Paragon customers are requesting large-scale statement pieces and groupings of four and six companion images.
All eyes were on the wall last year, and likely will be for much of this year, too, helping boost sales and optimism in the category.
Wall décor sales, which include paintings, framed art, wall hangings, mixed media and mirrors, grew 2.8% between 2019 and 2020, to $7.74 billion, according to Home Accents Today’s 2020 Universe Study. The biggest portion is rung up at mass merchants and off-price retailers, followed by the direct-to-consumer channel (which racked up the most year-over-year growth—3.5%— in 2020), and then home accent and lifestyle stores. And according to CB2’s first-ever Next in Design report, mirrors were the most searched product of 2020, with more than four million individual searches.
“The beauty of wall art is that it can complement a room’s décor, or it can be the focal point,” said Cyrus Loloi, principal of Loloi, which launched its textile wall art program in 2019 and has watched it grow. “Either way, wall art is no longer an afterthought in the home — it is becoming a major consideration in the overall décor. We also believe that wall art is something people want to resonate on a very emotional level. There is a reason why people value pictures of their family on the wall, or a painting they brought home from a trip. There’s meaning there.”
The pandemic has only intensified consumers’ interest in the category as people spend more time at home and have become more invested in how it looks to themselves and others. Sales that dropped in the first half of 2020 rebounded for many in the second half.
“Our wall decor business has accelerated like never before in this unusual year. We have never seen such a surge in business,” said Mac Cooper, CEO of Uttermost. “The biggest challenge for us has been how to ramp up production to such a high level and then to get it into our distribution centers.”
“Our business is very strong,” echoed Jonathan Wilner, president of Montreal, Canada-based Renwil, which has an in-house design studio that creates art that is later produced on a larger scale by small studios as well as larger factories overseas. “It’s been a roller coaster of events and hard to anticipate, but even with the drop-off at the beginning of last year sales were up 26%.”
Supply chain bottleneck, delivery delays—there are simply not enough ships to handle the merchandise coming in from overseas, said Wilner—and soaring freight costs are the flies in the ointment. But manufacturers said they are working hard to remain in-stock and service their customers.
Renwil, which is normally 95% in stock but is now at about 80%, is making deeper purchases, said Wilner. “There’s no perfect solution to dealing with this,” he said last month. “Our traffic department is looking at this closely, and expecting more ships [to become available] in the next three months. Hopefully the lead time to get containers onto ships will reduce.”
Renwil imports from China and India. India has always required a longer lead time, according to Wilner, and COVID has adversely affected manufacturing capacity further. China has things more under control, he said.
Paragon, a build-to-order manufacturer, worked hard to maintain an order fulfillment rate of 96% and kept lead times within a few days of normal during most of the pandemic, President Lendell Glassco said. “We maintain a raw material inventory of molding, matboard, glass and artwork ranging from one to six months’ supply,” he noted. “By not turning these raw materials into finished goods to put on the warehouse shelves waiting for an order, we are better able to adapt to changes in demand for any of our products.” Strong relationships with suppliers built over the past 40 years have helped ensure the delivery of materials needed to meet the surge of orders over the past few months, he added.
Trends in wall décor
Customers have been deliberate and thoughtful in their wall décor choices, Glassco said. They are requesting large-scale statement pieces and groupings of four and six companion images. Renwil’s Wilner said he anticipates an increase in demand for larger pieces, and more of them, as consumers move, at least temporarily, away from urban areas to larger homes. Larger homes means a need for more and bigger wall décor.
But sizes also vary as some consumers want wall art that can act as the focal point of the room, or just as a smaller accent piece, Loloi noted.
“Consumers have gravitated in a few directions,” said Uttermost’s Cooper. “In mirrors, they have trended towards more clean, traditional and contemporary styles. In art, we see more interest in hand painted art, especially larger sizes. For framed art, more contemporary and more abstract. For alternative wall decor, unique and different applications using natural materials.”
In terms of color, subject matter and style, Wilner pointed to a rise in matte black, satin brass and muted gold tones in framing. Neutral colors — a smoky blue, gray and beige — remain strong but touches of color are also emerging, like olive, “rusty colors” and a light pink, he said. Glassco also noted the popularity of “beautiful earth tone color palettes” with warm, natural textures. “Another strong trend combines rich accent colors and a neutral color base.”
He added, “There is a focused interest in subject matter beyond contemporary abstracts. We are returning to more classic, traditional themes blended with a clean, contemporary edge.”
Wilner has seen increased interest in “large faces,” a trend also noted last fall by Gabriel Cohen, CEO of Classy Art, who said that women’s faces “done in a modern way” have become more popular and that Black art, which was once typically only purchased by African Americans, now appeals to a broader audience.
Lions, tigers and other pictures of animals, treated in an artistic style, have also captured consumers’ interest, Cohen said.
“We are seeing an interest in everything from abstract wall art to realistic renderings, from colorful tribal and boho themes to subtle shapes and colors,” Loloi said. “Whichever subject matter, color or size, consumers are loving the tactile element of our wall art collection and the fact that we offer a steadily growing programmed collection plus one-of-a-kind pieces that no one else has.”
Renwil is working on a lot of mixed media pieces—mixing metals and cement, for example, and experimenting with terrazzo, wood and plated metals in three-dimensional artwork.
It will come out in August with a glass collection whose individual glass pieces will capture the light, and is working on a line of textile art, mosaic art and wood pieces for a January 2022 release. “We see that as very popular in wall décor,” Wilner said.
Next month, it will release a 700-page catalog with the theme of “joyful rebellion,” inspired by the art of Henri Matisse, whose work, which is currently being imitated in fashion and décor, embodies the joys of taking small rituals seriously, Wilner said. “We felt this was the perfect time to explore Matisse,” he added.