In the UAE interiors market, the forecast for 2011 spending in the commercial buildings sector is said to be $821 million, increasing from $709 million last year, according to the Ventures Middle East report by UBM Built Environment, organisers of Interiors UAE.
This will add to an already busy market, where anywhere from 10-35% of the total fit-out spend can be dedicated to window dressing, according to Veenu Kanwar, design manager, Warps & Wefts.
Kanwar said new innovations have revolutionised furnishings, with manufacturers manipulating fabric structures and surfaces by experimenting with shrinkage, transparency, opacity, light, depth and permanent textures.
“Due to a movement towards sustainable products, the colour palette is inspired by nature. Cool aqua blue, grass green, peacock turquoise, warm sunny yellow, or terracotta reds add to a full spectrum including gold, purple, orange, fuchsia and lime which have evolved as accents to neutral shades,” said Kanwar.
Interior designer Perla Lichi, founder of Perla Lichi Gallery, said matching the fabrics used in a window dressing to the furniture is an important aspect of design.
“Curtains are the dresses of the house and it’s best to keep the shades neutral. If you use too much colour in the window dressing, then it’s difficult to design the rest of the room,” she said.
Yvonne Tobien, sales executive, Luxaflex said colours such as indigo, deep purple and curry yellow, inspired by spices are in vogue, with aubergine purple as a trend colour for 2011.
Gina Vaduva, regional sales and marketing manager, RAME said Middle East trends do not follow international ones.
“Right now, we are seeing linen and neutral colours globally but in the Middle East no-one likes linen, so there is no demand for it,” she said.
Tobien however, disagreed. “I don’t think trends are different, seeing that our window covering products are international, made in Europe and coming to the Middle East.
There seems to be a craving for international and European products in the market. Quality is the main factor and second, innovation, that is, being the first with something new is important.”
Kanwar said the Middle East mixes the traditional culture of the East and the modern technology of the West even when it comes to window dressing.
With a deep rooted sense of cultural pride, most clients have been looking for decorative, ethnic and classical designs while dressing their windows and blending them with modern technology.
However, the industry is seeing a slow but steady shift in interiors with embellishments giving way to sleek and simpler window treatments. In addition to nature inspired design motifs and ethnic patterns, window dressings with the retro geometric patterns can be seen.
The main challenges in the industry are related to costs. According to Kanwar, bringing the price of products down results in the quality or service being compromised. “The Middle East today has become a price conscious market rather than a quality conscious one.”
Vaduva agreed and added that previously, consumers would buy something good, even if it was an expensive product, but now the price has become more important, even though it’s the product that speaks volumes about itself.
She said years ago, customers thought about the product not the pricing but now it’s the other way around. In addition, quality products are being challenged by low cost versions or are copied.
Aside from pricing, Lichi said in the Middle East, arch windows present a significant design challenge.
“Whenever designers have to work with an arch-shaped window, which is very common here, they should follow the shape when designing. Also, sometimes you see windows can be a little lower from the ceiling, so the idea is to fill the space. I think working with window packets is definitely something to consider in this region,” she said.
Weather is another consideration. “In the Middle East, we are dealing with a lot of heat and sunlight, so while the window dressing has to be beautiful, it also has to be practical. In a region with so much light, it’s very important to give the client the option of how much light they want to enter the room,” said Lichi.
Despite the challenges, the UAE window dressing market has grown over the last few years, in terms of trends, materials and design. With an increase in the number of property owners in the UAE, the demand for window dressing has increased, and the budget spent on quality products in houses is much higher.
The market has evolved in the last decade, according to Kanwar. “Considering the pace of life today, an emphasis on glamour continues in furnishing design, at the same time as seeking tranquillity. Luxury is now characterised by soft and simple looks. Clients are looking for elegant fabrics.”
In addition to window coverings producing a natural impact, their sustainable nature is also important.
“Eco-friendly and recycled materials are gaining popularity. We recognise the importance of creating fabrics with the smallest possible environmental footprint, during manufacturing, use, and at the end of the fabrics’ useful cycles.
Textiles in Pollack’s (a fabric design studio) green segment support green building efforts either by using recycled fibres from rapidly renewable materials or by adhering to a strictly documented cradle-to-cradle manufacturing process. High performance is designed into many fabrics without needing backings or chemical finishes.
“Création Baumann is certified with environmental management systems according to ISO 14001, ISO 9001, Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and various similar certifications,” said Kanwar.
Vaduva did not think the trend of sustainable window dressing has caught on in the Middle East yet, and said: “When we talk about environmentally friendly window dressing, I think about those made with natural fibres like silk or linen, but I don’t think people in the Middle East prefer these fabrics.”
Tobien thinks environmental awareness in the residential market is slowly kicking in and clients want more isolation in front of their windows to keep utility bills down.
The eco friendly reduce-reuse-recycle aspect for commercial sites is in huge demand, with ratings such as LEED creating more awareness. “Today as a company you have to be conscious of the carbon footprint and offer environmentally friendly products,” she added.
Window dressing firms are doing a lot of work in the region. Warps & Wefts projects include Sofitel Zallaq Beach Resort, Bahrain; Ministry of Foreign Affairs office, Abu Dhabi; Ramada Downtown Furnished Hotel Apartments, Dubai; Qasr Al Sarab Anantara Resort, Abu Dhabi; Pullman Hotel, Dubai, to name a few.
Hunter Douglas recently worked on the Ritz Carlton DIFC; Kaust, Saudi Arabia; Doha Convention Centre and the Saudi German Hospital. RAME has the St Regis in Abu Dhabi, Eastern Mangroves, Fairmont Hotel in Saudi Arabia under its belt.
The outlook for window dressing is good even with issues in the market. “This is still a very young market. The demands of the growing construction industry and the easy availability of cheaper qualities and products have led to projects using cheap items without any regard to quality.
Once the market matures and buyers and clients understand the consequences of compromising quality, things will change, though it will take some time for that,” added Kanwar.