What’s next? Observations from the Cologne International Furniture Fair

As the world’s most international furniture event, IMM Cologne always looks forward, and always with a nod to the recent past. New ideas, trends and movements are explored, of course, built on inspiration from recent materials and design fairs. The result for furniture producers: A fantastic way to connect concepts from last year’s Interzum and SICAM fairs with furniture now on the market from around the world.

Here’s an overview of the event:


We’ve been hearing about the blurring of work and living spaces for a few years. Now the buzz is all about the blurring of indoor and outdoor, with wicker furniture one of the most obvious examples. Wicker and organic weaves were everywhere at IMM this year, in much more refined applications than what first appeared at the Milan Furniture Fair a couple of years ago. Wicker also nods toward the use of more natural materials.

Wicker has a retro story to tell, from the ‘70s, so hey…why not combine it with some velour?

Rustic (nostalgophilia?)

The biophilia movement attempts to bring the outdoors in, by using objects, designs or colors. This can be as simple as a small plant, or a ceiling painted light blue, or as intense as a moss wall or real bark wallpaper (Freund GmbH).

There’s a parallel movement bringing the feel of heritage materials into modern settings. Think: barnboard or recovered wooden factory floors (bottom left). (A few years ago, I saw a New Yorker magazine cartoon showing a grid of barns in a field, with the caption: “Demand for reclaimed barnwood causes a wave of new barn construction.”)

Matte/gloss textures are key to making this effect work, especially when the material is a light-weight foil. After all, we’re trying to create a very visceral effect of years of wear and weather without the slivers.

Softening colors

Soft colors and muted tones are rising (Are pastels the new neutrals?) with splashes of more intense hues, to grab or direct attention, adding zip to quiet spaces (top and bottom left photos). In some sectors this is a pullback from the vibrancy of recent years, while in others, like Scandinavian furniture, even soft colors are a departure from the light wood and whites we’ve become so accustomed to.

Black is also back, softer and warmer, accented with bold woodgrains and even natural leather drawer pulls.


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Kenn Busch

Material Intelligence organizes educational material exhibits like the Materials Pavilion at NeoCon, creates and presents certified educational content on materials and sustainability for architects and interior designers, and collaborates with design educators and students to nurture new thinking about materials and materiality. Founder Kenn Busch also covers the major materials and design fairs in Europe for the A&D and manufacturing communities, and presents at industry conferences like the Closets Conference and Expo and the Executive Briefing Conference. www.MaterialIntelligence.com  www.ClimatePositiveNow.org