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From Home Furnishing Business

Designer Barbara Miller to Present "Researching Home" at High Point Market

Design expert Barbara Miller believes science, not trends can predict how to make consumers happy.

At High Point Furniture Market, Miller, co-author of ASID’s white paper "Researching Home: Evidence Based Residential Design" and founder of Yes Spaces; and Sally Augustin will present "Researching Home" on Monday, Oct. 21, noon-1:15 p.m., in the High Point Theatre at the Transportation Terminal.

The home furnishings industry often turns to trend predictions as an indicator of what we should design or buy to meet our consumers’ needs. While trends can influence buying behavior, the root consumer motivator is simpler. Consumers seek psychological comfort, and numerous studies have measured exactly which elements consumers seek out both consciously and unconsciously to achieve it.

Miller analyzes psychological research for keys to what makes people “happy.” When we are happy, science tells us we are healthier, we sleep better, we relate better to others, and we are more productive.  

Scientists say that people are happiest when they are in an elevated position with a clear view of surrounding areas, which is a characteristic linked directly to our history of survival on the plains. Humans sought refuge in caves that gave them shelter and a clear view of any approaching threat. Ever wondered why everyone always wants the top bunk? Why some adults prefer tall master beds, or teens enjoy lofted beds?

Link this historical association of safety to the proven fact that we sleep better in the most protected and acoustically protected area of the home. We can see why padded headboards, which absorb sound and protect sleeping heads, are popular. Wings on these beds may be a current trend but they add to the illusion of privacy and protection of the sleeper, so as they go out of style another form with the same function will likely take its place.

Materials, finishes, and shapes also affect consumers comfort. Visible wood grain gives the illusion of strength to a consumer. Dark, rectangular, heavy pieces convey authority. Rectangular shapes make many people nervous, as they are not naturally found in nature, but if the consumer wants to make a statement about power this is the type of furniture they will turn to. If the consumer wants to create a welcoming environment, perhaps a family-friendly setting, lighter (but still durable) furnishings with curvilinear lines will be more appealing.

Scientists researched pattern, texture and color as well. In general, people prefer patterns of moderate complexity, soft textures and colors of medium-low intensity and brightness. The sofa with the busy pattern or the high intensity color is the one that will be left on the sales floor. No matter what the current trend or color preferences may be if you apply psychological findings to the patterns and the colors you choose you will be on track predicting what your consumer wants.

What consumers need is analyzed in the same way, even moderate amounts of clutter create anxiety in people; hearts beat faster, blood pressure rises. Extra storage options in furniture are appealing because they address this basic fact of nature. 

People need privacy. This especially affects children who share a bedroom and don’t have the luxury of locking a door. Building in some privacy elements into children’s beds such as partial bookcases that obstruct a view or giving them some individual control over their area like built-in reading lights will make those pieces much more appealing to both parent and child. 

Understanding what a consumer needs on a basic psychological level increases the value of home furnishings, and helps the consumer more informed buying decisions.

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