Freshen Up Inside with the Right Furnishings

Today’s home decor is all about comfort, and that means many of the old style rules are thrown out. Here are a few ideas to quickly bring together a new look for your room.

Comfort is the buzzword in home furnishing trends today.

Because we’ve all spent so much time at home during the pandemic, we’ve had a lot more time to think about what makes us feel good.

“Comfort is more important than ever, and people want quality, too, because they want what they buy to last, and so they are willing to spend more money if it’s worth it to them,” says Donna Fiduccia, a design consultant at Benson Stone Co., 1100 11th St., in Rockford. “In addition to comfort, homeowners also want functional furniture for multi-tasking because they are schooling children at home and working from home. Simplicity in lines, neutral colors, bright accent colors, natural materials and functionality are everything people want in a home today.”

Fiduccia says home decor trends are leaning away from the “picture-perfect” home, as people make choices for a warmer, more personal and cozier abode filled with pieces that have meaning. They don’t necessarily match, but they do go well together.

This year, it’s all about comforting color tones with the occasional bright color splash. Greys are still popular, but so are other neutral colors, including off-white and cream tones.

“Colors you would be terrified to use with a big family years ago can comfortably be used today because of stain-resistant fabrics coming out like Crypton and Kashmira,” Fiduccia says.

Neutral colors provide a comforting backdrop, even when combined with other brighter colors. Jewel tones like burgundy, hunter green and navy blue are making a comeback. Yellows, reds, and shades of blue and green can be found in pillows and other accent pieces to give a “pop” of color.

The re-emergence of greens into the home color scheme is another outcome of the pandemic. When people gravitated to the outdoors because there was nowhere else to go, they acquired a renewed appreciation for the healing and healthy qualities of nature, and they brought it inside, Fiduccia says.

Look for Quality

Benson Stone Co. photo

When perusing the furniture aisles, there are certain telltale signs that will signal a quality piece of furniture, says Fiduccia.

First of all, check to see if the item feels stable. When you sit in a chair or sofa, is it comfortable and sturdy?
Next, know what you are buying, because not all “wood” furniture is created equally. Real wood furniture can always be sanded and refinished. By comparison, particle board, laminate, composite materials or plywood often lack even a scratch-resistant quality because the finish is so thin that it won’t hold up to regular use and abuse, says Fiduccia.

At Benson Stone, there are cut-away versions of chairs and sofas that show customers the obvious differences. Take a close look at the way this furniture is constructed, with layers of cushioning and techniques that make a certain brand stand out from the rest.

For example, a dresser made with dovetail or doweled joints is far superior to materials held together with staples, glue or Velcro, says Fiduccia. Drawers should have stops and be smooth gliding – especially if they have a soft-close feature. Better furniture will be noticeably heavier. Even cushions made with down or down wrapping are heavier and easily fluffed, maintain their shape and are good candidates for being reupholstered in the future. Cushions that are reversible will generally last longer.

What’s on the outside is just as important, because not all upholstery fabrics are equal, either. Some are sure to be more durable.

Not all “leather” sofas are genuine leather, so check material descriptions carefully, says Fiduccia. For that matter, make sure you understand the brand name, the materials used, when and where the piece of furniture was made, and other details that will inform your purchase.

One of Benson Stone’s top brands is the Smith Brothers collection in the Swiss-Amish tradition. The Midwestern company dates back to the 1920s and is known for high-quality, solid-construction furniture made from hardwood maple, steel coil springs, high-quality foam, unique textiles and top-grain leathers.

Another top brand is Hancock & Moore, a North Carolina company that has a reputation for being a leader in fine leather and upholstered furniture made by skilled artisans.

Yutzy Woodworking, from Millersburg, Ohio, is a family-owned business that manufactures quality, solid-wood heirloom furniture. Its products are custom-made from a variety of woods, with over 50 stains and paints, and many hardware options.

The Stressless brand is made in Norway and uses patented comfort technologies to provide support for the body’s movements in a variety of sofas and recliners.

Overall, the highest-quality furniture makers can detail their step-by-step process, including the names of the skilled craftsmen responsible for the construction, Fiduccia says.

Consumers’ desire for something that’s well made, has a history, has character and is one-of a kind explains why antique furniture is so popular among those who appreciate quality. And, it can fit well into any room style as an accent or conversation piece, Fiduccia adds.

Benson Stone Co photo

Find a Style

When it comes to redecorating, many people know they want change, but they don’t always know what they want to do differently. In those cases, Fiduccia will walk people around the store to gauge what the customer likes and doesn’t like. She’ll also encourage shoppers to look at magazines and home improvement television shows to gather some ideas.

“It’s hard to get into people’s heads when they don’t know what they want,” she says, “but there are a lot of sources for inspiration, and they always know what they like when they see it.”

Once people recognize a style they like and can put a name to it, they can more easily find pieces that fit their tastes in style, colors, and price.

Perhaps one of the most popular furniture styles today is the Transitional style, which is a blend of traditional and contemporary elements. Traditional styles, of course, involve rich wood tones, ornate detailing, plush fabrics, symmetry and balance. Mid-Century is characterized by clean lines, open sides, low backs, sleek lines and futuristic looks. The Industrial style consists of bare bricks, metals and woods, as well as salvaged and recycled materials. The contemporary farmhouse style prioritizes practicality, simplicity and rustic charm with a touch of elegance.

“While new styles and ways of decorating are always being introduced, the truth of the matter is everything is cyclical, and eventually styles come back from a different era, with updated fabrics and tweaks that speak to younger generations,” Fiduccia says.

Size it Up

Benson Stone Co Photo

Once you figure out the decorating style that suits you, the next step is to know the room’s dimensions, purpose and potential capacity.

“It’s important to have display groupings to give people ideas of how things can come together and how things could look in their homes,” says Marcie Gailey, administrative assistant at Benson Stone. She typically stages all of the furniture groupings you see in the store.

One of Gailey’s techniques is to “layer” artwork by having multiple pieces at different heights. For example, on one marble table there are three pieces of tall art arranged in a “domino effect.” Their staggering adds a level of interest because someone can look at either the individual piece or the grouping.

When displaying artwork, a good rule of thumb is to place a main piece of art at eye level and work other pieces around it, Gailey adds. Complementing art can go on the same wall, a table, a mantle or elsewhere.
Achieve additional comfort and warmth by layering pillows and throws on sofas and chairs. Go ahead and mix textures, for example warming up smooth, angular, modern furniture with artwork that adds color and texture, woven baskets full of plants or flowers, fur throws and decorative pillows, colorful area rugs, and interesting lamps that look like sculptured art.

Another way to add warmth is to have a color scheme that carries through the furniture, artwork and room accents.

Lighting, too, is not just functional. Modern lighting fixtures are a form of artwork and should be placed everywhere people sit in a room, Gailey says.

“Human senses are heightened by the glow of a fireplace, candles or lamps,” she adds. “It is very comforting and isn’t only about being able to see better. Lighting also creates atmosphere.”

Be a Little Selfish

One of the biggest decorating mistakes people make occurs when they decorate to please others.
“Don’t follow trends just to keep pace with the times,” says Gailey. “Make choices because you like what you see and because it speaks to you. If you don’t like how a room is furnished, you will quickly grow tired of it. And when decorating, it’s perfectly fine to mix costly items with more affordable items. As long as they look good together, that’s all that matters.”

And once you’ve grown tired of looking at it, that’s the best time to start shopping. Kelsey Nelson, a sales associate at Gustafson’s Furniture, 6651 E. State St. in Rockford, sees many clients who want a change because they’ve been looking at the same thing for so long – especially these days.

“They just want something different and feel like they are taking in a breath of fresh air,” Nelson says.
If not everything matches, that’s OK.

“People ask me all the time if pieces in a room have to match, and I tell them absolutely not,” Nelson adds. “Mixing and matching styles and colors makes a room look more lived-in and natural, rather than stuffy and staged.”

Nelson says she often takes a cushion off a sofa or loveseat, only to carry it through the store showing the customer how that color and texture might match with other colors and fabrics.

She says customers coming into the showroom today are curious about what’s on display because they haven’t been out for so long. And, given shortages among many manufacturers, stock is always changing. In fact, some things are so behind in production that customers are waiting weeks or months for delivery.

“People don’t like the wait, but they understand because they are hearing it wherever they go,” says Nelson. “The wait is discouraging to some shoppers, but not everyone.”

Still, there are plenty of deals to be had right now, for someone with the right eye.

And these days, sometimes anything that’s fresh is a welcome change.