OK...This is a big, wide topic! I posted this once before, but it's important information if you want to assemble a successful Design Project.
I put furnishings into a few categories, but they meld into: Modern, Traditional, "Eclectic" -- or a controlled combination-- & "Transitional" -- not as modern, but not fussy--). There's also Asian, Primitive, Country plus various specialized styles based on serious antiques and historical periods. There is also the very customized (what I call) 'Art Furniture".
All styles are Always seen/sold Somewhere. Serious antiques aficionados won't change their taste too much and will always find what they need. MOST young people like cleaner lines, usually more contemporary or modern -- which also can include all kinds of classic modern furniture from mid-20th Century till now.
Assuming that you are not, at least for now, working with a Design professional--
What to do if you are looking and acquiring furnishings? Follow your instincts. No matter how young or old you are, this is YOUR place, not your mother's. It's amazing how often I hear someone say that they are tired of living in the style of their parents or in-laws, and that's not just "20-somethings". And LOOK AROUND at what's available. Don't be hasty.
When you are looking, unless you know that you are of the temperament to replace what you are buying SOON (and that means in less than 10 years), give your purchases some thought. In furniture, trends tend to follow and coordinate with structural materials: houses in the 50's, 80's and the past 10 years all have colors and scale (size) and even style of furniture that is different from the last "fashion" -- or trend.
One of my absolutely favorite challenges when everything available was quite conservative was to search for purple upholstery fabrics. I only found 3 (THREE) samples after perusing about 5 textile showrooms at the Mart. Or, when trying to reupholster my sofas, I couldn't even find a supplier to custom dye fabric the same color I was replacing! Then, 3 years later I started to see the color "everywhere" and I could find it now! If you are shopping retail, which is a where most of us start, pay attention to what is "EVERYWHERE" NOW and what you find from time to time, plus what you may really love but cold be obscure.
Then, you can look on line and/or go in person to some wonderful, more specialized dealers like Design Within Reach & Pauline Grace --classic modern/contemporary, Golden Triangle & Primitive --Asian and primitive). They might have something that wonderful, stylish look that is not what everyone else has.
Even more important than "portable furnishings" be sure to give serious thought to anything permanent you install/build-in: cabinets, tile, lighting, stair railings. To this group add crown moldings, door hardware, countertops, faucets, plus almost anything that a contractor or any of his/her subs would install. These are the permanent and semi-permanent (as I call them) decisions that will designate your house as modern, traditional, neither or trendy (which is short-term). Over my years of working in Design, I have seen the ebb and flow of Harvest Gold, Copper Brown and Avocado (and in my childhood Pink and Aqua) appliances. Stainless is part of every kitchen now, but who knows, right?
If you can find your way to your own style, it's fun and wonderful gives you something to watch for in furnishings, plus (my fave): accessories and art. Modifying and adding to the "bigger pieces" will be fun and ongoing. Each paint company has hundreds (probably thousands) of colors, and that's for YOU to choose from and work with. Off-white is NOT your only choice (unless you have to repaint it for a landlord in a year)! If you are finding that you are choosing that same sofa that your neighbor has, maybe in almost the same color? it will probably look out-of style and out-of-touch even before it wears out. It will be "out" even faster if you are buying it from different places, because then you KNOW it's trendy 'cause lots of dealers carry it.
"More on this" later! If your head is swimming, I'll be sharing a hopefully uncomplicated way to get Design help next.
Mom, Wife, Grammy, and (pretty much) lifetime Chicagoan. ASID Professional and IL Registered Interior Designer; also: gardener, traveler (SO much to see) and -- Likely and Proudly -- Aesthetic Snob.
"I Design like an Artist, understand Architecture, think like a Builder and work with it all!"