You, too, can create a unique style in your home. Learn from the experts about everything from choosing colors to the appropriate size of your home decor.
When it comes to picking out the right style of furniture for your home, there are a number of things to keep in mind. First, don’t put undue pressure on yourself. There’s not just one right answer. Gone are the days of boxing ourselves into categories like “rustic” or “traditional.” We’re free to mix and match at will, as long as our picks don’t fight with each other.
Second, ask yourself what you really like, and what your needs are, before you go to the store. Do some research, then head out to visit local retailers. Ask them lots of questions about construction quality, materials and options that may be available by custom ordering. If you have absolutely no confidence about home decor, take advantage of on-staff designers, who can make your journey much more enjoyable.
Finally, it’s always best to see and touch items for yourself, which is why we recommend buying from locally owned stores, rather than Internet retailers. They stand by what they sell and go out of their way to earn your repeat business. And, it’s better for our region’s economic health.
Here, experts from some of the best retailers in our region offer their thoughts about trends, durability and design for your favorite living spaces.
Inspired by Old and New
Thinking about redoing your bedroom or office?
Beth Eltman, a designer at Benson Stone Company, 1100 11th St., Rockford, says many customers are seeking padded or upholstered headboards for their bedrooms, these days. They’re attractive and more comfortable to lean against than hard surfaces. They blend well with most any other style in the room and lend a sense of cozy plushness.
A mix of old and new seems to strike the right tone with many folks. “Fashion-wise, people are liking the restoration look a lot,” she says, referring to a look made popular by the trendsetting Restoration Hardware company. But customers want their rooms to function well, too. “We’re seeing bedroom sets with a lot of storage, and bedroom furniture with phone and computer-friendly ports in items such as bedside tables.”
Benson Stone specializes in more traditional-look furniture, but with some pieces, such as bedroom sets, a blend of traditional and contemporary styles is growing in demand. The color gray is popular in bedrooms, as are dark neutrals like navy blue and deep plum.
Some of Eltman’s customers are returning to a more opulent look in some parts of the home, especially in offices. Darker wood is a popular office finish, as are maple and oak. Benson Stone carries a wide selection of executive, modular and writing desks, office chairs, credenzas and bookcases. Many people like to incorporate custom cabinetry or shelving into an office, which Benson Stone can accommodate from design to installation, from its design center on the second floor.
Brands of office furniture found at Benson Stone include Hooker, Thomasville, Riverside and Universal, with styles that range from the sleek modern to very traditional.
When it comes to saving space in bedrooms and offices, Eltman offers the following tips: “Use platform beds in bedrooms. You can store almost anything under them,” she says. “In the office, under-desk storage and filing cabinets are good. Go for a streamlined look with bookshelves. Make sure you keep your computer printer and everything right under the desk, so it stays hidden.”
With any room design, it’s important to first consider your major focal points. Then, draw a layout of the room and consider your personal tastes. Sometimes an inspiration piece such as artwork, a special object, or even a picture from a magazine can inspire the ambiance you’re after.
Furniture itself is becoming more eclectic, with bold prints and colors. Gone are the days of matching sets. Each piece is unique, yet coordinated. Dark woods, such as medium-dark cherries and black-rubbed wood are popular, as is reclaimed wood.
Benson Stone is a one-stop location for furniture of all kinds, plus flooring, kitchens and baths, brick and stone, granite, fireplaces, decor items and much more.
A neutral backdrop is always in style, but the colors punctuating it are looking livelier these days.
“We’re seeing trends such as brighter colors now,” says designer Sheila Anderson, at Gustafson’s Furniture & Mattress, 808 W. Riverside Blvd., Rockford. “Some styles have become a little more casual, a little more relaxed. We’re starting to do away with the more formal living room.”
Comfort is the way to go in your family room. “The tried and true general wisdom is to purchase a good sofa set or sectional with a neutral-toned body and then dress up the room with more trendy things that can be changed out in a few years – pillows, lamps, even a fun ottoman or accent chair,” says Anderson.
A trek through Gustafson’s reveals that sea glass accessories, nail head upholstery, metal sculptures, faux cowhide pillows and furniture covered in fabric that looks like leather – but is 100 percent polyester – are in vogue. Mixed geometric patterns and contemporary rugs also are in high demand.
Ottomans haven’t gone out of fashion, although people are using them a little differently now. Old, tired coffee tables are being replaced by high-function ottomans.
Anderson lists other hot trends on the rise, like rocking chair recliners, furniture with USB ports, outlets for laptops, special places for drink warmers/cup holders, and furniture stuffed with luxurious memory foam.
For people with small children or pets, several superb options are available.
“Polyester is great for people with kids and pets,” Anderson says. “Bonded leather also is family-friendly. It’s not as expensive as true leather and is a mix of vinyl and leather. It’s a really good substitute if you’re in that busy time of your life with kids.”
Gustafson’s also features an American-made line of furniture. “A lot of people like the fact that American-made furniture features solid wood and tends to last longer,” says Matthew Argyle, a manager at the store.
“People take a lot of pride in the craftsmanship,” adds Anderson. “It’s the quality of the workers – a lot of the businesses have people that have grown up in the furniture industry and they run family businesses.”
Gustafson’s also offers an American-made line of lift chairs, including an adorable adjoined husband-and-wife love seat lift with options for massage and heat.
Built to Last
If you’re looking for strong, sturdy wood furniture that’s built to last, Simply Amish Furniture, 2684 Sandhutton Ave, Rockford, should be on your list of places to check out. The company has delivered high-quality furniture to our region for more than 21 years. And yes, real Amish people make it right here in the Midwest, in styles that range from classic to contemporary. The company is known for its ability to fulfill unique orders.
“Most of what we do can be classified as customizing orders,” says John Reisenbigler, co-owner. “We can fine-tune things for people and we also offer a number of stains and different types of wood.”
Simply Amish Furniture receives requests for custom orders on a regular basis. It recently was commissioned to design and build cherry wood bookcases that stretched across 14 feet of wall space.
“Custom orders are not unusual,” Reisenbigler says, adding, “It was a pretty impressive set.”
Simply Amish designers also are known for their versatile dining tables, like the one they recently built that extended from 5 feet to 15, with seating for 20.
Although they’re not as fashionable as they once were, sideboards – otherwise known as buffets – are still frequently requested at Simply Amish.
“We sell more sideboards now than old, traditional hutches,” Reisenbigler notes. “And sideboards are taking on other roles in the home. We see them popping up in entryways and other spaces. Peoples’ storage needs often determine their furniture needs and a range of hutches and sideboard/dining cabinets are still in demand.”
When shopping for high-quality furniture, do some research so you aren’t fooled by shoddy workmanship.
“You can tell good chairs by their weight and the way they sit on the floor,” he says. “Any chair that has rungs will stay stable for a longer period of time. When looking at tables, be sure to check how the legs are tied in to the apron and mounted. Our tables are done with two leg bolts instead of one. This makes for a solid table, whether it’s small or large.”
“Not all Amish furniture is the same, and not all Amish furniture is built to the same degree of quality as our folks build it,” says Reisenbigler.
Be on the lookout for quality.
Fun Pops of Color & Texture
Not everyone likes all the choices involved with home furnishing. When shopping at Rite-Way Furniture and Appliance, 20 E. Stephenson St., Freeport, customers can take a shortcut if they wish. “You can order a full room exactly the way our decorator laid it out,” says Cal Wescott, store owner.
Trends Wescott has noticed over the past year include more brightly colored and geometrically patterned pieces. “Even the lamps and some accessory items seem to be in bright tones that just jump out at you,” he says.
Floor lamps with swings and reading lamps are also in demand.
“A lot of people are buying tables with lamps built into them,” Wescott says. “They also like three-way lighting.”
Deacon benches and cedar chests remain popular items because of their dual function of storage and seating.
“A lot of them are more decorative and painted than in the past – this type of painted furniture is popular right now,” he observes.
Rite-Way offers many accessories, but is best known for its variety of furniture and its mattress selection. It can also fulfill custom orders for every budget. “We have price points for every income level,” Wescott says.