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When I was in sixth grade, I wanted more than anything to experience pizza day at Danny Hernandez’s lunch table. Danny, leader of the popular kids, sat with other A-listers chatting about super-secretive, exclusively-cool stuff. D-listers like me could only dream of what they were noshing over. Who was the most awesome last week? Where is that uber-popular Maria gonna have her 13th birthday party? Twenty years later, I now know what it’s like to be in on a members-only happening.

What the hell does this have to do with decorating, you ask?

Well, just this week, I spent a full day at the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market held at America’s Mart. Also referred to simply as “Market”, the multi-building complex is only open to industry professionals ranging from interior designers and decorators to retailers and wholesalers. For approximately one week, they swarm in, eager to lay their eyes on the latest and greatest assortment of furniture, accessories, fabrics, wallcoverings and rugs. It’s also a chance to get a first-hand look at what trends are about to hit showrooms worldwide. Inside, you’ll find a mix of temporary exhibits and permanent showrooms. This year’s Big Momma of trends? Handmade craftsmanship and Old World finishes. From rustic stools to hand-stitched bedding, hammered bathtubs to artisan lighting, here’s my scoop on where the latest wave of interior design is likely headed. They had me at hand-stitched.

First up, guests register and grab badges which are essential to getting in since, after all, this is a members-only event. The badges aren’t fashion suicide like those awful peel-and-stick tags at mixers; I even wore mine—and wore it proud.

One of the permanent showrooms, No Mas Productions, epitomizes the overall arching “hand-made” trend. This Mexican artisan megastore has an amazing reputation for finely-crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces at a medium price point. Overall, I was blown away by the giant scale paintings which, at first, appear to be colorful, gargantuan photographs. However, a closer look reveals that they’re exquisitely-crafted oils on canvas priced a good chuck of change lower than what you’d expect from a gallery. Old World personality wraps itself around all the items ranging from a free-standing, hammered copper tub to hand-blown glass chandeliers and hand-stitched leather rugs to iron pendants with ornate detail.

Another permanent showroom, Zentique, strikes me as ahead of the game. Swedish in nature with rich, coastal textures, the company offers super classic pieces with antique finishes and unexpected materials. This wall sconce and chandelier put a fresh twist on traditional style, as they’re made from wood with some iron detail rather than sporting a full-metal body. See those tassels dangling from the bottom of the sconce? Yep, wood. I would very much like to purchase the piece strictly for the opportunity to tell people that I own wooden tassels.

As for the temporary exhibits, French Laundry Home, a company out of North Carolina, brings an unexpected touch to good old American style. From bedding and upholstery made with repurposed fabrics to linen headboards sporting nailhead detail, this design company keeps the red, white and blue fresh and lively. A tufted chair sporting the American flag had me ready to belt out “The Star Spangled Banner” and scarf down an apple pie before taking a seat. One with non-fat whipped cream, of course.

Design Legacy, the Texas-based showroom pictured above offers a plethora of home furnishings with vintage industrial and coastal modern flair. I placed an order for three of the stools made from rustic, bent metal and reclaimed wood, as well as the charming old wall hooks sporting a spool-like body with industrial numbers. Another crowd pleaser was the vintage illuminated store front sign shaped like the Eiffel Tower.

But wait, there’s more, y’all. Allow me to extend to you an exclusive invitation to come back next week and see part deux of what market had to offer. Poodle lamps are involved. ‘Nuff said.

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