IMM TREND.BRIEFING 2021/22

Natural Luxury - Quality is the real luxury

Traditional craftsmanship, simplicity, premium materials, soft-edge design – these are the signals that point to “pure” luxury – pure because it’s natural, defined by a focus on what really matters and the willingness to renounce mass consumption in favour of sustainable product concepts: a significant trend development for the design-oriented interiors industry.

Feb 16 2021

© Illustration: Björn Steinmetzler, Koelnmesse

Sustainable | Quality | Soft Edge | Nordic | Craftsmanship 

Similarly to what’s happening in the fashion world, the pendulum in the interiors sector seems to be swinging away from “more and ever cheaper” and towards a relatively pronounced quality orientation. More than ever before, furnishing culture – influenced by the design scene – is exhibiting a preference for an understated, simple design language with a natural look and authentic materials in the A-grade category.

Exquisitely worked wood and leather, accompanied by marble and stone with soft contours and a smooth feel, are unmistakeable indicators of high-end quality. At the same time, both fashionable and more traditional interiors are in search of more glamour, but not so much with a high-gloss finish as with an ultra matt look: upmarket, with an original flair and classic charm. That’s why Natural Luxury is an interiors trend that embodies several different aspirations: we want to live in greener, more stylish, more colourful, more natural and more sustainable homes.  

A global interiors trend: sustainable furniture with a quality guarantee 

Quality is the real luxury. It manifests itself not so much in “more” and the opulence of its forms and materials but in top-quality workmanship, in details, in the originality of the furniture. First and foremost, Natural Luxury is rooted in the world of materials. Their quality and authenticity are best expressed in simple forms that showcase the manufacturer’s expertise and skill in an understandable way.

More than ever before, concentrating on the essentials is becoming the credo of design fans. The high-value strategy deliberately renounces mass consumption in favour of a sustainable, responsible interpretation of interior lifestyle, where furniture should have a story to tell and can (in theory) be handed on.

The beginning of the pandemic seems to have resulted in increased demand for premium products with a high level of design quality. It’s a development that can be observed in interiors markets across the globe and will trigger a boom in demand for sustainably developed and produced furnishings.

Quality labels like “Made in Germany” or the new “Furniture Made in Germany” label launched by the Association of the German Furniture Industry (VDM) last year, as well as prestigious design awards and eco-certification labels like the “Blue Angel”, all help to provide orientation in a vast market.  

A more natural way to live 

More and more people are seriously trying to change their consumer behaviour in the hope of sparking a turnaround that leads to society behaving more sustainably. The aspect of climate neutrality is playing a growing role in consumer decisions, regardless of whether they relate to mobility, smartphones, food or furniture. As a result, the product’s ability to tell a story is becoming more and more important.

That’s why natural materials and solid wood are popular choices when it comes to products for the home– not just because they conjure up a cosy atmosphere, but for ecological reasons too. Furniture with a high level of design quality also promises a sustainable effect. The longing for a natural home is keeping the trend towards Nordic design very much alive – especially as it’s associated with an uncomplicated, rustic, close-to-nature lifestyle that finds expression in the traditionally simple design cultivated in the 20th century.

Furniture manufacturers whose product developments already rely heavily on wood have a good chance of benefiting from the Natural Luxury trend; those who make products containing a large amount of plastic will have to turn their attention to alternative materials and recycling – a change process that has already been instigated by the Italian furniture industry, by the way. 

Going greener 

Being close to nature is becoming increasingly important to us: no new build is complete without a balcony, and apartments with access to a garden or terrace are highly sought after, especially in inner-city areas. Now these touchpoints with nature are becoming an integral part of the home, and the patio is turning into a second living room. With the Indoor-Outdoor trend, today’s weatherproof outdoor furniture doesn’t only look as if it’s come straight from the living room, it’s being used there too!

Its upmarket materials and high-tech textiles make it suitable for indoor use as well. In the upper price segment, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference any more, and the level of comfort offered by the new indoor-outdoor furniture is catching up fast too. Consumers increasingly expect improved quality in the design and materials of mid-priced products as well.  

Colour up your life: natural shades add warmth  

There’s always demand for a cosy home – especially in corona times. Which is why it seems plausible to assume that the pandemic is having an impact on the colour palette in people’s homes. All the same, the palette we’re seeing at the moment is also affected by a need that’s been making itself felt for some time now: the desire for natural shades and a natural ambience. Upmarket wallpaper, authentic and elaborate parquet flooring or sophisticated tiles, furniture and accessories with light, modern beige tones as their basic colour don’t just create that kind of atmosphere, they radiate cosiness as well.

This season’s colours come straight from nature: sandy beige is returning to modern interiors as a ground colour and taking over from white, brown shades are tending towards taupe rather than chocolate, and even the trending shades of grey seem to have been inspired by earthy hues. Natural linen fibres for the seats of chairs and benches, Vienna wickerwork, pure new wool or premium leather – sustainable materials with a story to tell upgrade furnishings and are often modelled on nature itself.

Beige tones are being combined with splashes of the latest on-trend colours – from warm ochre to glowing honey yellow, from pastel terracotta to vivid saffron red, from delicate greens to vibrant olive. And interior designers are increasingly turning to dark green or night blue as an alternative to black. 

Making the most of the Natural Luxury trend 

Top-quality, well-designed furniture and sustainable production aren’t the only arguments that influence consumers’ purchase decisions – it’s also important for the product to have a good story to tell. In the case of the Natural Luxury trend (powered by imm cologne), storytelling is a crucial marketing tool. Boutique manufacturers can score points with limited editions, and made-to-order or batch-of-one production gives customers the feeling that they’re buying a premium and exclusive offering. 

Author: Frank A. Reinhardt

Below you find an overview of current products that show the Natural Luxury Trend and the associated companies. Simply click through with the arrows ->

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