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Fall Forecast

Green materials continue to gain momentum, with renewable and engineered woods now included among the standard offerings of many manufacturers. Also on the upswing: Asian accents, Gilmer says. Subtle touches on cabinetry include sliding doors, which can remain open while you cook, and glass doors with horizontal panes of glass to resemble shoji screens.

Terri Sapienza

Gray Wood Finishes

Gray has taken a starring role in interior design lately, becoming the go-to shade for paint, upholstery, wall treatments and flooring. Now it's appearing on wood finishes.

"We see gray as the new neutral," says Kate Mulhearn, a spokeswoman for West Elm. "It's crisp, clean and elegant, and at the same time warm and welcoming." The California-based chain's current collection includes a gray coffee table, desk and wood-framed mirror.

Other retailers also appear to be taking a small break from the much darker wood finishes such as ebony and espresso that have dominated the design scene for the past few years. Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is offering collections of light gray finished tables, and Pottery Barn has gray dining pieces, bedroom furniture and media suites.

Part of the appeal of this subtle shade of wood is its versatility. The tone lends itself to mixing well with just about any color and style. A gray-finished chair would look just as at home atop a worn and weathered antique Persian carpet as it would alongside a shiny lacquered Parsons table.

The color also allows the natural grains in the wood to stand out more. "It's not just the color; it's the texture," Mulhearn says. "It naturally creates its own pattern."

Terri Sapienza

Pattern

Lovers of modern design have been turning up their noses at patterned fabrics for quite a while. This season, the modernists are coming around on prints.

Companies including New York's John Robshaw Textiles are showing beds piled with shams and sheets inspired by such ethnic sources as Uzbek weavings, Indian board games and Indonesian sarongs. At formerly beige-besotted Pottery Barn, stacks of pillows have turned up in prints inspired by antique paisleys and Provencal motifs. And a new generation is discovering the bold, candy-colored prints of Marimekko.

"People today want to express personality in their homes, and I don't think you can always do that by being extremely minimal," says Douglas Burton, co-owner of Apartment Zero, the contemporary design shop in Penn Quarter. For fall, Burton is selling home fashions in the signature woven prints of Italy's Missoni family.

"A funky graphic print in a pillow, lampshade or a small accent chair is a great way to express yourself without taking a big risk," Burton says.


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