Furnishings: Trends? Classics? Style?


We’re comin’ up on Sale Time in the furnishings industry.  Even “quiet” Mart showrooms are bringing in new things for the first of the year, so there is a space in the building for remaining samples, too.  So…what if you want to buy something new?  How do you choose?  Frequently, not only clients, but friends and acquaintances I hardly know ask “what’s new”?

Actually, I am always cautious of what’s new.  No one buys furnishings for a season or a year.  If you can swing it, I suggest buying for the long-haul.  Usually this approach is sensible, but it’s sometimes impossible.  You may not have the budget or a place big enough to buy a sofa that you would keep for years and recover.  If I had the first sofa we bought, I’d be astonished.  It was armless and off-beat and fun, but when it was time to go, I was OK to send it away.

There certainly ARE trends in Interior Design, but they come in and out quite gradually.  Most of my clients, friends and fellow Designers would say that I am very “in tune” and “lean” contemporary.   But I am tentative about selling what I think will NOT retain its practical or aesthetic value.  (Walls, floors, wall tiles and cabinets are the items you live with the longest, so always keep that in mind with those selections, but I digress.)  You would do better checking with HGTV if you want to find “in” for the short-term.  One of the advantages to buying what’s trendy in retail is that it’s most likely moderately priced (I didn’t say “cheap” OR “inexpensive”) and rather well- manufactured.  Stores buy furniture and mark it up for a “suggested retail” that’s more than double what they pay the factories.  YES, sale prices DO help to balance that profit margin and they want (need) to develop relationships with their shoppers and their products.  Often, stores work with products that are warehoused or “off the floor” to keep the prices lower.  Other vendors make up your item to order. 


The basic frames might already be constructed, but they are upholstered to order–sometimes allowing you to choose the fill of the frame and cushions — with (generally) a fabric you can choose.  You can either choose from what the furniture company stocks or from THOUSANDS of other options, which may cost a bit more.  The higher end lines require you select your own fabric.  Again, the mark-up for textiles is generally 100% (in other words, the stores buy it for half), so remember that, too.

If you are buying through a Professional Designer, unless you buy something in stock or “off the floor”, you are likely buying completely custom furniture.  All of the above choices are yours to make and you can possibly change the size and other details as well.  That means that you will have to WAIT to get it.  But a Designer (depending on your arrangement) may show you items that cost the same what you can find at stores – or less–and with more “personal options”.

Color IS back.  Wallpaper is sneaking back.  I posted that in a spring blog and it’s more so this fall.  Gray is back, clean lines are back and smaller furnishings are back.  Neutrals (NOT dark brown, Neutrals) are always in fashion.  About 15 years ago, HUGE sofas, oversized chairs (that were almost loveseats) were the rage to fit into the loft spaces and McMansions.  Well, the only people building mansions now are custom designing them and the number of empty big “spec houses” is depressing.  A VERY large Mart showroom that specialized in these oversized furnishings is GONE and the new showrooms(s) in that space carry smaller items with pretty detailing and minimal ornament.

You can always buy antiques or good reproductions.  Showrooms and stores will always be around to display and sell classic French, English, Country, Asian and Primitive items.  You might have to search  around for these places if you DIY or you can find someone like me who loves nothing more than these specialty stores and showrooms to whisk you in and out of some of the most awesome places to show you much of what’s “out there”.  Most of these dealers work with Designers (that means some kind of discount) because we can bring them clients on a regular basis.


Mid-Century Modern is here to stay.  The pieces are smaller scale and adaptable.  You may not have or want an entire home of Dunbar, Mies Van Der Rohe or Herman Miller, but it’s fun and now, classic. Chains like Room and Board or Design Within Reach offer some of these items.  Retailer/wholesale showrooms near the Mart offer wonderful, classy contemporary pieces, too. They will happily sell retail or maybe at some discount, but they are often “trade” (Designer) sources first.  DWR works with Designers, too.

As you shop and accumulate, think about colors you REALLY like first and then add patterns and other colors.  Remember that Paint is Paint.  It is a lot easier (cheaper) to repaint than to reupholster.  Make that the whimsical choice.  Add pillows, rugs and colorful accessories to the longer-lasting basics.   Looking for affordable whimsy and a “pop” of color?  Try shopping Pier 1, Tuesday Morning and Home Goods…amongst the many places to look; their prices are amazing and they have SO much varied stuff!  Go for it!

Some topics to come:
BASIC color theory, Feng Shui, evolution of furniture lines, new design mags, Green Design and, yes, organization (last 2 will have to be subdivided)
More ideas?


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