Keep an eye out for birds - indoors and out. They are the decorating world's newest darlings, showing up on everything from drapery fabrics and wall art to dinnerware and linens.
The trend signals a real shift in attitude, says Robin Fisher, president of RLF Home, a Hartford, Conn.-based manufacturer of upscale window treatments and other soft goods.
"In the past, I've had buyers just flat-out say they weren't interested in any bird-print fabrics, period," Fisher says. "That's changed. Now those same buyers are much more open to the concept. As a result, we're seeing a huge variety of bird prints used in casual, traditional, Asian and contemporary settings."
Decorating chain Calico Corners, for example, chose "Japonica," an Oriental fabric featuring brilliant birds, flowers and bamboo for the cover of one of its 2005 catalogs. Birds also show up on many of the company's brightly colored casual cottons, as well as more muted decorating fabrics.
"In America, birds have always been a classic motif," says Jen Jessup, marketing director for Calico Corners. "Think French Country roosters or Audubon prints. Now we're seeing an updating and re-interpretation of the designs. You'll see birds used in garden rooms, but also in living rooms. The market is always looking for something different."
Key to the current avian look is color - think parrot green, robin's egg blue and canary yellow.
"People are excited about strong colors," Jessup says. "They look fresh and new and appealing."
And it's not just fabrics that have taken flight. Bombay Company highlighted a pair of graceful crane garden sculptures in a catalog earlier this year. And designer Oscar de la Renta featured a beautiful chinoisere chest with hand-painted birds, flowers and butterflies in a vivid parrot green finish in his spring 2005 Home collection.
Anita Tiburzi, design director for the Source Perrier Collection for Home and Garden, based in Sharon, Conn., says bird prints, figurines, sculptures, tableware and linens are popular items for the catalog and online company.
"There are so many applications," says Tiburzi. "Lovebirds in the bedroom, bluebirds in the kitchen or dining room, exotic birds on the patio.
Source Perrier Collection best-sellers include a set of two colorful ceramic cockatoos with pale green crests and rosy beaks; Chinese porcelain exotic bird plates; hand-engraved glass table accessories featuring cranes, palm trees and lush foliage; and "Nesting" tableware, a collection of blue-and-white Limoges dishes and table accessories featuring a charming array of blue birds, nests, birds' eggs and feathers designed by Tiburzi.
"There's something truly engaging about these creatures," she says. "They bring a sense of renewal and they also convey so much symbolism. Cranes indicate good luck, and storks are associated with birth. There's a reason people watch for that first robin after a long winter. It's a symbol of life going on."
If you'd like to incorporate some flights of fancy into your decor, experts suggest updating your look with bird-inspired pillows, table skirts, slipcovers or wall art
"Think outside the decorating box and incorporate a few unexpected items here and there," Tiburzi advises. "They'll provide compelling contrasts and add interest to your surroundings."