Comfort & Style
Today’s furniture trends include customization, livability and fresh new hues
Photo courtesy of The Dump
Furnishing your home is an investment, not only in creating a visually appealing environment but also in providing you with surroundings that complement and enhance your lifestyle. The latest trends seen in showrooms throughout the western suburbs place an emphasis on color, personalization and, most of all, comfort.
Style and Scale
Therese Lewis, interior designer for Scott Shuptrine Interiors in Downers Grove, says suburban homeowners are looking for livable, functional furniture, with transitional styles carrying the day. “Its straight lines allow them to add accessories, accent furniture and artwork to make it a little more contemporary or traditional to fit their personality,” she explains.
Surprisingly, one market segment that she’s seen skewing toward slightly more traditional pieces is the millennial crowd, especially when it comes to the dining room. “I have seen a resurgence in younger people looking for traditionalism, and I think it’s because they haven’t seen it before,” she says.
While the clean, transitional look is still in favor, it’s common to combine pieces of varied eras for a more layered look. “People like mixing things from different time periods, such as an antique table with a streamlined sofa or a baroque mirror with contemporary art,” says Renee Guire, design project manager for Ethan Allen in Naperville.
While scale is somewhat dictated by the size of a room, more moderately scaled pieces are moving to the forefront rather than the oversized sectionals of the past. “People are going back to comfort on a smaller scale that is visually interesting,” says Tim Pawelski, an interior designer at Toms-Price in Wheaton.
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, which has locations in Oak Brook and downtown Chicago, is known for a classic modern style, and Bob Williams, co-founder and president of design, has noticed an increase in combining different sizes and scales on pieces. For example, the company has a new sofa that offers a very thin arm paired with a cushion that’s three inches thicker than usual. “Because of the thin arm, you get maximum seating width, and it’s a nice depth for relaxing and watching TV or having a conversation,” he says.
No matter the style, how furniture pieces feel is paramount. “Comfort is what people are looking for,” says Maureen Smithe, buyer for Walter E. Smithe, which has 11 Chicagoland locations. “Even if they want something sleek and minimal, they still want it to be comfortable.”
Packed with Function
Dual-purpose furniture is also in favor, such as an upholstered ottoman that can serve as a cocktail table and also provide storage or additional seating. A console table with pull-out seating underneath is another flexible option, as is a swivel chair.
Catherine Connor, co-owner of 610 Home in Geneva, says her customers enjoy swivel chairs and might use a foursome to create a cocktail area in a living room or add a single one to a great room arrangement.
“I think it’s a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s, and they are fun,” explains Connor. “It’s nice to be able to look at the TV or fireplace and turn around and face someone working in the kitchen.”
Making it Personal
Customization and personalization is another trend. “People don’t want cookie-cutter stuff, and it’s very easy to personalize furniture,” says Smithe.
Customization of everything from rugs to sofas can give you a truly unique look. For example, says Lewis, you can have a piece of carpet cut to any size and bound with leather, suede or canvas to create a one-of-a-kind area rug. Or, you can customize your upholstered piece by selecting from arm and leg options, fabrics, trims and more.
“Some of our vendors offer up to 600 fabrics, 60 finishes and 25 different types of nailhead trim,” says Lewis.
Interesting accents, including global pieces, also add to a room’s individuality.
One sought-after accent piece is the bar cart, a small wheeled piece that is versatile enough to be used for serving cocktails or as an end table and comes in a variety of materials and styles. “We are having a lot of fun with bar carts right now,” says Smithe. “They are great splurge items. If you don’t have a big budget or a lot of space, you can add a fun touch with a bar cart.”
Not all homeowners can curate the eclectic look on their own, but working with a designer can help with that. As well, manufacturers and vendors are starting to offer more items and collections that mix different elements, from modern to traditional to vintage.
Texture is a big story when it comes to fabrics and finishes. “With cleaner, crisper looks, we don’t see as much pattern, so texture adds interest,” says Guire.
“Playing with texture is popular — layers upon layers,” says Pawelski. “It goes back to the comfort of home because it makes a space feel warm.”
Williams cites clean-looking fabrics with fine texture, such as velvet or chenille as being on trend. He says the hand of the fabric is nearly as important as performance factors like being stain resistant or easy to clean. “People really like to have something that feels good,” says Williams.
Connor agrees, but says her clients especially appreciate fabrics that fit their lifestyle, particularly if it includes children and pets. “People want beautiful things, but it’s more about function and usability, so performance fabrics are really hot,”
Many mention velvet, which can be both durable and luxurious, as a hot upholstery fabric, particularly for accent items, like chairs. Stephanie Mallette, divisional merchandise manager for The Dump, a discount furniture retailer with a location in Lombard, says the fabric was well-represented during a recent buying trip. “Almost every showroom had velvet — good, better, best and luxe price points. People are really wanting that conversation piece in their homes.”
Lewis observes a tendency toward textured fabrics that feature a nod to men’s apparel, including tweeds and other materials, while others point to faux fur and hides as popular choices for layering in texture. “People still like neutrals, but can’t do without texture — from fur pillows and rugs to cowhides and feathers — neutrals and textures go together so well,” says Connor.
While texture and subtle pattern seem to go hand in hand, with many traditional patterns being rendered in neutrals, some see a return of prints. Tropical prints and bold geometrics are among the pattern play Pawelski has noticed. He finds they are being mixed in with more traditional prints to update and add visual appeal to a space.
Another key use of fabric remains the upholstered headboard, which is still a top choice in terms of bedrooms, offering both comfort and versatility. “They are clean, modern, cozy and chic and they help create a haven,” says Connor.
Finishes on the Forefront
When it comes to wood finishes, Guire says that slick manufactured finishes are being replaced by some textured looks, including cerused wood and distressing.
Matte finishes are also beginning to overtake glossy. “Both dark and lighter tones have more texture and depth, and I have been seeing more matte finishes, not that high-gloss sheen,” says Mallette.
Mixing metals is still in favor. In terms of metal, bronze, copper and gold are appearing more frequently amid the silver, stainless steel and polished nickel that have long been in favor. And whatever the metal, there are more pieces that feature a blend of several types or pairing of metal with stone or wood.
Brushed metals are coming into focus. “It’s the era of brushed metal,” says Pawelski. Williams has also noted that trend, citing a new bedroom collection that pairs cream-colored shagreen with a metal base in brushed champagne brass.
Though gray is still at the top of the heap when it comes to neutrals, other colors are making a splash, including navy. “Navy is becoming a new neutral. If you have a navy sofa, almost any color pillow can work with it,” says Smithe. “And the green and aubergine colors that are popular in the marketplace work great with navy.”
Guire has noticed purple and dark green jewel tones gaining popularity. “Jewel tones are being used even in larger pieces, like a dark green velvet sofa,” she says.
Mallette says that the store’s typical customer still favors muted tones but are looking to add colorful accents. “People are almost craving color,” she says, noting that the most color is still seen in higher-end lines.
Williams says that neutrals are still top sellers, including the cool grays that arrived on the scene a few years ago. White and light taupe are also popular, and darker colors, including navy and inky blues, are making an appearance. “Cool colors have become the biggest part of our business,” he says.
For Lewis, gray or “greige” tones are still very hot, and she is starting to see a lot of dark green and emerald accents, in line with the Pantone prediction of “Greenery” as the color of the year. However, Lewis says, furniture color should not be chosen to follow a trend.
“It’s like fashion,” she explains. “If I don’t look good in skinny jeans, I’m not going to buy skinny jeans. Get what appeals to you personally and what you are comfortable with in your home.”
Most homeowners tend to keep large, expensive pieces, such as sofas, neutral, then add color and style through accent pillows, rugs, lighting and smaller furnishings.
“We call it the little black dress concept,” says Mallette. “It’s all about a neutral sofa and accessorizing, just like adding jewelry to a little black dress. It’s a really smart way to incorporate trends.”Edit Module