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Tracking the Trend in the Furniture Industry

Posted December 12, 2011


A panel of top-notch folks in the furniture industry gathered right before Thanksgiving to share their expertise with the students at Kendall College of Art and Design.

The speakers included:
John Kiryanoff, Director of Corporate Finishing, Baker Furniture
Cathy Mitchell, Marketing Consultant, Parker Consulting
Dudley Moore - Principal and Designer Otto & Moore, Inc.
Bob Groters, Furniture Retail, Consultant

Much of their presentation was concerned with interview techniques, portfolio preparation and the nitty gritty of getting a job in an uncertain world.

They also talked about the trends in the industry. While Dudley Moore said, “It is tricky to track trends,” the group made a stab at it. Here are a few that caught my attention.

1. Restoration Hardware is leading the retail pack right now as an example of "superb furniture marketing." One of the designers said, "I'd slit my wrists if I had to live in one of their rooms, but they do a magnificent job of merchandising and marketing. Keep an eye on what they are doing."

2. The group is sensing a need for smaller furniture--stuff that will fit into urban spaces. Up stairwells. Also baby boomers are downsizing and needing smaller-scale furniture. There are something like 70 million baby boomers hitting retirement age in next few years.

They will be dumping the oversized pieces they bought for the McMansions and wanting to buy more manageable furniture.

3. Multi-use furniture is good like the desk that turns into a table for entertaining. One designer specifically talked about Barbara Barry, a well-known designer from California, who has an armoire she uses for both make-up and jewelry storage, but has it set up for her iPad with outlets. This speaks to both technology needs and the multi-tasking world in which we live.

4. The panel was very complimentary of John Black, a Kendall Alum, who used to live here in Grand Rapids and worked for Baker Furniture Company. He's now a freelance furniture designer in Highpoint with a good reputation. They told students to go to his web site and watch what he is doing. The feeling seemed to be that he is right on trend.

5. There is a need for furniture that accommodates new and rapidly changing technology, i.e. the bedside table that also has a charging station for the cell phone. The folks on the panel stressed the opportunity for innovation when it comes to incorporating technology.

6. Cathy Mitchell said she watches what is going on in the fashion world especially for themes and color.

7. John Kiryanoff says they watch what is happening in Europe for trends. He says, “That’s where style is set.”

The biggest change and challenge for the furniture industry they all talked about is that the long lead-time for manufacturing is gone. Customers won’t wait six months for a dining room table.

Bob Groters described the customer of today, “They want it the way they want it and they want it NOW.”

~Susan J. Smith



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