An emphasis on nature and neutrals dominates the colors and patterns that are pushing to the forefront this year.

Sunbrella’s new Balance collection revels in contemporary stripes, geometrics and toile-like tropical patterns.

HIGH POINT — An emphasis on nature and neutrals dominates the colors and patterns that are pushing to the forefront this year.

In fact, living in harmony with nature and connecting to nature has been ongoing since the beginning of the pandemic and will be at the forefront beyond 2022, according to Kimberle Frost, textile designer and color enthusiast for Ultrafabrics Color Lab.

“Each new color trend is an evolution, built on the foundation of what has come before,” said Donna Morrison, vice president and creative director of Culp Upholstery Fabrics (residential). “The spectrum of gray tones that have been the predominate palette the past few seasons are now being paired with warmer gold tones creating the perfect balance between warm and cool.”

Morrison added that this combination is also ushering in an array of mineral-rich accent colors inspired by desert landscapes, aged pottery and artisan pieces.

“A couple of colors we see are a softer, lighter azure to capture the feeling of the sky after a spring rain and also a more subdued take on rust/clay using yarns,” said Teresa Buelin, business development and marketing manager for Outdura.

Sunbrella’s design director Emily Robinson agrees. “We expect to see a calm and warming color palette that goes beyond white and into other hues like parchment and ivory to show how soft, sun-washed shades can really ground any space,” she said. “This shift toward softer lines reflects a desire for spaces that are intentionally designed to nurture and soothe through an ethereal atmosphere.”

Many designers concur that nature offers an endless source of color inspiration.

“We are seeing a lot of vegetable-dyed colors. Deep berry colors, vivid greens and harmonizing blues are using the now mainstream amber gold as a spring board for bold color stories,” said Sue Patrolia, director of product at Regal Fabrics. “In terms of solids or tweedy textures, we are seeing that a lot of folks are ‘grayed out’ and are looking to greiges, wheat, taupes, soft vanilla or even white.”

Embracing imperfections

Since natural influences are taking the forefront, it stands to reason that perfection is not the goal.

“The timeworn details of handcrafted materials and treasured heirlooms are a reminder that perfect isn’t the only way to be and beauty can be found in the imperfections,” said Culp’s Morrison. “A modern bohemian style that celebrates simplicity with rustic homespun and handcrafted looks helps us to find inspiration in natural weaves, rugged textures and global patterns.”

There is a strong desire to open wide the interior doors to nature, deriving motifs from florals and plants to vegetables, butterflies and forests, according to Regal Fabrics’ Patrolia.

For the design team at Outdura, nature will also be the main theme, according to Buelin. “We have fabrics inspired by soothing water effects alongside a modernized animal print jacquard and a renewed woodland view with an unexpected diversion to a bountiful stripe coupled with dots that kindly give a nod to the digital age.”

But the experts say that juxtaposed with those natural influences is the desire for more traditional patterns.

“Geometrics with organic influence, large scale patterns with a modern twist, florals and leafs are rising to the forefront this year,” said Katharine Dotterer, creative director for Brentwood Textiles, a division of STI.

This can be seen in the contemporary stripes, geometrics and toile-like tropical patterns reflected in Sunbrella’s new Balance collection. The company’s Showtime collection, which features 22 complementary patterns, is also inspired by traditional crafts and techniques such as shibori, block printing and embroidery.

Over the top textures

Going hand-in-hand with natural influences is the emergence of texture to bring in that third dimension.

“Texture can determine how a space looks since it’s our sense of feel and haptics,” said Frost at Ultrafabrics. “The right texture provides contrast and depth which can translate into a sense of calm and balance.”

The need for balance means that many new texture combinations are happening now including an eclectic mix of rustic linens, plush velvets and rugged leathers all in the same room, according to Culp’s Morrison.

Outdura’s Buelin agrees that texture is the way that people add visual interest, dimension and softness to their outdoor living spaces to make them more like indoor spaces.

It feels to us like texture has been trending up, popping up, bulking up and blowing up for years,” said Patrolia from Regal Fabrics. “It‘s like we cannot get enough texture. We may very well be in a maximal design phase, but who doesn’t love it? Heavy, slub yarns, beefed up bouclé and fun faux furs are everywhere.”

The team at Sunbrella said it seeks inspiration from around the world to create unique styles with textures to achieve any design aesthetic.

“From complex jacquards to textures like chenille, bouclé, tweed and knits, we truly have something for everyone,” said Sunbrella’s Robinson. “In fact, we recently expanded our yarn portfolio to include a wealth of textural and innovative yarns, including new marled and bouclé constructions with patterns like Bliss and Nurture from the Balance collection. Texture is and will remain incredibly important in creating warm and welcoming environments.”

Color is personal

Since consumers have spent a great deal more time at home over the past year, they are becoming more comfortable with color and embracing their own style.

“Maximalism is working into the home,” said Dotterer from Brentwood Textiles. “Similar to apparel, there are fewer rules. Consumers can now combine what they like and make it their own. The focus of spending more time in our homes has caused a shift in thought.”

Consumers are embracing a new wave of autonomous design, said Sunbrella’s Robinson, which naturally invites bolder choices and greater experimentation.

“In general, we’re seeing a preference for neutral fabrics that are enhanced by pops of color,” she added. “Our personal design choices speak to who we are and how we want to be seen, and consumers are recognizing myriad opportunities for individual expression through eye-catching fabrics that help to tell their stories.”

At Outdura, they also see consumers adding that splash of color. “We are anything but boring in our upcoming line while our ‘Digital’ theme will offer some colorful, uplifting design combinations with a contrast to our new ‘Be Bold’ theme that mixes cooling blues and earthy reds,” Buelin said.

Consumers still crave comfort and stability even as we move out of the pandemic into more positive times, said Ultrafabics’ Frost. “These warm, restorative colors are being used with bolder, rich evocative colors such as vibrant cobalt blue, bottle green and tomato red.”

Frost said you can see customers’ eyes light up and a big smile grow when they reveal a bold, beautiful color story. “Not everyone can pull it off, but we have a feeling a lot more people are going to try to this year.”

Importance of sustainability

According to Statista, 76% of home furnishings consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly home furnishings, with 31% willing to pay up to 5% more for furnishings that are certified to be environmentally safe with a style that they liked.

“We think this generation’s desire for cleaner, more environmentally friendly fabrics and furniture is becoming a major player in purchasing decisions,” said Regal Fabrics’ Patrolia. “Fabrics that reduce waste, use sustainable materials, whether natural or recycled, and require less toxic treatment from yarn to store are sure to become more and more popular as they become more mainstream.”

Ecological home design is certainly influencing everything from color to texture and materials, said Sunbrella’s team.

“As consumers seek to feel grounded through a greater connection to nature, we’re noticing preferences for a warm, minimalist aesthetic through understated furniture and comforting textiles that are inherently sustainable and multifunctional.”