Making Smart, Stylish Furniture Choices

Bison White Leather and Brushed Stainless Steel Legs Inspiration Sectional by Cantoni

Like all trends, furniture trends come and go. Sleek lines give way to overstuffed silhouettes which then throwback to vintage…and after awhile, everything comes back in style again.

But one aspect continues to find favor with furniture shoppers. “Comfort is still high on consumers’ list to look for when purchasing furniture, along with classic, clean lines,” says Vickie Byrd, senior designer for Bob’s Upholstery and Decorating Center in Kennesaw. “Gone are the matchy-matchy pieces; consumers are looking for one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture that can be mixed with other furniture pieces that they already own. I see a lot of consumers continuing to mix fabrics, woods and metals. Popular fabric choices are linens, houndstooth and herringbone in neutral tones.” 

When it comes to specific pieces, seating remains the most popular. “Upholstery—sofas, chairs and sectionals—has been driving the industry for the last year,” says Jeffrey Gardner Sr., owner of Cornerstone Furniture in Atlanta. “Grays and blues have been somewhat consistent, but lighter beige and bone colors have been dominant in my business.”

In fact, softer hues are showing up everywhere in the home. “We’re also seeing a trend in using lighter color palettes for staple furnishings such as buffets and dining tables in warm walnut woods and entertainment units in white lacquer,” says Pam Satterly, design consultant at Cantoni Atlanta. “This way you have a solid foundation for the room, and bold accessories, lighting, rugs and art can be easily added or updated throughout the years to keep the room fresh without having to completely reinvent the space.”

Simply Stated

Homeowners continue to choose clean over clutter, even with their furniture selections. “We are seeing a trend in clients looking to simplify their visual space to achieve a minimalist aesthetic by outfitting rooms with sleek and timeless furnishings,” Satterly says. “Often, statement art and accessories are selected in contrast to cluttered vignettes we’ve seen in the past.”

Shoppers are focused on finding furnishings that can enhance their lifestyle rather than detract from it. “We as Americans have too much stuff that does nothing, serving no purpose,” says Michelle Larrabee-Martin, co-owner of Atlanta MADE and Kolo Collection in Atlanta. “I see people being smart and buying quality over quantity.”

Rebecca Ewing of Rebecca Ewing Color & Design in Atlanta says this is especially true with her clientele. “When I’m planning a room, I put quality and longevity ahead of price for two things: seating and at least small amounts of the perfect fabric,” she says. “Side tables from IKEA or Target are easier to upgrade or replace than a sofa, lounge chair or sideboard. And the right fabric for pillows or a tablecloth can tie a 
room together.”

Planning for the Long Haul

When shopping for furniture, look for pieces that will stand the test of time. “Buy something that has a classical look, not overly traditional, but certainly not modern or contemporary,” Gardner says. “Stay in the brown tones, which never go out of style. Be careful not to get caught up in the latest fad that tends to be over in a year or two.”

Don’t be afraid to test the pieces and ask extensive questions to ensure you are getting quality craftsmanship. “With case goods, open drawers and doors to be certain the glides and joints will last,” says Laura Bloom, principle and lead designer with Home Expressions Interiors by Laura Bloom in Alpharetta. “For upholstered pieces, ask about construction; don’t be fooled by similar frames on less expensive copies from better manufacturers. Look for hardwood frames, spring down cushions and eight-way, hand-tied springs.” 

Take Care

Caring for and maintaining your furniture can be a challenge, especially with children and pets in the home. Choosing the right materials could go a long way in making this process less stressful. “Leather tends to work well for a lot of families,” Gardner says. “Decently distressed tables work better than darker, smooth finished tables in the kitchen. If the living room is an active part of the home, stone-top coffee tables can be a good solution.”

Many of today’s fabrics also are constructed to handle more wear and tear. “Look for durable blended fabrics that won’t pull easily or wear through quickly,” Bloom says. “Medium color tones with subtle patterns or texture will hide soils, but not show lint and animal hair.”

In fact, you may find inspiration from your outdoor living furniture. “When feasible, use outdoor fabrics on your indoor furniture,” says Sandra Pawliger, design associate at Room & Board in Atlanta. A great example is Sunbrella outdoor fabric. “You’d never know it was actually an outdoor fabric unless I told you,” Larrabee-Martin.

However, the best way to care for your furnishings is by learning how to care for each piece. “Know your materials, and seek information about the recommended care for anything you purchase,” Pawliger says. “Wood can require different care and maintenance depending on the finish.” Find out what type of cleaner(s) work best for your fabrics, woods and metals, as well as how to best care for and maintain your upholstered furniture cushions to ensure even wear over time, she adds.

Making Your Own

For many homeowners, creating a custom furnishing is a great way to personalize their home. “We are seeing customers customizing their furniture more now than ever before,” says John Benthal, owner of The Mission Motif in Atlanta. “Not only are they choosing the species of wood, stain, hardware and upholstery, but they also are making modifications to the size. For example, we are seeing more customers making modifications to a headboard or footboard size.”

Of course, building custom pieces from scratch should only be done after a lot of research. “Have your measurement of your space and know what you want,” Benthal says. “It is not difficult to build furniture from scratch, but it can be difficult to know what you want. Start with a standard piece of furniture that may have inspired you, and then design that piece for your needs. Know what type of wood you want, and know what stain you want. Work with design experts that specialize in custom furniture, and you will get what you need.”

In addition, research the person or company you plan to work with to create your custom piece. “Make sure you are working with someone reputable,” Larrabee-Martin says. “Otherwise, it could be a disaster and a costly mistake.”


Reskinning A Classic
How To Reupholster the Right Way
By Karon Warren

Do you have a favorite piece of furniture that you just don’t want to let go? Could it be time to refresh it? 

Maybe it’s time to have that furniture reupholstered. If you are quite handy and already accomplished at home improvement projects, you may decide to tackle this project yourself. If you decide to go this route, make sure to do some careful planning first.

“Always find out how much fabric you need for the couch or chair before you order the fabric,” says John Benthal, owner of The Mission Motif in Atlanta. “Find out what the repeat is on the fabric, because that makes a difference in laying out the motif. Use quality upholstery woven-grade fabrics that will last a long time.”

If you decide to hire professionals to do the work, make sure they are up to the task. “Choose a reputable upholsterer,” says Vickie Byrd, senior designer at Bob’s Upholstery and Decorating Center in Kennesaw. “Look at the quality of their work. Do they do eight-way, hand-tie? That is very important! It keeps the seat from falling apart.”

If you don’t have anything around the house but instead are actively shopping for some pieces to reupholster, make sure you look below the surface to ensure you’re getting quality furniture. “Look for hardwood furniture,” Benthal says. “Many couches and chairs are made with plywood on the inside. Look for hard maple frames. You can usually tell if a couch is made of hardwood just by the weight. Try to lift up on side of a couch, and that should tell you.”


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