238, ext 327 | dguess[at] ), Lisa Glosson, sales director, Urban Expositions (800.318.2238, ext 334 | lglosson[at] and David Gilfoyle, sales manager, Urban Expositions (800.318.2238, ext. 231 | dgilfoyle[at]

For exhibitor, buyer or other information on The Smoky Mountain Gift Show, contact Urban Expositions, 1690 Roberts Blvd, Ste 111, Kennesaw, GA 30144, 800.318.2238 or 678.285.3976, or email: info[at]

2011 home decor style trends

(The following is based on an article I wrote for Imax Worldwide Home. Read the entire blog post there, which is illustrated with photos of home decor.)

Consumer spending is pointing to an improving economy. Retail sales have risen for six months in a row. In fact, they were up 6.7% in 2010, the best gain in more than a decade. Retailers are shopping the winter markets with a little more cash in their pockets. Here are four home decor trends to keep in mind as you buy for 2011.
Bright and Happy. Perhaps consumers are feeling a little bit more confident about their finances or they are simply tired of economizing. They are ready to perk up their homes. Look for bright colors in home decor. Brights can be matched with grays and neutrals for a stunning effect. Pantone's 2011 color of the year is Honeysuckle, a reddish pink. 

Clean and Coastal. Wherever you are in the United States, you aren't far from water. Oceans, lakes (Great and small) and rivers inspire home decor. Design influences range from yachts to rowboats. Look for nautical blue cushions trimmed with white piping. Seashells appear furniture, wall decor and lamps, and they are used alone as decorative accents in their own right.  
Affordable Luxe. The look says luxury but the price point says otherwise This is the style for the shopper who likes to celebrate special occasions in her home. At market, watch for furniture with mirrored surfaces. On decorative accessories, take note of mirrors accenting photo frames and decorative boxes. 
Warm and Welcoming.  We have trimmed our dining-out budgets and become accustomed to home entertaining. But now it’s time for an upgrade. Whether it's a formal dinner party, a wine-tasting get-together or a simple drop-in for a cup of coffee, hostesses seek to change out their current dinnerware for something new. Blue is a strong color on the table this year. 

Use the momentum of rising retail sales to retain your customer base and to bring in new shoppers. Position yourself as the "go-to" retailer of fashion-forward home furnishings and gifts.

Tote bag for apparel

The Green Garmento, filled with drycleaning

The Green Garmento is like a reusable bag for groceries, except that it is for clothes. It eliminates the drycleaning bag. At home, the bag serves as a hamper. Then it becomes a tote bag for the trip to the drycleaner. On the return trip to pick up clothes, the Green Garmento is a garment bag.

As a laundry hamper
The bag is available online now at the company's website and will be launched nationally at the International Housewares Show in March. The product is endorsed by Mike “The Situation” Sorentino of "Jersey Shore." He lives by the motto “GTL” (gym/tan/laundry). The Green Garmento says GTL can also mean “Green The Laundry.”
Filled with dirty clothes, on the way to the drycleaner's

Wall-hung mirrors in custom colors, finishes

The Howard Elliott Collection offers a selection of decorative mirrors, accessories and alternative wall art. The company can provide custom designs and finishes for retailers, designers and hospitality clients. See the company at the Las Vegas market. 

5 new bedding ensembles

Outdoor apparel manufacturer Woolrich Inc. has added textile manufacturer JLA Home to its growing lineup of home furnishings licensing partners. Planned introductions will include a total of five bedding ensembles. Queen sets will include a filled duvet, adjustable bed skirt, two Euro shams, and two standard shams. Decorative throws, themed pillows, and sheets will also be available separately, and will provide a variety of custom looks.

The JLA product line is designed to complement Woolrich’s existing brand partners and their products, which include: Lynn Haney Collection (handcrafted Santas); Mohawk Home (floor coverings); Picture Source (wall art); Rowe Pottery Works (handcrafted pottery and garden décor); Shadow Mountain (home furnishings); Shady Lady (handcrafted lighting and accessories); and Whitecraft (indoor and outdoor furniture).

Stylish placemats, coasters, table linens

Engineered Squares

Faux bois in birch

Faux Bois (meaning fake wood) is a new design for the rectangular placemats from Chilewich. The patterns are available in three digitally printed simulated wood grains: Birch, Driftwood, and Walnut. The table linens are durable, washable and suitable for indoors and out. The company also carries coasters and floor mats. See it at the New York International Gift Fair.

Faux bois in driftwood

Furniture from reclaimed wood

TerraSur uses reclaimed railroad ties (called sleepers) from Argentina to craft its furniture. The Durmiente Console (detail at left and below) is offered in two lengths, 80 inches and 68 inches. It is 10 inches deep and 32 inches high.
TerraSur’s factory in Argentina is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain-of-custody certified by the SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance (COC # 001206). TerraSur is also a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council.
The Atame hand-woven leather bed (below) blends two design trends-- Rustic and Old World -- and can fit comfortably in either one. The solid wood frame is sleek and sophisticated, but the heart of the bed is the headboard. Leather straps are hand woven into a tapestry of symmetrical lines to create a headboard that is as contemporary as it is Rustic and Old World.

Furnishings bring color to the home

Colorful furniture, area rugs, bedding and pillows from Company C will be shown at the New York International Gift Fair. The company uses silk, velvet, high-twist yarn, robust wool, embroidery and beads. Find out more about Company C on its blog.

Luxury placemats, table linens, napkins

Kim Seybert offers a line of colorful and fashionable table linens made with linen, cotton, silk and beads. The company also carries stemware and bar accessories, and bathroom sets (including soap pumps, trays, tumblers, tissue boxes and toothbrush holders).

Mexican artist Karla d’Lara to show in Las Vegas

One hundred and fifty works by Mexican artist Karla d’Lara will be shown in the Phillips Collection showroom (suite A202) at the World Market Center, Las Vegas. d'Kara has created sculptures, tables and accessories for 2011.

Furniture trends, as seen from Germany

imm cologne + LivingKitchen runs from Jan. 18 to 23 in Cologne, Germany. The following report on furniture and home decor trends was prepared by the Association of the German Furniture Industries (Verband der Deutschen Möbelindustrie e.V.)

Traditionally, a considerable portion of furniture sales is generated in winter. Considering the harsh weather we're experiencing this time round, that seems perfectly understandable. What better place to be than your own four walls when it's raining, snowing or blowing a storm and anything but pleasant outside. The less hospitable the weather, the more important it is to feel nice and snug in your own home - a totally consistent logic that was practised by our ancestors before us and is by no means uncommon in the animal kingdom. Hibernating means scrutinising everything again, noticing the greying walls and old furniture - reason enough to brave the foul weather and take a trip to the furniture store. When it comes to design and tastes, today's consumers enjoy an incredible degree of freedom. The products available from the German and international furniture industry have liberated themselves from doctrines and standardisation.

This is giving rise to an increasingly pronounced interior style that we call "new German Gemütlichkeit". Its character reconciles the cool with the playful - a development encouraged by the fact that people want their homes to be a demonstration of their multifaceted personalities. In the current and coming season, this tendency is being aided and abetted by the "pimp my home" mindset. Revamping one's own four walls isn't just chic, thanks to the varied and versatile possibilities it's in as well. In the past a cuckoo clock was the only option, these days it is just one of 30 different clock variants. In furniture retail, the "peripheral" areas of interior design are playing an increasingly important role. A never-before-seen variety of cushions, wallpapers, accessories and carpets are providing energetic support for the "pimping" trend. Which is why the imm cologne 2011 will be showing an increasing number of products from the vast category of "decorative accessories and
fixtures". Nevertheless, furniture is and always will be the true hero of interior design.

The home is becoming the focal point of our social lives

One thing is certain: people's homes are becoming increasingly important to them. Today we spend around 90 percent of our time indoors. New studies show that the home is evolving into the focal point of our social lives and increasingly replacing visits to pubs or restaurants. Communication tools like smartphones, netbooks and tablet computers are of course contributing to the trend to retreat within ones own four walls as well. But without personal contacts, without visits from friends who come to share a delicious meal or watch the football match, life simply isn't complete. And if you're going to spend that much time at home, you want a habitat that's good for the soul.

Watch a video produced by imm-cologne

New products and trends for 2011

As in previous years, the Association of the German Furniture Industries (Verband der Deutschen Möbelindustrie) conducted a trend survey amongst exhibitors in the run-up to the imm cologne 2011. The most important trends and tendencies in furniture and interior design for the new 2011 season are described below.

Sustainability via resource efficiency
In principle, good design and good quality are the top priority for any new piece of furniture. Both factors are entrance tickets for the market. "Sustainability" is becoming an increasingly important component of the quality factor. There is a growing demand for solid wood furniture, and furniture sales staff are increasingly likely to be asked which materials have been used to make a certain piece. People are becoming increasingly sensitive in their approach to resources. The industry is coming up with more and more material mixes that can be separated into mono-materials at the end of their lifecycle. This consumer attitude is rooted in the health issue. It thus comes as no surprise that material honesty is playing an ever more important role in furniture construction. People's understanding of health is becoming increasingly holistic. Despite or perhaps precisely because of the way our civilisation is progressing, we are realising that wellbeing depends on both body and
soul. People are seeking organic options in the food sector, nature in their leisure activities and sustainability in consumer goods. We are at the outset of a major green line craze.

Upholstered furniture is getting smaller again. But the functions are here to stay. Folding a certain element down and changing the original purpose isn't just fun, it makes good sense too. The collections still feature big sectional seating arrangements too, of course, but the industry is aiming to cater to people with less space available to them as well. For the most part, that means smaller single-person households and export markets - particularly countries with less living space per capita, like China and Japan.

Wall units are standard. Individually configurable highboards, lowboards or display cabinets can provide the right option for every taste and are the preferred location for flatscreen televisions. As a result, contemporary wall units tend to be slender so as to enhance the impression of spaciousness.


White will remain the megatrend colour for furniture. White can be combined with any other colour and is reticent, almost neutral. In the face of so much white, expressive plain colours are being used to create accentuation in the form of scatter cushions, accessories or walls painted in powerful hues. The retro patterns currently available from wallpaper designers or other colourful designs are an equally good fit with white furniture. The motto: don't be afraid of colour, as long as the combination is pleasant! When it comes to monocolour covering fabrics, blue shades from petrol all the way to mint are particularly popular, as is the vast spectrum of natural hues. The latter are also very much in demand for the surfaces of storage furniture or kitchen cabinets. Occasionally, the 1970s are experiencing a revival in the form of orange and apple-green shades. Finally, black - the classic of the 1980s - is making a comeback in the upholstered furniture segment, as well as for
storage furniture.

Stripes, floral fabrics, abstract graphics: in terms of patterns, covering fabrics are presenting an extremely diverse face. Ornamentation is another popular theme for opulent patterns. The haptic experience plays a major role as far as fabrics are concerned. Rather than being smooth, many fabrics are featuring a relief-like texture that issues an irresistible invitation to take a seat and nestle down. The user becomes one with the piece of furniture he happens to be sitting or lying on. Snuggling continues to play an important role.

There is a very definite tendency towards material honesty. And when it comes to being honest, natural materials are best. The trend is towards glass, stone, wood and certain metals like stainless steel. In the coming season, glass will be a popular material for the fronts and doors of kitchen cabinets, wall units and wardrobes. We will be seeing thick glass for table tops and satin glass for translucent cabinet doors. Veneered or solid stone is being used for work surfaces. Precious materials with a surface that is pleasant to the touch are experiencing a boom. Leather will also be playing a more important role in the coming furniture season. Usually as a cover for upholstered furniture, of course, but also as an inlay for drawers or tabletops. Up to a point, however, the use of leather will be restricted by marked price increases.

Good old oak is experiencing a veritable boom. Whether it's used for tables, beds or cabinets, oak is modern because it is being left in its original mellow colour and no longer being stained in dark, rustic hues. Walnut will maintain its important status. It radiates a sense of value and elegance. High-grade cherry with its delicate, reddish hues is playing a prominent role. Usage of domestic wood, including fruitwood, is becoming more important to buyers. The lighter colour spectrum continues to include beech, maple, ash, alder and birch.


The light bulb is slowly disappearing from the household and being replaced by state-of-the-art LED luminaires. LEDs have the advantage of being highly energy-efficient, not getting hot and having a very long life. As a result, the furniture industry is making increasing use of LEDs, for example in display cabinets, as shelf or cabinet lighting or edging for sideboards. And LEDs are being used for popular accessories like fairy lights too. The latest development towards less expensive, organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs for short, allows manufacturers to produce not just ultra-thin screens but large-area lighting for shelf panels or large-area ambient lighting. Good light and energy-efficient light sources - often concealed and shining as if by magic - are a top trend that is here to stay.

The kitchen is very much alive. Professionalisation is a trend that has long since arrived. Workflows can be optimised via the meaningful allocation of furniture and light is being targeted to illuminate worktops and eating areas. When it comes to electrical appliances, or so-called white goods, energy efficiency is a major theme. A growing number of consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to save both energy and water - partly because it is easy on the wallet, but also because it is easy on the environment. Energy-efficient and quiet kitchen appliances will be tomorrow's norm. In the next kitchen furniture season, we will also see a shift towards a simple, unostentatious design vocabulary. Simple means elegant and unobtrusive - the kind of style you never get tired of looking at. And that's a good thing, for kitchens are extremely durable consumer goods. The latest trend in the kitchen sector is towards open shelving and lots of glass for cabinet doors, work
surfaces and wall tiles. The live-in kitchen is the most conclusive proof of all that the various areas of the home are merging and people's expectations of their interiors are changing.

Barefoot and patent shoes
Home is life and life is change. The things we surround ourselves with have to adapt to our changing needs and aspirations. When it comes to interiors there have always been changes, some of them slow, others rapid, some that endure and others that disappear as fast as they came. The "either-or" model of the past is being replaced by an emphatic "both-and" approach. Anything goes, and interiors are no exception.

Megatrends are impacting the way we live
The new millennium has seen the emergence of new social, economic and political issues that are affecting people very strongly. The big social megatrends such as individualisation, health, changing family structures, demographic change and globalisation are having an impact on our industry too. These days, furnishing a home means breaking down the old, traditional boundaries, putting the television in the kitchen, turning the dining table into a communication centre, putting the bathtub in the bedroom. Rooms are increasingly merging with one another. The "kitchen-dining-living" areas are becoming one and the "bedroom and bathroom" areas are gradually converging. Old furniture is being combined with new, winter barbecues are a viable proposition and, at a stretch, the hallway can be turned into a disco.

All things considered, "Disappearing Boundaries" is a very good description of this trend. In the past, people used to ask themselves what belongs in a living room. These days the question is this: What do I want to put in my living room? What do I want it to say about me? Those are the boundaries we will be dealing with in future.

Hand-painted boxes and dream catchers

Elizabeth Slomka has a unique way of painting on layered glass that illuminates her mystical paintings. Her paintings are called “Faerie Windows” and have a three-dimensional feel. She calls these images of the unseen world of faeries.

At the Beckman's Handcrafted show in Chicago (Jan. 21 to 24), Slomka will debut two new products: Faerie Wish Boxes and Faerie Dream Catchers. The copper-lined glass boxes are topped with a handmade "Faerie Window" painting. The ribbon-hung dream
catchers feature a handmade painting.

Luggage, aprons and manicure kits

Manicure kits in a ribbon design
Mommy & Me apron set
6-piece luggage set

Isabella’s Journey Brocade is a new six-piece luggage set from Manual Woodworkers and Weavers. (Last season's introduction was a zebra pattern.) The set consists of a traveler, a hanging jewelry/toiletry bag, cosmetics bags (in three sizes), a "Hipster" and a tote.
Other new items shown at the winter markets include manicure kits and mother-daughter apron sets.

Decorative white ceramic accessories

 Vellum is exhibiting its decorative ceramic accessories at the Atlanta gift show (in High Design) and at the New York gift show (Pier 94).

Fair trade handbags and totes

Mar Y Sol calls itself "a socially responsible resort accessories company that collaborates with artists in New York and artisans in Madagascar." The company designs and creates authentic accessories made by hand using natural materials sourced sustainably from Madagascar’s forests. The sale of the products enables families to gain economic independence and promotes environmental conservation. This is achieved through fair trade partnerships with artisans who make a living wage through Mar Y Sol's “trade not aid” business model.
The totes, clutches and zippered pouches are made of brightly colored raffia, jute and wild seagrass. Handles are made of wood.

The Avalon

The Guadaloupe

The Maybelle

The Panama
In Atlanta, see the bags at the Aesthetic Movement showroom (building one, 10th floor).