Great lighting and comfy sofas are essential components when crafting a cozy room.

5 Favorite Things Every Home Needs

Discover what local experts deem their favorite items.

Great lighting and comfy sofas are essential components when crafting a cozy room.
Great lighting and comfy sofas are essential components when crafting a cozy room.

Properly furnishing a home can feel intimidating. But when you really think about it, only a few key items set the tone for comfort and style. When they’re carefully chosen, everything else comes together easily. Essentials include a good mattress for a comfortable night of sleep; comfortable seating for your family and guests; easy storage pieces that won’t cause daily frustration; a really great chair to call your own; and a focal-point chandelier that reflects not only light, but your personal style.
Notice that a key word above is “comfortable.” There was a time when we had living rooms for style and family rooms for comfort. Today, we demand that comfort and style coexist in every part of the home.
Here, we’ve asked local experts to tell us about some of their favorite items and why they love them.

Statement Lighting

Few things convey the personality of your home as clearly as a well-chosen chandelier. The word itself is Old French for “candle holder” and has come to mean a lighting fixture with branches holding many bulbs, generally used to anchor a key space.
Whether adorned with sparkling crystal pendants, industrial-look metals, nautical roping, rustic antler-look shapes or even farmhouse chicken wire, a chandelier defines a focal point in your home and personalizes your space. It also bathes your room with attractive light that makes you feel good.
“The variety of styles has never been wider,” says Kelly Ferro, a sales associate at the Benson Stone Lighting Gallery, inside Benson Stone Co., 1100 11th St., Rockford. “Sparkly crystal chandeliers are very popular but they’re not for everyone and there are plenty of other types.” Ferro is drawn to more out-of-the-box styles. For example, she loves a new fixture that was inspired by a bird’s nest; its candleholders rise gracefully from the nest to hold bulbs.
“A chandelier is important because it generally hangs over your dining table, which is the heart of your home, or in another prominent place,” adds Debra Schneider, also an associate in the Benson Stone Lighting Gallery. “This is something that’s both functional and beautiful and is worth choosing carefully.”

Customized Comfort Sofas

If you’re like most people, you spend many hours in your home sitting, as do your guests. There was a time when all sofas were one-size-fits-all, whether you were tall or short, slight or heavy. Today’s power furniture makes it possible for each person to customize the support his or her body needs, with power recliners, footrests and even power headrest support.
“Motion reclining furniture continues to be a growing trend,” says Becky Monigold, general manager at Gustafson’s Furniture & Mattress, 6651 E. State St. and 808 W. Riverside Blvd., Rockford. “Striving for ultimate comfort, manufacturers are showing adjustable headrests and adjustable lumbar features to provide the greatest range of motion options.”
One good example is the made-in-America CustomComfort line by HomeStretch. Its power sofas feature double recliners with power headrests, power lumbar movement and power extended footrests.
The plush, pad-over chaise seating is made from easy-to-maintain 100 percent polyester; arm pads are made from solid foam. The seat box is constructed with hardwood and the motor mechanisms are made from steel. The attractive leather-look cover has contrast stitching. A cut-away photo illustrating the inner materials of this piece is available to see at
Both domestic and imported materials are used in HomeStretch products, but the entire manufacturing process takes place in northeast Mississippi. A portion of every purchase price is donated to Habitat for Humanity, an organization that helps hard-working poor families achieve home ownership and stability.

A Dreamy Bed

Is anything more important to our health and wellbeing than consistently getting good sleep?
“In our busy, stressful lives, our bedroom, and mostly our mattress, is our safe haven,” says Mitchell Johnson, the head buyer at Gustafson’s. “Studies have shown that Americans are sleep-deprived. The best solution for this is a good night of sleep, without electronics on, sleeping on a mattress that is correct for you.”
And don’t expect a mattress to last forever, adds Johnson.
“Mattresses are heavily used and they all wear out in time. Think of them as you do car tires. If you don’t replace them periodically, you’re asking for trouble.”
Johnson also points out that mattress technology is constantly improving. The Serta mattress company has introduced many breakthroughs since it was founded in 1931. One of Johnson’s favorite innovations is the iComfort Sleep System gel memory foam technology used in the Blue Max mattress series. The Blue Max is different from typical memory foam mattresses because it’s made from both gel particles and visco foam, which increases airflow and therefore reduces the heat of the mattress.
Overheating was once a common complaint of gel mattress owners, says Johnson. This one provides an instant “cool-to-the-touch” feeling and enhanced heat dissipation. And, a layer of ActivBalance Support Foam enhances the responsive feel of the memory foam layers, creating a substantial and extremely comfortable cushion-firm feel. There are five layers of foam in all.
Importantly, this mattress is compatible with Serta adjustable foundations. Adjustable beds have become very popular with all ages in recent years, says Johnson. They not only allow users to enjoy an elevated head position, but also raised positions beneath the knees, which eases pressure on the back.
This mattress has a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty. A cut-away illustration is available at the Serta website.

Zero-Frustration Drawers

Consumers are demanding better-quality furniture and they’re finding it. Cheap, imported, disposable furniture is giving way to homegrown, high-quality construction pieces that reduce the frustrations of daily living. No one enjoys fighting with dresser drawers first thing in the morning.
“Your bedroom is your sanctuary in which you can truly relax,” says Jackie Finnander, a designer at Gustafson’s. “In it you can incorporate different styles and textures to reflect your unique personality.”
She points to a modern rustic bedroom grouping made in North America by International Furniture Direct, as an example. Made of solid wood, it has a soft, multi-color distressed finish on hand-brushed wood and plenty of distinctive details. The effect is one of artisan craftsmanship.
The drawers have dovetail joinery on fronts of solid pine. Ball bearing metal glides ensure smooth opening and closing movement that will endure everyday use for a lifetime. The pieces in this group are embellished with hand-forged iron, hand-applied nail-heads and carved wood pulls. Every piece features mortise and tenon case construction – a joinery technique used successfully for thousands of years to ensure lasting durability.
The quality of finish applied to bedroom pieces also is important, since the finish comes into close contact with clothing. This set features a six-step hand-rubbed finish that provides an antique look protected with clear lacquer coating. The nitrocellulose base finish won’t bleed, fade or stain clothing.

A Great Chair

Everyone needs a favorite, dependable, familiar chair to sink into after a long day. One that wraps you in comfort and shields you from the world’s tensions. A chair that gets better with age and never falls apart.
Jessica Hughes, a designer at Benson Stone Co., has a few suggestions. She points to upholstered leather furniture by Hancock & Moore that only grows more comfortable with time.
“These are heirloom pieces you’ll pass on to the next generation,” she says. “The frames are constructed from solid maple; the springs are eight-way hand-tied, which keeps you from sinking too far into the cushions over time. Even the selection of leathers is unlike any other brand – what they do with leather reflects real artistry.”
Each Hancock & Moore piece arrives with its own “birth certificate,” personally signed (not stamped) by the individuals who built it. Hancock & Moore is a North Carolina-based company that’s “proud of its workmanship and materials quality.”
Hughes also recommends Stressless chairs made by the Norwegian Ekornes company. If you’ve ever lounged in one, you know why. The non-motorized, patented glide technology allows for easy adjustment of the lumbar support system. The result is easy comfort in a sleek and durable European design, which is why these quality chairs have been popular with Americans since 1971.
“Ergonomically speaking, there’s just nothing better,” Hughes says. “There are a lot of companies that try to imitate what the Ekornes company does, but they’re just not as good.”
Stressless also offers sofas and loveseats with built-in recliners. Its pieces are endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association. While the basic patented structure of these recliners has remained the same for decades, a few new models are rolled out each year with updates. Recent ones include flip-up swivel tables for both right- and left-handed people, a motorized leg rest that rolls out to custom fit any leg length and a model that allows rocking and swivel action.
When the basic “bones” of your home furnishings feel right, everything else comes together easily. Few things are as important as a sleep-conducive bed, comfortable sofas, a great chair, easy clothing storage and a carefully chosen, focal-point chandelier that suits your personality. Luckily for us, all of these items are readily available right here in our region.