Thursday, August 30, 2012

...about holiday trends: West Elm holiday preview.

If it's August, it must be Christmas. That's the retail rule that cranks up the calendar so we all have time to plan ahead, and figure out what style we want when we finally get our merry on. I was lucky to be invited to the West Elm headquarters, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge on a hot July day, to preview their fall and holiday collections. 

What West Elm does, they do really well, and their holiday collection of tabletop, home, kitchen and cool-season introductions proved to be more of the same: collaborative endeavors, smart and stylish packaging, great staples, an "evident hand" and seasonal accent that have a shelf life past the red letter day. And throughout, the seasonal introductions build on collections and Christmases past (the dotted penguins are back!), allowing you to continue to layer on and tell your own home and holiday tale. Here are my highlights...

Gifts of the Manguy
For those stumped by man-shopping, West Elm has you covered with items you won't need to save the gift receipt for. Grooming and bar-stocking seemed the center of the gifting, and standouts included a chic prepackaged sake set that looks like way more money than it is. 
No guys on your gift list? Not to worry... the individual decanters with turned-wood-ball stoppers, agate-slice coasters (FINALLY, available in all one-color or mix and match!) and more seasonally-themed items (peppermint-striped paper straws, felted reindeer and penguin coasters) make ideal host or hostess gifts... or make you look like the perfect host or hostess.

Gifted for Good
With the success of past giving campaigns with St. Jude's, West Elm once agains shows its charitable side, this season with a new collection of mugs benefitting St. Jude's, the SPCA, AmFar and other worthy causes.

Menagerie, a Trois
West Elm continues to explore whimsical animal themes, and new additions give the streamlined ceramic menagerie of Jonathan Adler a run for the money... for a lot less money. While they look wintry now, most will survive the season. I know a few Bears who'd love to be on the gift list this year, lined up for the polar bear cake plate and cookie jar. I'd use the fox or squirrel in a nursery to stash away smaller items.

Tree Alternatives
West Elm has always addressed the challenges of small-space living, even with holiday additions. This year's introductions include a flat-pack tree, with classic Nordic roots and cool graphic style. It could hold its own without a single ornament.

Smart Kitchen
They've continued to stock the pantry over in the West Elm kitchen section since its recent introduction, part of the company's attempt to create more one-stop shopped for brides-to-be and first apartment furnishers. Especially of note, these chic and sleek knife blocks. Designed with that headsmack of "Why didn't anyone think of this before?" their cylindrical design takes up vastly less space on a New York countertop. And thank you, West Elm: knives and blocks are sold separately if its just the wood you want to get your hands on.

Speaking of wood, long gone are the days when the only flavor of wood over at West Elm was Chocolate. New introductions for Fall and beyond show a playful, artisanal approach to wood. The patchwork dresser is the first piece in a coming collection, but even on its own, it's the dream piece to knit together an existing room's worth of mismatched wood tones. 

Are We All Lit?
On almost any interior job I do, a lamp from West Elm manages to make it onto a table, nightstand and into the portfolio picture. Their unique designs and pocket-friendly price tags make them both standouts and go-to pieces. Two new introductions give great shine and shimmer to country home or city boudoir. The cast twig lamp also shows that shine is not emasculating. I'd love it in a deep-cola or navy men's study or master bedroom. Use that one as a single to capitalize on its found quality, but use the stacked silvered glass lamp in pairs: it's perfectly nightstand-scaled.

Well Seasoned
West Elm continues its collaboration with Allegra Hicks, and her newest bedding looks nicely icy when surrounded by snow-covered trees, but I'd gladly slip into this printed and embroidered bedding when trying to keep my August cool. Pillows also easily find their way into a living room, and the duvet alone creates a dreamy palette for an entire bedroom.

Menswear and Modern
The new Victor chair was already a welcome addition to the West Elm custom upholstery collection, but the style quotient has been haberdashed way up in this straight-from-the-design-buildings menswear flannel check. Bulky knits also made more than one appearance throughout all the collections, even used as a printed motif on serveware.

Tree Trends
Icy, woodsy and colorful: these were the three main tree stories, with collections that prove one-stop tree trimming doesn't have to end up looking cookie cutter. The signature mix of handmade, organic, and a dusting of holiday bling made each tree look collected and quaint. And lots of the ornaments would also be perfect table-top accents or gift wrapping trim.

Wood Luxe
I've always loved the wintry mix that West Elm serves up: like Elves at the disco, Studio 25th of December, with birch bark, snow and glitz in a winter wonderland. And the tablescapes of West Elm's holiday collections aren't just for Christmas: they'd go all the way from Winter Solstice to the perfect New Year's Eve fete, feast or festival. And again, don't let the setting fool you: most pieces can stand on their own year 'round. 

Good Look for the Money
West Elm manages to get a lot of look for the money, and these glass shapes (perfectly and beautifully packed for giving) are no exception. 

Fall, for Bronze
I've often joked that my favorite season is "Retail Fall," and although West Elm's big brother Pottery Barn does it best, West Elm does fall with warmth, modernity, and a global air. Bronzes, moroccan lighting, foxed mirror, metallic glazes and custom tableware designed by Laura Zindel will all cast a far eastern and Indian summer glow from living room to dining table.

Modern (Color) Family
Not all fall and holiday colors are deep... a sand-washed palette, more Santa Fe than Santa Claus (perfect for a mid-century-a-phile) worked its way into hand-blocked textiles and a growing collection of seeded-glass vessels that look like they came from a gallery or craft fair, not mall or catalog.

Square Biz
I also can't wait to get my hands on the new and untrimmed preserved box wood wreaths: fresh and modern in a square shape, manageable in price and size (enough to easily consider multiples), and the perfect backdrop for a custom wreath design.

Color Blocked
From rubber-dipped canvas totes to linen and velvet pillows, West Elm doesn't shy away from color, and gives you lots of colorful ammunition whether upping the color ante for a holiday party, or giving a white-walled rental or color-fearful some easy-to-change hue and dash.

I left West Elm, indigo-dipped goody bag in hand (including the clever Mason-jar martini shaker!), whistling a holiday tune (okay, humming. I can't really whistle). Who knew, in the dazzling summer sun, we need a little Christmas now? Thanks West Elm! Counting the days! 

What West Elm look are you most excited about? How would you use it in your home! Tell me!!

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