Persia rugs by Armadillo&Co. Picture: James Knowler

A retail industry lull was no match for the creativity and innovation on show at this year's Furnitex trade fair, known as a launching pad for the latest trends in home furnishings.

Run over four days last week at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, Furnitex hosted hundreds of Australian and international exhibitors - including nine from WA - and was held alongside interiors event Decoration + Design, and lighting exhibit Lightsource.

This year's event also featured Flooring & Finishes with the Australian Timber Flooring Association (ATFA), the first showcase of flooring and surface finishes in Melbourne.

Australian Exhibitions & Conferences managing director Harvey Stockbridge said Furnitex showcased the industry's best designers and makers, as well as giving a confidence boost.

"The fair provided a real shot in the arm for the industry during these uncertain times," Mr Stockbridge said.

He said it also highlighted the calibre of entries for this year's VIVID competition - a design competition for new and emerging designers (see right) - saying they highlighted Australia's innovative emerging design talent.

Decoration + Design resident trend forecaster Genty Marshall said the Design Futures colour trend installation particularly hit the mark with visitors. So did the Pop Up Park - a forested park designed by Dirtscape Dreaming landscape designer Wendy Clarke. Ms Marshall said colour was also a hot topic.

Sophisticated grey-on-grey bases teamed with bright accents in tangerine, orchid purple and turquoise were among the key directions on the horizon for the coming season.

"Everyone is talking about colour at the moment and we can expect to see a lot more risk in the palettes and combinations being used," she said.

Another trend to watch, according to Ms Marshall, was "low-fi" styling, a strong theme at Decoration + Design.

"This is a very personalised take on the choosing - and most importantly - the arrangement of furnishings and objects," she said.

"It allows us to 'storytell' through the pieces we put together and be very expressive and creative in the way we display them.

"The favouring of open shelving and styling techniques like the colour-blocking of accessories has set us up for more engaging relationships with our interior spaces. The products we're seeing coming on to the market reflect this playfulness."

Stand-out brands included contemporary Spanish design house BCN Trading and Sydney label Walter G's modern take on hand-printed Indian textiles, as well as new products from Hermon & Hermon, Bisque Interiors, Boyd Blue and Globe West.

"Textura stood out as my personal highlight, as they presented designs that I had seen in Europe," Ms Marshall said.

"The Plopp stools and other inflatable steel products designed by Polish architect and designer Oskar Zieta are (also) a fabulous example of high-end product that is, by design, both fun and engaging."

The popular International Industry Seminar Series saw a star-studded array of international speakers, including Portugal's lighting designer Beau McClellan British materials expert Chris Lefteri and the Netherlands' trend forecaster Milou Ket. They joined Aussie interiors blogger Jen Bishop (of The Interiors Addict) and interior designer and writer Darren Palmer.

The West Australian

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