Let me start by saying that I’m neither a politician nor an economist. I am but a humble interior designer and I am not writing this post to discuss all the pros and cons of Bexit or to consider how our country will cope with the future. Instead, I wanted to take a moment to discuss how I see interior design changing in 2017 as a result of the Brexit vote. I’ve watched my industry (and my company) weather the storm of the last recession, and I know that uncertainty can lead to choppy waters ahead, so I wanted to share what I sense is coming…
THE MARMITE EFFECT
When we used to talk about the Marmite effect, it was in relation to something polarising that split opinion. Just like the yeasty exact in the classic brown jars, you either loved it or you hated it. When I think of the Marmite effect now, I think of how Tesco was in an uproar over the product's proposed price increase. So how does an innocent jar of Marmite relate to our beautiful homes?
Holly Black wrote in The Daily Mail, “If the Marmite-gate furore revealed anythings, it’s that inflation is coming back.” And yes, inflation is just around the corner for many interior design brands. I doubt you would be surprised to know how many interior design brands available in the UK are based in Europe, and the GBP to Euro is hitting the suppliers hard. We aren’t feeling it right now as we sit in the period dubbed the “golden quarter of retail" as retailers need us to spend our money during the lead-up to Christmas so instead of frightening away consumers with price increases, many retailers are taking a hit on the higher supply costs and are not yet handing the increase over to shoppers. But January will be a different story.
Most of my suppliers issue their new price list on 1 January, and I’m already certain that this next list will be full of price increases. The number my reps have hinted at is an increase of 5% on furniture and 18% on Miele appliances. If you’re in the middle of renovating an entire house, then an increase of 5-18% will hit the project hard.
But surely this won’t affect the UK brands! Sorry, but it will. Like Marmite– a very British brand– the ingredients supplied to produce many British products are sourced globally and the weak pound and rising costs are putting a strain on the manufacturer. Cotton is the product that has been the first to have its supply cost skyrocket, and this increase will certainly be apparent in the cost of fabrics and soft furnishings in the new year.
THE TOBERLONE EFFECT
Apart from increased prices, the other way I suspect we’ll see Brexit effect interior design is in nature of the products themselves– just like how the rise in the price of raw ingredients made Toblerone change the design of their iconic triangular chocolate bar. If the manufacturers can’t afford the rising costs from their suppliers, they will change what supplies they need. I suspect we’ll start to see the change in the actual design of certain products come spring, and it will be very interesting to see if a new look starts to come in at the design shows next September.
As for the interior design industry, we don’t have to look too far back to see how the last recession effected our work. Some of the belt-tightening was very exciting as it meant we needed to be creative and hunt for great products at fab prices, an ethos that is now ingrained in many of our design philosophies. However, no matter how much hunt and save, there is still a cost to implementing design. So how do we cover that? Like the new chunks on the Toblerone, the implementation of interior design projects (and by this I mean buying the furniture and fittings) becomes spread out as the budget isn’t always in place to get it all done straight away.
DON'T PANIC MR. MAINWARING!
Will this be the death of beautiful spaces? No!! I have talked before about how the changing economy and legislation never kills beautiful spaces– instead, it just makes us look for other ways around the problems. As designers, we are naturally creative and our brains are wired to always find away around a challenge. Give us a problem and we’ll solve it! That’s how we roll.
That being said, with price increases on the horizon, I’m sure that the Lux and Art Deco looks that have been building up steam will not push themselves to the front next year as they are expensive styles to pull off well. Conversely, styles that work well in a budget will thrive as they’ll be more affordable in the changing market. But no matter what, we will find a way to make our Marmite and Toblerone issues look amazing. Just remember, a stormy sea can still be stunning to behold!