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From Home Furnishing Business

The Future is Bright

By: Sheila Long O'mara


I’ve seen the future of furniture design, and it is very, very bright. Scorchingly so, I might add. On a recent, hot day last month, I joined 10 of my industry friends on the campus of High Point University to judge the annual Pinnacle Awards for the American Society of Furniture Designers. The makeup of the room is a good mix of retailers, designers, media and association executives.

We start early—first thing in the morning—and lock ourselves into a board room to pore over photos of products. Our goal: Select design winners in a number of categories. No one leaves until we’re done. It’s serious business. Much as I imagine the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approaches voting for the Oscars.

OK. Perhaps I exaggerate a wee bit, but the day and the task involve deliberate work.

This year we went through 138 entries from 43 companies in 17 different categories. Categories include bedroom, dining room, upholstery, motion, leather upholstery lighting, decorative accessories and on and on. Each year the number of entries varies. This year was a pretty good year. Some years are lighter than we’d like. Often times, we find ourselves lamenting that some of the great design-leading companies haven’t entered pieces, collections or designs that we’ve all seen at a Market.

Consider this: You can’t win if you don’t enter. Know this: The judges choose the winners from the entries we have. Just because all 11 of us have seen your XYZ Collection and think it’s the best major collection out there since Broyhill’s Fontana, doesn’t mean you’ll get a Pinnacle come awards night.

Now, I’ll step off my soapbox and get back to the future of furniture design.

This year’s awards added a brand new category. A student design category to foster and encourage those college kids who are aspiring designers to build their portfolios and share their vision with the industry.

First year out of the gate, we welcomed 10 student entries from a number of colleges, including Appalachian State University, Kendall College of Art and Design, and Savannah College of Art and Design.

We reviewed the student category toward the end of the day, and you should have seen the faces and heard the comments from around the room. We all lit up as if someone had delivered a pitcher of cool lemonade at the end of a hot day. The kids — those youngsters who are eager to come into our industry and create beautiful furniture — blew away a roomful of seasoned, hardened professionals.

One by one, as we flipped through renderings and sketches, we commented on the talent headed our way.

Talented designers with a fresh eye on home furnishings and how they’re used in the home are headed straight for us. How refreshing!

Be sure to snag a ticket for the Pinnacle Awards gala during the High Point Market Monday, Oct. 20. Trust me, you won’t want to miss seeing the winners in all categories, and you’ll be eager to see what the future of furniture design holds for all of us.

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