If you’ve ever wondered where designers go to get inspired (other than abroad), the answer is… design markets! Last week I was in Dallas at the annual Home, Apparel and Accessories Market, and it made me think of all the activities and events that really happen behind the scenes of design.
This year, I want to peel back the curtain and bring you along with us throughout the process, not just the grande finale at the end of a project. (Though we LOVE that part!)
So, what’s one behind-the-scenes aspect of designing a beautiful home? Finding the perfect pieces for it.
Of course, there’s only so much we can do from our comfy office chairs — design is something that you live and experience. To understand how our clients will use pieces in their homes, we have to get out there and explore.
This is where markets come in.
Who doesn’t love a little furniture humor? 😉
Why do we attend design markets?
We visit several markets throughout the year, and while inspiration is certainly a big perk, it isn’t our main goal. Our ultimate purpose is to source new and incredible pieces for our clients and vet the product for quality, comfort and value.
Here’s what we do:
1. Test quality & comfort
Markets give us a chance to touch and feel new products and furnishings, which is extremely important. Our clients rely on us to put pieces in their homes that are crafted with the highest quality, comfort, and good sense for their investment. (Remember our How to Spot Quality Furniture post?)
The amount of times we say “oh, this sits nicely!” speaks to how many sofas and chairs we actually sit in. (It’s a lot!)
In many cases, we actually order items for our existing and future projects or set up accounts to do so down the road.
We spec’d these chairs months prior to attending High Point Market, and while on a tour through one of our furniture suppliers’ factories, we spotted them in production! It’s moments like these that really bring our design process to life.
2. Stay educated & updated
Like most industries, new innovations and materials emerge every year. Markets showcase the latest options for furnishings, appliances, accessories and techniques, so by attending 3 to 4 a year, we are able to keep ourselves informed, ask questions, and continue to build our depth of knowledge.
Some showcased products won’t become available until 6 months down the road, so we take hundreds of photos and jot down notes to keep them in our minds for future projects.
3. Foster new & existing relationships
Another valuable advantage of working with an interior designer is the network of trusted and skilled professionals that come with them. Markets help us build this network and strengthen our relationships with our existing vendors — something that is SO important to us.
Our current vendors are our front-line advocates; they’re always there when we need them, and they make it a point to keep us updated on the latest and greatest products. We also make it a point to attend the seminars and presentations of industry professionals, making lasting connections along the way.
Connecting with one of our top furniture manufacturers was such a special moment at High Point last fall. So much talent in one warehouse!
Communications with our vendors and manufacturers is primarily done over phone and email, so prior to market, we schedule numerous appointments over the course of several days to connect with them in person. This a great way for us to put a name to a face, and they equally enjoy meeting the team behind the designs.
Of course, it’s always a great time when we get to connect with other industry folks, like fellow designers and industry leaders, because these relationships are invaluable to our success.
For example, when Blakely received a project that was out-of-state, I reached out to a fellow designer I’d recently met at High Point Market who was based in that area. Because of her industry knowledge and relationships with local companies, she was able to give me recommendations for vendors and craftsmen that I could trust to help with the project.
Thank you, High Point Market, for introducing us!
Inspiring Women from High Point
Inspiring Women from Atlanta Market
Which design markets do we attend throughout the year?
HIGH POINT MARKET
When: April & October
What it is: High Point Market in North Carolina is probably the single, most famous international design market in North America. It takes place in over 180 buildings and attracts more than 75,000 attendees from across the world. Imagine everything you need to furnish your home, from sofas to lighting to decor, all in 12 million square feet of show space.
The size of this market gives us a variety of price points and aesthetics to choose from, so we always keep our current projects in mind when visiting our list of showrooms.
Why we attend: If it’s not obvious by now, we LOVE High Point Market. We live for it. If I’m being honest, it is the mecca of all markets. The size of the event is incredible, and the atmosphere is always charged with excitement.
We typically visit as a team for 5 to 6 days to source products, educate ourselves, and purchase items for client projects. Prior to attending, we always map out which vendors we want to visit because without doing so, we would actually be lost – it’s that big.
We found this vibrant pink bed in the Baker showroom (left) and these tasseled pillows at Kate Spade (right).
KITCHEN & BATH INDUSTRY SHOW (KBIS)
When: Late January
What it is: KBIS is one of the largest trade shows dedicated solely to innovations and designs in kitchens and bathrooms. Think new hardware and lighting, appliances, tile designs, and more.
Why we attend: Most projects that we complete include a kitchen renovation of some sort, and we always want to offer our clients the latest in design and functionality. At KBIS, there’s always something new and exciting to discover!
ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL GIFT & HOME FURNISHINGS MARKET
When: January & July
What it is: The Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings market is not nearly as large as High Point, but that’s part of its appeal. The showrooms themselves are smaller, taking place across 2 buildings, and there is a nice diversity of furniture and accessories.
Why we attend: Smaller showrooms like these help us locate beautiful pieces that are unique and off the beaten path. This year, I visited solo, mainly to source accessories for our upcoming projects, and to discover new vendors. The trip was hugely successful for our inventory. I returned to Rhode Island with plenty of books, trays, beads, planters and much, much more.
Accessories compliments of the Dana Gibson showroom (left) and faux plants from Arty (right).
What it is: Every year, Dallas Market Center hosts The Total Home & Gift Show, almost simultaneously with their Apparel & Accessories Market. Since my vibrant spirit couldn’t choose only one, I planned my trip so that I could attend both markets. (After all, it’s not just about accessorizing your home!)
Their Interior Home & Design center — a 440K square foot, two-level marketplace — features dozens of home decor showrooms filled with home accessories, florals and holiday decor. On the other hand, their Apparel & Accessories space was a tad bigger…
Why we attend: Most home markets are heavy on the furniture and light on the accessories. I decided to visit the accessory market in Dallas for the first time this year to find those smaller, boutique items.
Maybe I’m a bit jaded (looking at you, High Point), but overall, I felt let down by the selections. I found myself wishing for more color, more vendors, and a more organized floor plan. I’m glad I went and experienced it, but given the choice between Dallas and Atlanta… I choose Atlanta.
Design Markets on our Dream List
LAS VEGAS MARKET
When: January & July
What it is: With over 4,300 brands and product lines, attendees can find exactly what they are looking. Categories include furniture, lighting, textiles, floor coverings, decor, lifestyle and many more.
Why we’ll attend: A chance to go see the “Best of the West” in interior design. I have been advised by fellow designers to put Vegas Market on my list because it’s a totally different vibe from what we’ve experienced. It offers more selections for accessory sourcing than Atlanta and fewer furniture selections than High Point. A child of the two, if you will.
MAISON&OBJET IN PARIS
What it is: Maison&Objet is an international trade fair in interior design, home decor, architecture, and art. It’s been named one of the top 3 most important European events for interior design.
Why we’ll attend: Paris. Design. What’s not to love??
As we attend design events throughout the year, we have big plans for sharing the Blakely team’s favorite finds with you. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and check back in here on the blog.
Trust me, you’ll want to see these beauties first!
Until then, our How to Style Your Bookcase download is a fun resource for freshening up the look of your space with accessories that you may already have in your home.