The teen scene Young people have discovered home furnishings, and the marketplace is beating a path to their bedroom doors.

September 27, 1998|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN STAFF

Nose rings are out. Halter tops are passe.

Here comes the newest craze for America's teen-agers ...

Would you believe home furnishings?

Yep, hip teen catalogs are filled not only with the funkiest fashions but also with TV tables, sheets, lamps, chairs and storage units.

IKEA and other furniture chains are targeting 12- to 19-year-olds.

Clothing companies like Tommy Hilfiger, Old Navy and Banana Republic have introduced home-accessory lines that appeal to older teen-agers.

Seventeen magazine has a new monthly column that shows how readers are decorating their bedrooms.

The explosion in domestics for juniors has to do with the fact that America's teen-agers, all 29.7 million of them, have more than $108 billion a year to spend. What's more, they influence how their families spend an estimated $200 billion to $300 billion. That's a lot of neon-blue inflatable chairs.

Of those teens, the ones buying home furnishings are mostly girls. As Dawn Yoselowitz, senior market editor for Seventeen, puts it, "I think it would be safe to say that with boys there's definitely not the same excitement about decorating their rooms."

Television shows popular with teen-age girls, like "Friends" and "Dharma & Greg," have sparked interest in home furnishings, theorizes Yoselowitz. "They see Jennifer Aniston's cool little apartment," she says, "and want one like it."

The housewares teens are buying are fun and funky ones that express their individuality. That means lots of plastic, faux fur, bright colors and bold motifs - definitely not the kind of domestics their parents are buying for the rest of the house.

Beanbag chairs, warm and fuzzy bed throws, wild picture frames, glow-in-the-dark decorative bugs and stars, scented candles and lava lamps: All these are hot sellers.

"A teen-age girl's room is her castle," says Kim Millman, marketing director for the Girlfriends LA catalog. "That's what she can control."

Ironically, the hottest look in teen domestics - retro furnishings that hark back to the late '60s and early '70s - are exactly what appealed to these same teen-agers' parents 30 years ago. Maybe that's why moms and dads aren't too upset when their daughters spend their baby-sitting money on an inflatable chair or a beaded curtain. (These teen furnishings are priced reasonably enough that they can be bought with baby-sitting money.)

"Our core business is clothing," says Ingrid Eberly, promotions coordinator at dELiA's, which has a separate teen housewares catalog. "But we started seeing places like Pottery Barn do well with home accessories. We help girls style all parts of their lives."

On the more serious side, multi-functional and space-saving furnishings are in demand with teens, says Marty Marsten, public-relations manager for IKEA. "Often teen-agers are doing small-space living. Their bedrooms are where they sleep, entertain, study, play music, even eat."

IKEA has introduced its own loft bed. A design first conceived by students in dorms, loft beds are elevated so a desk or bureau will fit underneath. And decorative storage boxes, from CD holders to major stackables in colored plastics, are flying out of stores.

"These products are trendy to a certain extent," Marsten says, "But they're also good solutions."

The domestics-for-juniors industry really took off when inflatable chairs and sofas, last seen in the '60s, reappeared a couple of years ago. Kids loved them. Now we're seeing the next generation of inflatables in catalogs and teen-friendly chains like Claire's. The newest blow-up chairs and sofas have bright prints, are filled with sparkles or tiny foam balls or are covered in velveteen.

"They're reinventing the inflatables," says Julie Blankman, accessory buyer for just nikki :), which offers a whole bedroom vignette in its current catalog. The room features the coolest color (blue) and the neatest motif (stars).

If you can sell blow-up furniture to 14-year-olds, some savvy buyer must have thought, why not other retro stuff: beaded curtains, lava lamps, black lights, disco balls? After all, teen-age girls loved bell bottoms and platform shoes when they resurfaced.

Now companies have expanded to include other popular fashion trends like the Western look (denim, cow prints and bandanna fabric). But not all the hottest housewares are fashion-inspired.

"The 12-to-16-year-olds definitely like cute and pretty" in their bedrooms, says Blankman, "Even though they might not dress pretty." Future just nikki :) catalogs will feature home accessories with flowers, fairy-princess themes, pixie-dust patterns and lots of pink and lavender.

Dawn Yoselowitz at Seventeen agrees that more "pretty and feminine" home accessories are on the horizon.

"There'll be a return to soft and flowers," she says. Along with a new softness, she sees the surprising possibility of a "more Zen approach" to domestics. "With teens' obsession with yoga," she says, "Look for more spirituality" in their home furnishings.

That translates to Asian looks. Around the holidays, says Cynthia Sutton, executive director of marketing for the Claire's chain, we'll be seeing "Oriental characters, dragons, and more red and black."

The neatest, coolest, grooviest teen home furnishings

* Retro: inflatables, beaded curtains, disco balls, lava lamps, incense

* Beanbag furniture

* Anything blue. "Our hottest color by far," says Marsten at IKEA

* Bumblebees, butterflies and bugs

* Stars and other celestial motifs

* Lots of texture: tinsel-covered lamps, faux-fur bed throws, inflatable chairs with velveteen covers, plush pillows

fTC * Wild and crazy picture frames. Teen-age girls have lots of photographs.

* Glow-in-the-dark accessories

* Karma lights, which rotate and throw colored patterns on the wall

* Western themes

* Cool storage boxes

* Cheerful flower prints, particularly daisies and tulips

* Anything soft and feminine

Pub Date: 9/27/98

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