Simone Andrea Mayer -
If trend expert Ursula Geismann is correct, this year will see a clear trend towards “both fancy and mimimalist” in European home furnishing. An example of this paradoxical look might be a cool and sober looking steel-framed chair right beside a baroque sofa with soft corners and fluffy material beneath a golden chandelier.
Geismann’s opinion is based on what she’s seen at this year’s IMM furniture fair in Cologne, Germany, a major European show.
But why has this unlikely marriage of Donald Trump style kitsch and Bauhaus coolness become a trend?
Geismann says most German people find high-pile fabrics such as velvet and fancy decoration somehow comforting.
“We associate them with warmth and safety,” she says. In a troubled world, people seem to clutch after those qualities. That’s why you’ll see very current graphic designs and patterns on warm old velvet.
Trends in home furnishing can’t really escape with people yearn for deep down.
Manufacturers have recognised this and have tailored their products accordingly. A need for security and what the Danes call hygge — cosy relaxation with friends — prevails, according to Geismann.
But with all that said, there’s another — directly opposed — trend as well this year towards cool functionalism, the style of the Bauhaus movement in the 1920s that swept away all fanciness in architecture and interior decoration and emphasised simple forms.
Purism is another deeply desired characteristic for many German furniture buyers, but perhaps not for its own sake. It’s been a trend for quite some time for designers to base their latest ideas on shapes people remember from childhood or their grandparents’ homes.
This has been a hit with customers and manufacturers have now begun to draw on the styles of the 1920s and 1930s.
“Designs are returning to the time before the Internet,” says Geismann. The mass spread of the Internet only took off in 1996, so suddenly going back to the 1920s is perhaps surprising, but Geismann’s thesis is that it’s the symbolism that counts.
The idea is that it home is the place you live without the hustle and bustle of modern media.
One question remains: how on earth has combining old-fashioned softness with in-your-face simplicity become a trend in Germany?
Geismann says it’s because people want to keep their cake and eat it too. It’s also partly out of sheer individualism, the sense that you can tick whatever boxes you please and don’t care what other people will think.
Everything is possible and everyone can be an individual.
“That’s why we can’t really speak about the one, big, over arching trend of the year,” says Geismann.
In apparel, we also seem to have lost any sense of one dominant look.
Gerd Mueller-Thomkins from the German Fashion Institute says it’s now rare for a trend in clothing to completely disappear. Instead, another fashion will turn up as the old trend remains and both will be worn without anyone feeling it’s inconsistent or out of place.
“It’s not much different in the home furnishing business.”
IMM spokesman Markus Majerus agrees. “Years ago we noticed a trend towards cocooning,” he says.
Popular in the United States in the 1990s and a buzzword in Europe in the first decade of the current century, cocooning meant making a private, cosy place for yourself, just as larvae spin a cocoon.
“And if we’re honest with ourselves, we should admit that trend has never died out.”