Home & Garden

Furnishing for fall: Going gray

Just as your jeweled flip-flops have lost their shimmer, furnishings that make a fall statement are filling stores. Adding a sofa in an unexpected color is just one example of a home decor trend for fall. Retailers and home fashion experts say people are looking for ways to express personality in their homes, with something that shows an artisan's touch, displays a pattern, adds a little sparkle or takes a cue from the "Mad Men" set.

So you heard gray was the "it" color? Yes, you'll find that putty and cement are major shades. But a diet of gray alone can look a bit like a cloudy day. It might be time to add some purple or persimmon, or perhaps citron.

Whatever shoppers pick up, it should make them feel good. "My customers are always looking to make their home happy to go home to," says Rachelle Roth, who owns the store Urban Country in Bethesda, Md.

Retail chains, looking to make selections friendlier, have added exclusive hand-wrought and environmentally conscious products. The economic downturn has made many consumers choosier and less interested in disposable fashion.

We've highlighted six design trends you'll be seeing in stores, catalogs, design blogs and magazines in the coming weeks. What speaks to you?

Shades of gray

They say gray is the new beige. Well, it sure is sticking around for a while.

Every retailer who shared its fall collections with us had a big dose of gray throughout, from upholstery to wood stains to accent pieces.

"Gray is a color that people are embracing as a neutral they can live with," says Raymond Arenson, Crate and Barrel's executive vice president of merchandising and design. "But we have definitely moved into warm grays as opposed to cool grays."

Artisan wares

You could call it the Etsy effect, our infatuation with the handmade.

Etsy (www.etsy.com), the hot online marketplace for hand-crafted items, has a core of devotees and more than 1.2 million followers on Twitter. Add to this a general thirst for one-of-a-kind design and a backlash against mass-produced plastic, and we see why retailers are offering alternatives.

For example, there are Old World embroidered pillow covers at Pottery Barn made with hand-spun yarns and specialized looming techniques.

Patterns

The fashion savants at Anthropologie always seem to find a way to turn a traditional item into a star. This season, they've done that with the Josef wingback chair ($1,698), which is dressed in a bold African print dubbed pink shell.

A group of melamine trays in bold and intricate patterns is part of Target's latest line with New York designer Thomas O'Brien (rectangle trays $4.99, large round tray $24.99). For O'Brien, a tray is a signature statement, a miniature tabletop for displaying collections. He calls it "the smallest piece of furniture I make."

The prints — taken from a batik fabric, an Indian ivory box and a piece of English Chippendale fretwork — were inspired by objects found in his travels.

The 'Mad Men' effect

Was it Don and Betty Draper's glamorous blue button-tufted headboard that inspired Pier 1 Imports to introduce the Hayworth, its first upholstered headboard for autumn? Well, the Draper marriage is over, but like a lot of the furniture on the set of AMC's hit show "Mad Men," it has seared itself into our design consciousness.

"The '60s are sneaking into our lives," says West Elm senior vice president Alex Bates. "The Prada fashion collection is all 'Mad Men'... It's happening all over. We have made our own nod with mid-century accents."

Sparkle

Using reflective surfaces in your rooms creates a sense of depth and light. It's a look you'll find front and center this fall in many design stores, including Ethan Allen. Nora Murphy, Ethan Allen's executive vice president of style, says she likes the sparkle of crystal chandeliers, mirrors and lots of glass. The retailer's new lamp line includes a geometric table lamp made of lead crystal, which would dress up a bedside or vanity table.

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