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Norwalk Furniture partners with designer Kim Salmela

Dixon Bartlett likes Las Vegas. “It’s a fun city to furnish,” the chief creative officer at Norwalk Furniture said. “There’s an international crowd that visits here, and they bring with them their many different aesthetics and lifestyles.

“Combine this with the desert climate that lends itself to lighter fabrics and colors, along with the year-round light that plays off a home’s room’s color scheme, and you can understand why so much can be done in Las Vegas with home design and furnishings.”

Bartlett was speaking at the 2019 Winter Las Vegas Market, where Norwalk Furniture was an exhibitor.

Bartlett said three factors go into a customer’s decision when shopping for furniture: visual, comfort and quality.

“We have noticed that color is one of the first things that draws a customer to a piece of furniture,” he said. “Norwalk is a master when it comes to color. In fact, we’re a participating member of the Color Marketing Group, an international organization that selects and forecasts color trends. So while many prefer beige, taupe or cream — and those are all lovely colors — we’re more upbeat and lively.”

After color, comfort is paramount. The piece must be supportive and feel right for the customer.

Design is vital, and Norwalk recently partnered with Kim Salmela, a Los Angeles-based designer whose collection has been described as “chic lifestyle with a fresh, modern bohemian vibe.”

Caroline Hipple, president of Norwalk Furniture, said the collection works for Las Vegas because it includes a West Coast design aesthetic.

“Kim’s ability to mix colors, patterns and textures brings a new point of view,” Hipple said. “It is characterized in a variety of European and ’70s color palettes. The collection includes 50 signature fabrics in hues of evergreen, vibrant mauve, bluish lavenders and pinks that are layered upon neutrals of ivory, black and camel.”

Hipple explained that introducing Salmela’s collection of upholstered sofas, sectionals, accent chairs and ottomans to Norwalk creates a distinctive look that is targeted at a younger audience.

“We’ve been looking to add a younger, West Coast vibe to our product line and we found that in Kim,” Hipple said. “Her eclectic background, combined with her deep knowledge of furniture and textiles, adds new points of view that enable us to reach new consumers. It is many things: modern with vintage, feminine with masculine and light with dark. Her work has depth and dimension.”

The new furniture designs reflect a new architecture across the country where homes, both new and those being remodeled, are showing more open floor plans.

“The movement is toward a more casual lifestyle,” Bartlett said. “People are entertaining in great rooms adjacent to the kitchen as opposed to more formal dining rooms or living rooms. They want to show off their furniture and the multipurpose uses of these rooms. This is driving us to create furniture that meets these new criteria.

“Then you have all the new media where families are talking to their refrigerators and smart devices and that promotes an entirely new category of casual lifestyle furniture. One of those new categories is sectionals which require a large room.”

Another category is high-performance fabrics.

“High-performance fabrics are the future,” Bartlett said. “It’s a method of weaving that is highly soil resistant, which means spilled food or liquids can be easily wiped off and cleaned. This, in turn, is leading to a resurgence of lighter colors such as bright white and taupe and creams that are easy to integrate into any room and easy to accent with colorful pillows and rugs.”

Bartlett believes there is now a collective consciousness of design that underpins preferences among all buyers.

“We live in such a visual world because we’re all watching the same television shows and movies and reading the same home furnishing articles,” he said. “Maybe if you live by the coast there is more blue and aqua in your home decor, but we’re finding this occurs elsewhere because it’s all interchangeable. Everything we do affects design trends and colors. Yet all customers want are things that will complement the decor of their home into a pleasing look.”

According to Bartlett, new homeowners challenge him.

“It takes time to understand home furnishings in order to put a room together,” he said. “Young people keep me on my toes because they’re looking for furniture that has a look and design, but it also has to be functional. They want to use a piece in two or three ways.

“For instance, Norwalk has a large ottoman that is quite popular. When you lift off the top, it becomes a twin bed; a great piece for a guest room in a smaller home.”

The Kim Salmela Collection launched at the January Las Vegas Market in a dedicated 1,800-square-foot showroom adjacent to Norwalk’s showroom on the second floor of Building A. The showrooms are accessible year-round in the Las Vegas Design Center at the World Market Center, 475 S. Grand Central Parkway.

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