Guest blogger: Jason Phillips, Phillips Collection Vice President
It’s common knowledge that technology and social media have made the world a somewhat smaller and certainly more connected place. As a result, micro-trends quickly become global trends, but what we’ve noticed in the high-end marketplace is not a shift towards sameness, but a boldness to find one’s own style and stay true to that.
The point being, with access to all the design inspiration the world has to offer, how does a manufacturer approach new material, finish, scale and everything else that goes into product development? Do we try to create broader collections that might work for a variety of styles or do we focus on niche categories?
At Phillips Collection, we have been focusing a lot of our attention on how to enhance natural materials like wood and stone. What happens to the personality of a solid wood table when you stain it and give it a glossy finish versus leaving it in the raw? This is both a stylistic and durability study. What we’ve found is that every layer of finish makes the design more niche, and that’s ok. In fact, that’s exploitable!
What we’ve been doing successfully for some time now is using very low sheen finishes on our Origins Collection of one-of-a-kind live edge tables. This is our most widely accepted finish since it celebrates the natural material so wonderfully. The biggest challenge here is communicating that while the table looks raw, it is in fact finished in a multi-stage, highly-durable lacquer—you just can’t see it.
Where things become more niche is when we start applying stains, and in some cases, take a blowtorch to our tables and completely char them. The following is a summary of what we’ve done to enhance our offerings in live edge finishing.
This is our runaway success. We treat the raw wood with special minerals to bring out the texture in the grain. This also desaturates the yellow in the wood, allowing us to then apply a penetrating, grey stain that has a cooler color temperature. Again, we go in with our low sheen lacquer and the result is a table full of texture that appears to have turned to stone. Grey works in so many environments that it creates a universal appeal despite being such a boldly specific finish.
This was a micro-trend that has popped up in interiors around the world. Taking a product and literally charring it with a blowtorch does a few things to the wood. First, it brings out a deep texture in grain as well as creates beautiful cracks and fissures in the surface. Second, it creates a uniform, matte colorway, hiding the superficial grain but still communicating wood by the texture it creates. Lastly, the decision to keep it matte makes it feel almost primitive. From our backgrounds in antiquities, we have found that even the most rustic, heirloom pieces can find their way into super contemporary spaces by creating just the right boldness in contrast. That is where charred, matte black finishes play such an exciting role in 21st-century interior design.
It’s not just for the beach anymore. You’ll be seeing more and more bleached and whitewashed finishes making their way inland and into urban spaces. They communicate age and a certain timelessness which homeowners gravitate towards. Heirloom no longer means a piece handed down generation after generation. It is more a feeling a product can evoke that gives you a sense of nostalgia. We see bleached as the new pastel.
Whether with a hint of red or a deep espresso, brown has always been a popular finish and we are always looking for the right depth of finish so the grain is celebrated, not washed over. At Phillips Collection, we struggled for years to find the right brown, and it was only during a recent, unfortunate fire in one of our kilns that we discovered the perfect brown. In an attempt to salvage a large dining slab, we scraped off the charred top layers to reveal the unharmed core. We sealed, stained and finished the piece and realized we created a stunning finish. We aptly call it “Perfect Brown” and will be introducing it this Spring.
There is so much opportunity to bring innovation to the marketplace, and the audience is out there for any and every style. What has sustained throughout the last decade is a desire for authentic product. Solid woods, finishes that celebrate the raw material, and a touch of surprise. It’s a wonderful and exciting time to be in the business of creating home furnishings. We feel the positive impact it makes on people’s lives, which has been extremely rewarding for us.
Shop Phillips Collection at Furnitureland South online or in-store today!