In its new spring collection, CB2 has a brilliant orange wool area rug emblazoned with the phrase "Keep Calm and Carry On."
The pre-WWII slogan was originally conceived to calm anxious Brits, but this rug is more startling than soothing. And it's popular; the retailer sold out fast and had to reorder. Marta Calle, director for CB2, says there's lots of interest in decor "that's fresh and new, with great detailing. People want pieces that say 'modern' in an exciting and unique way."
Some stores may still be playing it safe with inventory, but many have clearly opted to go bold, and homeowners looking to add a bit of wow to a room will find lots of options.
Let's start with walls.
The always-daring Tampa designer Given Campbell gives us a new collection of wall coverings inspired by several Catholic patron saints. For example, the paper named for "St. Christopher," the patron saint of travelers, is interpreted in a repeat of airplanes. A quirky yet wonderful troupe of snails makes its way across the paper named "St. Francis," after the patron saint of animals. From feathers to fish scales, in softer earth tones and wilder hues such as fuchsia, lime and gold, these wall coverings hold surprises.
Campbell thinks her art's appeal is simple: "Drama. Putting bold wallpaper on even just one wall in a room of any size instantly changes the feel of the entire room."
She notes that with more shelter magazines featuring strong patterns and colors on the walls, people are more confident to try it themselves. But she has a suggestion for neophytes: "Use a bold pattern in neutral hues. White on white is especially good for this, because it's both dramatic and subtle. It's like design training wheels." Part of her sales go to St. Vincent de Paul charity.
Kreme Life in Los Angeles has several fascinating wallpaper patterns, too, including a chain motif that's chic and edgy. Designer Cadee Wilder offers the option of buying an 18- by 24-inch frameable version of any of her papers "for those who either rent or feel apprehensive about installing wallpaper." She'll print in custom colors, as will Campbell; inks used by both designers are eco-friendly.
There are many eye-catching pieces to hang on the wall this season: CB2 has a 3-foot-wide abacus crafted of iron and colorful rubberwood beads. It's low-tech, high-design wall decor.
Brooklyn, N.Y., graphic designer Jen Pepper interprets her favorite serif and sans serif typography in dark walnut medium-density fibreboard — cool, inexpensive gifts for a typophile or modern art collector.
Pepper's fledgling studio, Pepper Sprouts, is also producing some striking laser-cut trivets; the deer and fox motifs rendered in thick pink or green felt are pleasingly hip folk art.
Mario Trimarchi has created a sculptural dance of mirrored laser-cut steel in his Scirroco bowl, inspired by childhood memories of fierce winds and bits of flying paper. It's available at MOMA, as is a fun collection of paint-drip-patterned trivets and mugs.
Boston-based but British-born Martin and Michele Yeeles have designed a series of plates printed with photographs of American roadside diners and signs. That these evocative images are printed on sturdy melamine seems to add to their charm.
Dandelions shot in black and white add panache to inexpensive porcelain dinnerware at CB2.
Finally, at the always-intriguing Mxyplyzyk, there are rhino, moose and deer heads like cardboard origami for the wall, as well as brightly colored bowls with interior photo-prints of yummy-looking fruit, salad, popcorn or spaghetti. Designer Natalie Kruch has tied more than 500 candy-colored balloons to a wooden stool she has named Balloona.
Like all of these examples of audacious yet affordable home decor accents, it's playful, fun and fresh.
Just like spring should be.