Furniture trends evident at recent European furniture shows include contemporary and streamlined designs; high-end materials; and real wood, notably temperate hardwoods such as oak and ash, as well as bent wood and heat-treated hardwoods, finds AHEC

YOKOHAMA, Japan , March 5, 2014 () – A recent report from the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) reviews fashion trends based on visits to European furniture shows. AHEC note that there are three high profile furniture shows in Europe. The imm show in Cologne, Germany and Maison Objet in Paris take place in January, while the Salone del Mobile is held in Milan, Italy in April.

All attract an international audience both in terms of visitors and exhibitors. However, exhibitors often have to choose between the Cologne and Paris as they are held within only a few weeks of each other.

The Cologne fair is more traditional and is of particular focus for companies selling into the German market and other Central and Northern EU countries. But as with all the big European shows there are always plenty of visitors from outside Europe.

Based on their visit to imm Cologne, AHEC suggest contemporary design furniture has a much greater representation than in the past. Traditional and reproduction furniture is shown but does not dominate.

The exhibition is a platform for leading brands and individual designers targeting the higher end of the market. As a result, quality materials are used.

There was a lot of real wood on display, often in combination with other materials.

It is hard to quantify, but AHEC suggest that real wood was more prominent than in previous years and there were fewer paper foil and vinyl finishes. This suggests the higher end of the European furniture sector is still an important source of demand for hardwood.

According to AHEC, contrasting colours is a very obvious trend at the moment, and many manufacturers are using the natural tones of wood to contrast with bright colours. White with wood also seemed a particular theme for many brands this year.

The vast majority of the wood was temperate hardwood; there were relatively small amounts of tropical hardwood or softwood species on show.

The dominant species was oak, but ash was also common, a little beech and quite a lot of walnut, most of which was American. AHEC report that the trend for a natural rustic look has grown in recent years. It is now common to see leading brands offering expensive designer collections with “character” solid oak.

This oak contains grain and colour variations and even sometimes knots. Most of the character oak was from Europe. European producers are favouring European oak because they can source short dimensions and low grades more cheaply than white oak from the USA. For the cleaner more consistent look, manufacturers use mostly veneered panels for the surfaces but solid for legs, rails and chairs.

AHEC also note that at Cologne there was quite a lot of bent wood being used in the contemporary chair design especially ash which lends itself to this application, but also beech and some oak. One new trend this year was the use of heat treated hardwoods - European and North American - for outdoor furniture.

According to AHEC many of the wood trends apparent in Cologne were reinforced at Maison Objet in Paris. At this show, oak was by far the dominant wood material for both furniture and flooring. Flooring manufacturers exhibited oak in hundreds of different finishes and colours. Furniture and interior fittings in pale oak were very popular and often contrasted with other materials such as fabrics or metals in bright colours.

The Paris show also highlighted the continued fashion for „streamline‟ designs – tables with very thin legs and backs and tables with wafer-thin tops. For higher end products, many manufacturers were using American walnut which remains very popular for luxury goods. Many companies at the show reported that their production is now based in China, Vietnam, Poland and Romania.

The source of this article is the ITTO Tropical Timber Market (TTM) Report February 16- 28 2014, citing market information provided by the Chinese Forest Products Index Mechanism (FPI). This item is an extract of a major report on the European furniture industry and tables, graphics may have been removed. To see the full ITTO report, go to: http://www.itto.int/mis_download/

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