I just flew back from the furniture market in Las Vegas and boy, are my arms tired…and my feet. Las Vegas is the Home of Wretched Excess (Humvee limos? Male Joan Rivers impersonators?) and the furniture market is no exception. This year’s show had 1500 companies showing their wares in 2.6 million square feet of show space to approximately 68,000 furniture buyers.
The show occupies 3 venues. The World Market Center is a 10 story building with 1.3 million square feet of space, roughly equal to 27 football fields. The temporary Pavilion buildings add another 350,000 square feet (or 9 football fields) and 2 floors of the Convention Center add another 1 million square feet. And, yes, my wife and I saw it all. Trust me on this, after the first hour, most of the furniture all looks the same.
So, as the most insanely bored amongst you might ask, what’s new? For colors, a brown-black usually called espresso is the new, hot color. Espresso is the new, well, everything. There’s still a smattering of oak, maple and mahogany (the latter is usually just the color, most real mahogany is long gone) but beds, dressers, sofa legs, etc. are probably 90% espresso. Upholstered goods are most commonly neutral earth tones in beige, tan, browns and greens. Lime green is increasingly popular.
There remains a goodly amount of what I call semi-Tuscan style furniture best suited for McMansions (overstuffed with rolled arms, brocades, tapestries in muted earth tones, etc.). I saw three vendors who only sell tassels, for instance. But most of the styles of furniture have incorporated many of the retro revival look with an Asian influence. Clean, but stylish, lines where the shape of the object creates its style. I guess it has to, since it is all espresso colored. This means that headboards may be the standard rectangle but with a gentle curve to the edges. Sofas are frequently square lines rather than rounded curves.
The Mission style vendors looked lonely and disappointed, but that may just be because of their gambling losses. Southwestern styles were nearly absent. I only saw 2 or 3 vendors of cowboy furniture.
Home décor items provide the color. Many of the vases, lamps, statuary, etc. were in brilliant reds, blues, oranges and greens.
The Asian influence is not surprising, since I would guess that 80% of all furniture is now imported from China. The good news is that this keeps the price down and it is easier to find solid wood furniture. The bad news, you can imagine for yourself. Most of the vendors accept the need for imports with a shrug of their shoulders as inevitable. When was the last time you could buy a t-shirt made in the US? And the quest for ever-cheaper production continues. I saw many more Malaysian- and Vietnamese- made furniture than I did a year ago. Many of the companies are only selling container-sized loads of furniture, eschewing any US-based warehousing which is the beginning of Chinese vendors entering the market selling directly to retailers, rather than through wholesalers.
I’m pleased to say that ecologically-sound furniture is increasingly popular, although still hard to find. I found a new Washington-based business that will be importing solid wood furniture made from bamboo and I hope to start selling some their items in a couple of months.
The advent of more top-end mattresses in the market has lead to a slew of middle-line mattresses incorporating many of the same features, such as memory foam. As for the business side, furniture sales are nearly universally flat or down slightly, which will probably lead to more sales in the retail outlets.
My advice? Buy the best quality you can, buy local when you can and never hit on 17.