Beneath the Javits Center’s Tinkertoy-like grid of puffy tubular steel and tinted glass, the “NY NOW Market for Home & Lifestyle” exhibition buzzed and swelled with post-recession euphoria.
Amazed as always with the sheer volume of offerings, my limited mental capacity for observation and analysis was stretched to the limit. Back, feet and singed eyes have as yet to recover.
At the show, a genuine positive atmosphere bubbled up. Meanwhile, creative offerings were exhibited in remarkable abundance. Purveyors hawked American talent, American manufacturing and American materials, along with American entrepreneurship and can-do-anything-custom American attitude. Interestingly, many of these owner/purveyors were strikingly young, stylish and enthusiastically promoting their nascent innovative visions.
Like the fashion catwalks, the gift show, as it’s informally called, always sifts out the trends as certain motifs, elements or colors simply repeat and repeat and repeat. Especially after a spectator has viewed more than 2,500 booths, that spectator catches on and the trend becomes crystal clear.
This year in particular, the color hue of navy blue threaded itself through nearly every collection. It was paired with white, of course, but unpatriotically avoided partnership with red. I cannot comment as to why navy blue—the color of authority, trustworthiness, the NYPD and banking stability in general—has become so off-the-charts popular, but it is flooding the market.
The French flatware company, Sabre, has introduced stunning acrylic flatware with handles in nautical flag-like designs that cry out, “Sailor, sailor, ship ahoy!” They even sport forks and knives with paintbrush-like stems whose tops appear dipped in a pot of navy blue lacquer. Also there, paper place mats, assembled in tablets of a hundred sheets, featured graphic navy-and-white patterns of ever popular stripes, zig-zags, wave and whale tails, alongside the recurring chinoiserie temple and garden motifs.
By the way, if you have been longing for an opportunity to strut out your 1980s collection of blue and white export china, now is the time. At least one in five booths exhibited some element of navy and white chinoiserie, and most of this was china.
Of course, the Japanese dealers spread out their cacophony of intricate patterns in navy and white. And Chinese porcelain urns standing as tall as 42 inches and navy-and-white, multi-tiered pagoda-style tulipieres were everywhere in evidence.
Chinese Chippendale faux bamboo furniture and china, á la Palm Beach’s Slim Aarons’ era, hit the showcases running. The lacquered chairs in navy blue were wearing jazzy blue-and-white seat covers.
Then there were the decorative motifs seen in the wares of the California-based Paperproducts Design. The octopus has been deified in glass, paper, ceramic, melamine, plastic and fine porcelain this year. Unmistakably Baroque in line and unmistakably navy squid in color, these intriguing and slightly malevolent creatures are slithering through the design world. Though not as obviously prevalent as these predatory mollusks and sea creatures might be, whales, starfish, crabs, lobsters and schools of guppies are also starring in the design firmament.
Not to be repetitive, but navy blue or cobalt blue has infiltrated glassware, lamps, bedspreads, sheeting and lacquered and marble-inlaid trays (yes, they have even stained marble navy blue). There is not a pottery or porcelain manufacturer this year that does not offer complete dinner services in navy blue-optional patterns, as seen in Jersey Pottery’s offering of fish schools charmingly swimming in concentric circles.
Place mats in laminated capiz shell wafers shimmered in navy blue from Kim Seybert. Napkin rings were beaded or wrapped in navy blue silk while the napkin world was flush with David Hicksian patterns of geometric navy and white.
The ancients would have been thrilled at the current navy blue trend, given that the blue pigment was the rarest and most expensive to achieve. Perhaps navy blue’s association with royalty, divinity, stability, authority and trustworthiness indicates an aspirational yearning.
Maybe it is a symbol that we are making it through rough seas and having negotiated the deluge, we remain steadfast and feel secure. On the flip side, navy blue could simply be a decorative whim. Whatever the answer, in the near future, we will surely be seeing a lot of it.