BACK TO the future
Taste in home furnishings changes, and upcoming ideas are often revealed in industry events well before they reach the showrooms. I attended the third Kohler Editors' Conference in Wisconsin, in the United States, and witnessed some interesting new trends.
One of the hottest themes coming to market soon is called 'Reinventing Heritage', as revealed by Mark Bickerstaffe, Kohler's director of new product development for Europe and Asia-Pacific. He also calls it 'With Respect'.
''With Respect' is no trend but an everlasting embodiment of classicism. 'Classic' has different meanings worldwide, but here we take it to mean traditional values, heritage and ideas that have endured through time,' he says.
Bickerstaffe observes a continued revival in heritage and tradition. 'Consumers with more conservative leanings see the past as a source of stability and trust. Most people are not designers and do not use professional help, so heritage is a pattern book of trusted decor schemes,' he says.
He thinks consumers are gravitating back towards noble materials such as gold and silver as demonstrations of luxury because they are losing faith in many of the new symbols of success. 'More and more, we see historical roots being played with to create modern classic hybrids - a fusion that creates fresh designs while retaining a comfortable resonance for the customer.'
Kohler's latest Tresham collection offers co-ordinating bathroom fixtures that merge traditional American design with playful eclecticism. This interplay demonstrates increasing consumer self-confidence with design, says Bickerstaffe. The line comprises 12 components, including a two-piece toilet, vanity and pullout storage bridge, a tall storage case, lavatories and shower receptors.
This modern approach to nostalgia finds favour with Boffi's James Hung, who thinks that the bathroom design trend of reinventing heritage is about a yearning for days gone by. 'Many people who can afford and know how to appreciate exquisite design, and most established designers, were born in the '70s or before, so it is only natural that they like designs that mix and match past and present styles,' he says.
'Establishing an emotional connection with the customer is a factor in the trend of reinventing heritage. When the customer and the designer were kids, they liked the style of reinventing heritage but couldn't afford it. Now that they are adults with spending power, they help to popularise this design style.'