High Point Market Recap 2021 Trend Report

Every six months, the Laura U Design Collective team takes a trip to North Carolina to attend the High Point Market. A biannual destination for designers across the globe, the High Point Market features over two thousand exhibitors representing more than a hundred countries worldwide. More than 75,000 interior designers, furniture makers and other craftsmen flock to the High Point Market every year in April and October. As the largest trade show in our industry, the High Point Market provides designers with endless inspiration. It introduces thousands of new products, collections and brands to the world. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers postponed this world-renowned trade show for the first time last Spring. Naturally, we were so excited to return in 2021! This October, we noticed five distinct trends emerging at High Point Market. Curved organic furniture, moody colors, fluted details and sculptural lighting repeatedly appeared throughout the thousands of textiles, homeware and furniture pieces on display. References to earlier periods in design history were also myriad. From shape and scale to pattern and color, dozens of pieces referenced Art Deco, Modernist, Bauhaus, Futurist and Space Age design. This year, the industry’s approach to sustainability is front and center at the High Point Market event. Given this, it makes sense that designers drew inspiration from a time when makers were incredibly innovative and pieces were crafted to last. From light fixtures to furniture, materials and silhouettes rooted in the 1920s, 1940s and 1950s were ubiquitous across all categories. We noticed lucite coffee tables, curved couches, architectural pendant lights and basket weave lamp shades. Follow below to learn more about the High Point Market trends that excited us in our High Point Market Recap 2021 Trend Report.

Sustainability Shines at the October 2021 High Point Market

As mentioned above, the focus of this year’s autumn High Point Market was sustainability and environmental responsibility. Over the last few years, fast furniture and fast fashion have littered our planet with trash. According to the EPA, American consumers toss out more than nine million tons of furniture and home decor every year. This represents a whopping 5% of all annual landfill contributions. In the April 2021 article “The Fast Furniture Problem” for Architectural Digest, Bailey Berg elaborates. Berg notes that “most of the furniture currently cluttering dumps was made within the last 10 to 15 years.” Quoting author and sustainability expert Ashlee Piper, Berg writes that “‘it’s usually new furniture that’s tossed.” One might throw away a “‘chair that’s missing a leg or things with cosmetic damage to them.’” Piper explains that this is because much of today’s furniture is “‘just not built to last…it was intended to have a short lifespan.’” In light of the statistics outlined above, consumers across the globe are growing increasingly concerned about human contributions to climate change. A recent Forbes report found that “68% of highly empowered consumers plan to step up their efforts to identify brands that reduce environmental impact.” This means pieces that are sustainably made, carefully crafted and — above all — built to last. In response, organizers of the 2021 High Point Market chose to shine a light on brands and makers leading the way in sustainable design.

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.   H I G H   P O I N T   M A R K E T   S P E A K E R S   &   E X H I B I T O R S   E X T O L   E C O – F R I E N D L Y   D E S I G N   .

In an article for The Business of Home, Siobhán McGowan identifies several ways in which the market shone “a spotlight on sustainability” this year. McGown writes that “sustainability stories took center stage at this season’s Market.” They did so with “inspiring, experiential exhibitions and eco-seminars that emphasize the urgency of—and opportunities in—embracing earth-friendly practices.” Quoting High Point DM-C Ashley Grigg, McGowan writes that “‘sustainability is at the forefront of the industry.'” As such, the Market wished “‘to acknowledge those who already prioritize it and bring in an education component to help move it forward.’”

Interior designer Laurence Carr and HGTV design director Nancy Fire both brought this concept to life. Fire and Carr “each curated elegant, environmentally positive vignettes that incorporate sustainable items sourced from Market exhibitors.” At the same time, makers displayed furnishings crafted from recycled plastic and other repurposed materials. McGowan notes that authoritative speakers like Susan Inglis of the Sustainable Furnishings Council led panel discussions. These leaders spoke on “topics like transitioning from the wasteful “make-take-toss” mindset…and saving forests while holistically manufacturing wood furniture.” Designers have long expressed a desire to lower the carbon footprint of their brands. As such, interest in this year’s theme was strong and support was fervent. 

Five Exciting High Point Market Trends from October 2021

.   # 1   O R G A N I C ,   C U R V E D   F U R N I S H I N G S   . 

First on our list of High Point Market trends is organic furnishings rendered in unusual shapes. Curved, organic furnishings were one of several style stars we noticed at the 2021 Fall High Point Market. Cozy bouclé sofas, puffy cloud couches, undulating tabletops and swooping armchairs all wowed us at the Market. C-shaped chairs from Nuevo and a vintage-inspired couch from local brand South and English captured our attention. A stunningly sculptural loveseat from Thomas Bina and Ronald Sasson for Four Hands Furniture also made an impact. Organic shapes and undulating silhouettes were also popular during the Spring 2021 High Point Market. In “4 Top Furniture Trends From the Spring 2021 High Point Market” for Houzz, Becky Harris reflects on trends from earlier this year. Harris writes that “bold curves” dominated the Spring 2021 show as designers responded to the “‘Remix, Refresh, Reimagine’” theme. According to Harris, “the spring 2021 market was marked by…products featuring organic materials…and bold, whimsical curves.” 

At the fall High Point Market, harsh lines and saturated colors often balance the “bold, whimsical curves” Harris references in her June article. These juxtapositions are apparent in pieces pictured above. The table pictured in the lower right transforms a traditional square coffee table by splitting it down the center with a laser-cut wave. In the same vein, the swooping cushion of a puffy armchair with bouclé upholstery meets smooth wooden supports in both the back and front. 

.   # 2   F L U T E D   D E T A I L S   .

Second on our list of High Point Market trends is fluted details. Pleated and fluted details abounded, adding a bit of fancy and fun to furniture at this season’s High Point Market. Writing for Architectural Digest, Mel Studach notes that pleats and flutes were everywhere from the skirts of couches to the legs of end tables. Exquisitely tailored box, gathered and stretched pleats graced lampshades, armchairs and more. Though Studach writes that “the repetitive, wavelike tide of fluted designs can be a common sighting at Market,” but we always welcome this trend! 

This year, fluted designs and pleats both felt fresh and timely to us. Studach agrees, noting that “there’s something about this season’s crop that feels a bit more organic, as though formed by an artisan hand.” Studach points to “the Fluted Column vase set from Global Views, the Elkins mirror by Meg Braff and the Modulum panel nightstand by Bernhardt.” However, we love the fluted pedestal table from Four Hands pictured above.

.   # 3   I N T R I G U I N G   T E X T U R E S  .

Third on our list of High Point Market trends is intriguing textures. Organic textures from natural materials like stone, pencil rattan, fired clay, hand-blown glass, silk and rustic, unfinished wood were also popular. We particularly love the glass, acrylic and rattan table pictured above in the upper right and lower left. Wrapping the joints of this table in rattan while leaving the legs and tabletop bare achieves an incredible balance between negative and positive space. To the Laura U Design Collective team, this table was certainly one of the show’s stand-out pieces. From leather to stone, the natural textures chosen by High Point Market exhibitors act as neutrals. They anchor spaces dominated by unusual silhouettes and saturated colors.

In their Fall 2021 Style Report, High Point Market’s style spotters were also quick to point out the many intriguing textures present this year. Shay Geyer and Gary Inman write that “materiality, particularly organic materials…as well as unexpected combinations of materials, captured the attention of designers.” Inman and Geyer note the surprising recurrent use of “leather and stone in lighting.” They also praise the presence of “burls, artisan finishes like Venetian plaster and the mixing of Lucite with wood.” According to Geyer and Inman, these juxtapositions “create tension, energy, and a tactile experience that beckons to be touched.” The latter is something many of us are seeking in a post-COVID-19 world where touch was forbidden and tactile experiences were all but eliminated. 

.   # 4   M O O D Y   C O L O R S   .

Fourth on our list of High Point Market trends is moody colors. In a post from July, we noted that jewel-toned interiors have “skyrocketed to the top of mood boards all across the country.” Their stunning saturated hues and fascinating histories make jewel tones perfect for 2021 interiors. They are especially well-suited to interiors that need an infusion of personality or a bit of pizzazz. Thus, we dubbed jewel tones “2021’s hottest interior decorating trend.” At the October Market, we were proven right! Elegant, moody colors like sapphire blue, emerald green, indigo purple and glossy black were everywhere. 

Often paired with luxurious materials like leather, shearling, velvet and brass, these jewel tones harken back to the sophistication of early 20th century design. Both in furniture and in finishings, deep jewel tones joined with organic neutrals was a common occurrence. Our picks from the Market include a purple throw embroidered with Art Nouveau inspired motifs and a high back black and gray armchair. We also loved the azure velvet drapes and ebonized wood table pictured above. 

.   # 5   S C U L P T U R A L   L I G H T I N G   .

Sculptural lighting is the final High Point Market trend we identified this year in North Carolina. Light fixtures inspired by the work of iconic artists and legendary architects hung from the ceilings and extended from the walls. This year’s exhibitors were likely looking back at designs from 20th century movements like Art Deco, Early Modernist, Bauhaus and the Atomic Age. We noted several lights that drew from the work of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti and embodied the work of Modernist Romanian artist Constantin Brâncuși. As always, we were drawn to fixtures with industrial metal accents, antique finishes and frosted glass. 

Our founder Laura Umansky is holding one of our favorite pieces from the Fall 2021 show in the upper right of the above collage. From their Derby Collection, this Hubbardton Forge sconce features leather straps handcrafted by Vermont artisans and brass fittings with the brand’s insignia. Possibly referencing both Mid-Century and Post-Modern design, this sconce also boasts an opal glass orb outfitted with a warm-toned LED light bulb. From the same collection as the sconce pictured above, the Hubbardton Forge’s Derby Linear 4-Light Pendant was admired by many attendees. It was actually selected by High Point Market style spotter Sara Malek Barney at the October show.

Final Thoughts on Our High Point Market Recap

All in all, we came away from the 2021 Market inspired by these High Point Market trends and excited for the New Year. We look forward to visiting High Point once again in the Spring of 2022 as we hunt for new ideas and fresh inspiration. Our team hopes to see our readers there as well!

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