Jan 14 2020

"We simply want to live better!"

The international interiors show imm cologne is a mirror image of current interiors trends and demonstrates the inventiveness of furniture makers. ambista spoke with the design journalist and trend researcher, Frank A. Reinhardt (far.consulting), about the most important living trends of imm cologne 2020.

imm cologne takes place every year. Is the interiors industry changing fundamentally right now, or are the trend shifts only marginal?

In Germany, and in many other countries, there are two themes getting people to take to the streets: for one, the right to affordable living space and, for another, the climate change, which must be stopped. Both themes have an immediate influence on the interiors industry.

However, sustainability has always been a theme in the interiors industry, or at least for a very long time. What has changed?

It is right that companies have certified their production processes, invested in new, environmentally-friendly painting systems or settled bee colonies on the factory grounds. This has never really been of interest to the media and consumers in the past.

It was more seen as trendy, and to some extent self-explanatory, although it influenced competitive relationships and tended to increase the production costs of the domestic location. Nonetheless, many German companies in particular have also advanced the theme of sustainability internally, far from the realm of public attention, because it has become anchored in the company philosophy.

That is now paying off, because an ever increasing number of consumers are asking about the "green story" behind the product, thus increasing pressure on companies and designers. When making a purchase decision between two products of equal quality and value, it will increasingly often be the product with the authentic, green story that will prevail.

This is because it is no longer "only" about the health aspect of "green" furniture, but instead about the future of all of us on earth. People have become conscious of this, and that is the decisive difference.

Why has this trend now become so important?

Well, we have arrived at a fork in the road when it comes to climate change. Humanity now needs to decide, and, as is so often the case, it is our unbiased youth that recognise the seriousness of the situation. Greta Thunberg is a symbol for this societal shift. Trend reserchers speak of "gretafication".

Brands of the interiors industry that can't offer concepts or authentic stories with regard to matters of sustainable production and can't present these free of the suspicion of greenwashing will sooner or later be left standing – at least those active beyond the cheap level.

The Scandinavian interiors style is therefore once again currently gaining momentum: light types of wood, natural fabrics and smaller furniture better suit the consumer behaviour of a concerned family than plastic chairs, expansive sofa landscapes or high quality furniture with many layers of varnish.

Here, entire industrial nations need to reinvent themselves if they wish to avoid a considerable loss of market share. And imm cologne 2020 is currently a very good benchmark for all interiors brands.

Do sustainable products then also change the design?

It is primarily the demand for quality and sustainable production processes that are changing. We have been seeing an improvement of quality in the lower segment for quite some time now. In the design field, quality and durable design already guarantee sustainable purchasing behaviour for consumers per se.

Here the trend is clearly toward traditional forms that make reference to classics of furniture design. Those for whom this is too boring are turning to the now increasingly experimental eco designs: the ugly carrots are no longer automatically sorted out in some supermarkets.

Untreated furniture with rough edges stand not only for sustainable design, but also for individuality. Nonetheless, this design is also only a gesture, an eye-catcher for a particular clientele. Generally speaking, it is not apparent with sustainable furniture whether its origins are in certified wood and sustainable production.

However, one unfortunately still always notices it in the price. This may change though. The increasing acknowledgment of climate change and concern for our environment will define purchasing behaviour and trends in the interiors industry in the next ten years.

What effect does the second societal trend theme you have mentioned have on our way of living?

This is already in full swing. It is not without reason that it is considered trendy in urban interior design to integrate the kitchen into the living area and, very generally, to promote generous spatial impressions and apartments "flooded with light".

This of course means a pragmatic saving of space, without crowding. Furniture is becoming more mobile and universally presentable, because one has to be able to move it around and move with it. Rising rents and smaller homes will continue to drive the demand for space-saving furniture.

A trend for some time now has been small and compact sofas and armchairs with a design often oriented to classic typologies. Even more sought after in future will be affordable system furniture and compact individual items, which are scalable and adaptable to different room dimensions, variable and versatile. Life on a second level is also becoming trendy; the high sleeper is making a comeback, or platform floors that offer storage space.

What colours will be important in the interiors year 2020?

While the overall interior design trend is toward dark colours, from dark greens and blues to black, the minimalist interiors style remains loyal to the lighter and more natural shades. Avant-gardists pledge themselves to the Bauhaus tradition with primary colours colourfully combined with a white base colour.

The interiors world will become more colourful on the whole through the intensive use of colour schemes tending more toward subdued shades – that is the actual trend. This affects all realms of living, from the bathroom to the kitchen. Monochromaticity is also being increasingly abandoned in favour of patterns.

Is living becoming more fashionable again?

Together with clothing, living is today the number one means of expression. We are not only what we wear, but how we live. This makes every decorative element a statement. The basis for any eye-catcher is a space to make an impact.

Tidy optics and decorative elements thus don't need to contradict one another. Lifestyle and the decorative are consciously and economically staged, on the wall elements, in the textiles, on the floor … or also behind glass.

Each element and each item of furniture is simultaneously a decorative element. Decorative individual products are therefore very much in demand right now: lamps, mirrors, chairs, armchairs of rugs. 

What is you preliminary summary regarding imm cologne 2020?

Living is becoming more important. For an ever increasing number of people, home is becoming the most important hub for functioning and at the same time being able to enjoy quality of life. This is often also a decisive factor for how life is organised, with concepts like co-working and co-living, the patchwork house or urban gardens.

It has long since stopped being only about the "colour of the year" or which type of wood is popular at the moment – it is about our life. We simply want to live better: more comfortably, more stylishly, using space more effectively, more colourfully, smarter and more sustainably. 

Professional Insider: Trend tour imm cologne 2020

Trend lecture What`s new!

The Cologne design journalist and trend researcher, Frank A. Reinhardt (far.consulting) is a trend expert for the living and furnishing segments. As a jury member for design prizes and as a speaker at diverse industry forums, he has been passing on his knowledge to interested trade visitors of imm cologne for years.

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